There may be no worse feeling as a sport fan than the morning after a derby loss. Have you dreamt it? Was it just a fever dream? A terrible, terrible nightmare?
A somber silence falls over the fanbase as reality sets in. A 2-0 loss to Spurs will always crush you. A 2-0 loss to Spurs to settle ourselves into 15th place and continue a horrendous run of form in the Premier League? That nears paralyzing.
Paralysis. An apt way to describe the feeling around the fanbase right now as people struggle to identify where Arsenal goes from here. Where does the solution and the solve comes from in the next 5 matches before the idea of a January window buy can really enter the conversation? Six matches since we can assume its not possible to purchase a player on New Year’s Day and have them play on the 2nd.
Usually you can get a decent read from the fanbase the day following a loss. Social media is a buzzing with conversation, debate, opinions, and frustrations, but lively with fan activity. Yesterday, there was seemingly nothing. A morose wasteland.
There were the usual figures posting blogs and news and podcasts. There were a few calls for lineups of nothing but youth players. One loon spinning a lovely conspiracy theory of just how far reaching Arsenal’s PR machine goes to keep the fanbase docile and content through influencers, so that they never need to compete and can just make money. But overall, there was an eerie silence, which may in fact say it all.
Arsenal are seemingly running out of solutions at the moment. There are still a few personnel/select decisions that can and should be questioned. And of course you can point to not having a “full-strength’ side through injury to Partey and Martinelli, or Pepe’s suspension, but ideas are beginning to feel like scraping the barrel. When the response, “it can’t be any worse” starts following a large chunk of the ideas, times are getting tough.
A few clear ones likely coming in the near future: Maitland-Niles involvement, Luiz and Pepe returns are likely, Martinelli eventually regaining match fitness, but then you start getting into untested territory and moving the attacking pieces around to find a fit.
Aubameyang center or left wing? Willian central? Saka central? Ceballos, Elneny, Willock, Maitland-Niles — who partners Partey down the line? The formation is changing game by game. Are Arsenal a 3-4-3 team or a 4-2-3-1 team or a 4-3-3 team? Arteta envisions a 4-3-3 but has stated the side need 5-6 different players to truly compete and thats hard to argue against at the moment. So are we a 3-4-3 side then? It seems like we should be until January at least.
In the end it’s Arteta that is tasked with the obligation to set up the side in a fashion that creates chances, leading to goals and players to execute. It may be what makes his response after the loss that the players have carried out the gameplay he has asked of them, all the more frustrating. It would be one thing if he called out the fact that Tottenham clamped down on the middle and denied access, leaving Arsenal with crosses as their only ability, but it feels like an entirely different statement than suggesting the game plan has gone smoothly and led to THAT result.
If it has gone off without hitch, then we are well past the moment of starting to worry, and barreling toward the point of no return. At this moment, Arsenal can hardly afford to let Arteta go if they wanted to. I mean of course they CAN, but with Raul sacked, Edu and Arteta promoted, Kroenkes in the US, the scouting department shredded with Brexit on the way to alter recruitment, and a massive team overhaul, the club has hitched themselves to the Arteta wagon, for better or worse, until they tackle their problems to get to a more stable space or Arteta proves himself so unsuccessful that they are left with no choice. Removing one of the few remaining pillars in the club, even if underperforming, with the December schedule would be a risk, not worth taking. Who fills in for Mikel while you hire someone else even?
It’s a lot to take in right now as fans. It’s a lot of projects, a lot of struggles, a lot of pain points, which leads us to moments of somber silence. Ironic that the silence could be so deafening, and that it comes within a week of fans being welcomed back into our sport. 5 games to steady the ship once more; 5 games that are presently more ‘winnable’; 5 games too come up with a solution to put Arsenal back toward midtable before fans in the stadium really start to turn.