There is no escaping the fact that defeat to Manchester City on Sunday had a real anti-climatic feel about it.
That’s more, perhaps, because I had allowed myself to get swept up in an excellent pre-season campaign and the general feeling of positivity around the new manager, more than the outcome.
I had convinced myself that Rome would be built in a day and Arsenal might surf the crest of the wave to victory over Pep Guardiola’s City. Bias is a terrible thing in that regard, allowing a sense of hope to ride roughshod over reality.
Alas, I was brought back down to earth with a bit of a thud as it became apparent that the reigning champions were not to be tamed today, nor even breached, in fact.
Was it a bad performance? No, far from it. The team showed signs of cohesion defensively and played with plenty of intent and guts.
That it didn’t quite work out for them is more to do with the overwhelming quality of the opposition over and above any particular failing on the team’s part.
Where we lacked, for my money, was in the ruthlessness in front of goal – an area of the pitch I am not used to seeing this team struggle.
There were a few good moments in the match. Hector Bellerin, Pierre-Emerik Aubameyang and Alex Lacazette all fashioned good shooting positions, but there were a host of wasted chances too.
Henrikh Mhikitaryan failed to get the ball out of his feet when well placed in the box, while Mesut Ozil and Lacazette wasted some presentable opportunities. In fact, Ozil and Lacazette should really have hit the target with their efforts, if not scored.
For their part, Manchester City were as ruthless as ever in front of goal. If they fashion a good chance, they are almost certain to take it, and today was no different. That is one of the things that sets them apart as a side and why I said in the build up to the match that Arsenal would have to be viscous when it came to attack. Alas, they were far from that.
Defensively, it is difficult to be too critical of this new-look side. The back four was, for the majority of the match, quite tidy and watchful, while the midfield worked hard to close space and win the ball back.
Granit Xhaka did not have a good game, it is fair to say. He developed a propensity to give the ball away in silly positions last season and that unwelcome tendency was in evidence again against City. It is a habit this team can well do without given the amount of goals conceded from just such errors last season, so he will have to work hard to justify his inclusion in next week’s squad.
Aaron Ramsey was also far from his best and was the first man hooked after barely 60 minutes. Although undoubtedly under instruction from the manager, he seemed to be a little too advanced for me at times, leaving him too far upfield when the move broke down, as it almost always did.
All things considered, it is difficult to pin the blame for this defeat on any one factor. It was simply a case of being beaten by the better team. There are areas the manager will want to work on and things he will want to improve, I’m sure, but this team will score goals and will pick up points this season.
Next week’s visit to Chelsea is far from an ideal follow up to such a tough opening fixture, but what is important is that progress is made and lessons are learned so that we can improve as this season gets up and running.