With the Champions League at their mercy and their rivals queuing up to gift them a top-four place, Arsenal imploded in quite spectacular fashion to scrape a pathetic draw with Brighton on Sunday.
It was a suitably lamentable end to a disastrous run of games that, at a pivotal period of the season, saw the Gunners claim just a single point from four games. By whatever measure you wish to use, one point from a possible 12 is woefully inadequate.
As far as bottle-jobs go, the Brighton draw and the run of games that preceded it was as spectacular an effort as I can remember from an Arsenal side, and I have seen a few crackers down the years.
Because of the mistakes of our top four rivals, the Gunners had only to win their home fixtures against Crystal Palace and Brighton to find themselves in the driving seat for a Champions League berth going into next weekend.
Instead, they made certain they weren’t even in the fight by slipping to a lamentable 1-1 draw with Brighton and losing 3-2 to Palace, two sides who came to the Emirates with absolutely nothing to play for and with just a few weeks until the summer break.
And it was yet another entirely preventable set of errors that led to Brighton’s equaliser on Sunday but, instead of costing us a few points this time, the mistakes cost us something much more – the Champions League.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan (a player who should be facing the axe this summer) inexplicably gave the ball straight to the Brighton defence with five or six players bearing down on the goal and the Gunners a mere pass away from a probable second goal. Instead, possession was lost and Unai Emery’s men were so over-exposed, Brighton were able to do what so many sides have done to us over the last few years by breaking away to leave us completely outnumbered.
To compound Mkhitaryan’s error, Granit Xhaka was bamboozled by a man who ran in a straight line and decided to try and foul him rather than do anything vaguely effective to try and stop the break.
The inevitable dive came and a penalty was awarded. A man who scores two goals a season stepped up and buried the ball with ease.
In my foolishness, I was still confident we had enough time to find the winner but, as it always does with this Arsenal side, hope kills you.
Brighton turned into Brazil circa 1970, defended as if the lives of their children depended on it, and Arsenal decided to simply spurn a couple of guilt-edge chances inside the box.
It was so very Arsenal-like that, in truth, there was no real surprise or shock come the final whistle, just outright anger. Some people found it distasteful for the fans in attendance to jeer and whistle, but I had no issue with it.
There is just no excuse good enough for some of these players anymore. They are weak and inadequate footballers who aren’t capable of performing on the big stages or in tough moments.
This run-in has been so bad that it will almost certainly spell the end for a number of players at the club who simply don’t have the mentality to make it at this level. The propensity to collapse under pressure is so engrained in the makeup of some of this team that no amount of coaching or new faces will help them – they must be sold.
There are too many players who have cost Arsenal too many points this season, chief among them Granit Xhaka and Shkodran Mustafi. Even if they somehow club together to win the Europa League for this team, their race is run and their futures lie elsewhere.
Make no mistake, this is the end of the road for so many of the squad who, despite numerous opportunities to redeem themselves, conspired to throw in the towel when they most needed to fight.