Ever the ground-breakers, it took Arsenal just two weeks of the new season to have me longing for an end to this campaign.
What an absolute puddle of piss.
After a pre-season riddled with silly, thoroughly avoidable defensive mistakes, followed by an opening fixture against Leicester punctuated with the same idiocy, Arsenal proved once again that they rarely, if ever, learn as they were punished again for their carelessness at Stoke.
I have spent so much of my time over the last 18 months or so writing about this same streak of implosion that, strung together, the words could stretch thrice around the globe. It’s laughable to the point of being ridiculous.
Teams rarely beat Arsenal these days – they don’t have to – because Arsenal hand it to them. It happens so often it must be a running joke among the other Premier League sides.
There is no need to come out and play, no need for cunning, no need for possession, incisive passing, pace, power, or anything even remotely fancy. All that is required is a well-organised defence, a smidge of fortune, and patience, because it is almost nailed on that, at several points in every match, Arsenal will do something suicidal.
I accept that we should have been awarded a penalty, I don’t doubt that Alexandre Lacazette was denied a perfectly good goal, but those moments are not to blame for this defeat. Our wastefulness in front of goal – as certain as night follows day – and our lack of concentration in key moments are what cost us.
The cornerstone of the Wenger Out Brigade’s argument is that nothing will change as long as Arsene Wenger is at the helm and, the more we experience these sorts of defeats, the harder it becomes to disagree. In fact, it’s impossible to disagree.
As a team, we haven’t moved forward. We haven’t moved forward for years. We haven’t won our opening two league games of the season since 2009/10 – doesn’t that say it all.
I appreciate it is only the second game of this season and the campaign is still in its absolute infancy, but I honestly don’t see it getting any better. If we seriously entertained any hopes of mounting a serious challenge for the Premier League title this season, we should be smashing teams like Stoke City. There are no equivocations here, Stoke are a rank average team with no aspirations above a mid-table finish. They are fodder and will be dispatched by the vast majority of top teams this season.
For me, there doesn’t seem to be any silver-lining here, just utter bleakness. Some may point to our creativity and our passing and possession as reasons to be optimistic but, if we’re being honest, we’ve never struggle to create chances and dominate the ball. Where we fall down is our appalling conversion rate and our inescapable tendency to concede poor goals.
That is not about ability, it is about the way the team is set up and prepared. It is the ethos instilled in the team, it is the mentality, it is about the instructions given to them in the build up to the match.
How can Arsene Wenger be held responsible for Granit Xhaka giving the ball away in a silly position and allowing Stoke to score? In isolation, of course he can’t be blamed, but when the same sorts of things happen week-in, week-out for the better part of a decade, you can’t keep blaming the players.
Next week we travel to Liverpool. If that doesn’t fill you with dread I don’t know what will.