If there was one doom and gloom fact made more official than ever by the Leeds game, it’s that Arsenal are well and truly in a rut. You know how good teams find ways to win games, gut out results, and claw their way to points? Well teams in ruts find ways to fall short and drop points.
Dominated against Villa, sucker punched by Leicester City, dominated by Leeds AND managed to leave no hope for ourselves after Pepe’s red card. Three horsemen of the apocalypse? A dominated loss, suckered loss, and a loss where you undo yourself through stupidity?
Alright I won’t go as far as apocalyptic, but in Arsenal’s last five league games they have 1 win (on a penalty), 3 losses, and 1 draw, and they haven’t scored from open play during all of it. I imagine by this point everyone has some sort of running ticker in their head counting the hours since an open play goal. If you haven’t and you’d like to start one, set your timer at 476 minutes. Just 4 minutes shy of 8 hours.
To make matters worse, there was a splendidly grave stat from @Orbhinho on Twitter that Arsenal haven’t had fewer points in the Premier League after nine games since 1994-94.
The fact that those teams haven’t gone on to win the league neither shocks nor bothers me. As if Arsenal were ever going to win the league this year anyhow.
It’s not just the players that are in a rut, it’s the whole club that feels in a rut — supporters too. And who can blame them? In my prepping to for this article, I was researching ruts — because you know, I always back up what I say with well-researched facts — and I stumbled upon an article titled, 11 signs you’re in a rut (And How to get unstuck). Honestly, I couldn’t help but chuckle at how many sum up the Arsenal mood right now.
“You don’t look forward to much”, “No matter how hard you try, it feels like you’re going nowhere”, “You look at other people’s lives with envy”, “You want to get your creative juices flowing, but feel like you’re running on empty”, “You feel bored most of the time”. I mean, it’s uncanny!
I don’t look forward to future fixtures and I’ve certainly found myself grimacing at the next month’s worth of matches, it doesn’t feel like we are moving anywhere at the moment, and I shouldn’t be this jealous of Ralph Hasenhüttl and SOUTHAMPTON! No creative juices flowing, running on empty, feeling bored? I don’t need to say anything more on those really. Arsenal are well and truly stuck.
I’ll admit that I felt pretty gobsmacked after Leeds. Not the fact that it was a tough game, I was sure it would be long before kickoff, but the fact that the changes Arsenal made led to no change in performance…possibly worse. That the combination of Pepe involved and Aubameyang central didn’t jumpstart anything.
In fact, as I mentioned in my post-match blog yesterday, it took just 52 minutes for most of what our fans voiced wanting to see over the break, lineup-wise, to prove itself as a failed silver bullet. We got Pepe a start, we got Aubameyang central, we got Willock involved, we got a 4-back system… we put on a rough performance.
Maybe, I’m simply saddened to know that solutions in football may not be as easy as, *caveman scratches head* “goal in center of endline? Place Auba in center.” Arsenal may find a spark, but more than likely, it’s the need for someone(s) to take it upon themselves to be that catalyst that sparks change.
We know it’s likely to come from a variety of people. Partey’s involvement in the midfield, Aubameyang central in the attack, a healthy Saka —saying a prayer to the Arsenal gods it wasn’t a serious injury on Sunday—Luiz offering progression from the back, and continued solid play from Gabriel. Finally, we come to Arteta.
Arteta has a few games here before it would seem fans are allowed back in the stadium. It was announced that there are goals to allow fans to attend in small numbers, 2000-4000, and these next few games will determine the atmosphere inside the stadium. Wouldn’t it be a shame if there was a hostile environment of “what the fuck, Mikel?” and “Arteta out” looming over The Emirates for the first matches back?
Many young professionals start their career trying to sponge up everything around them, and when they are set loose, eventually they run into issues that their first solutions don’t fix and they have to struggle to learn. That may be where Arteta is at, but he has as large of a role as his players in this fix, if not larger. He has to give players a template, a system, and the tools to find success.
It means Arteta is going to have to coach his way out of this one and do it in a hurry. The potential issue, as we have seen, is that coaching your way to a fluid attack is not as straight forward as coaching your way to a lockdown defense. He may need a little help as many managers do. I mean Pep had a great assistant coach at Manchester City! Young, innovattive thinkers? Creative minds?
I accept that Carlos Cuesta and Miguel Molina have learning to do, much like Arteta, but there is a level of concern forming in my mind that they are being dominated by Mikel. Do I call them ‘yes men’? No, I suppose I don’t have a reason to yet, but now would be the time to show was these young minds can create and bring to Arsenal’s game, wouldn’t it?
Football teams get stuck, players go through rough patches, coaches can’t seem to find the golden, tactical ticket. Arsenal are the car stuck on the side of the road and in the ditch. Arteta, the driver that has rocked the car from reverse to lower gears to drive and back. They’ve tried what they can to get traction going, but it’s time to face the fact that the solution won’t come easy. To get this car out, someone is going to have to push. Many are going to have to push. Because it’s now the only option.
Bear down, dig deep, and gut yourself through the next month or continue to spin your wheels deeper into the ditch. I quiver at the thought of seeing what happens if there is no difference by the time Arsenal play Chelsea on Boxing Day.