The launch of Arsenal’s Europa League campaign at Eintracht Frankfurt on Thursday feels like an unwelcome distraction after a stinker of a weekend for the Gunners.
Sunday’s lamentable draw at Watford – coupled with wins for all our top four rivals – has left fans in a rancorous mood and a tricky midweek trip to Germany is unlikely to lift spirits.
Though Eintracht aren’t pulling up trees in the Bundesliga (two wins and two defeats from four) they showed last season that they are no mugs and will doubtless be looking forward to having another tilt this season.
The Gunners, meanwhile, are still licking their wounds after a cowardly performance at Vicarage Road that saw them exposed and shamed by the league’s bottom side. It was abject, and players and pundits alike have been queuing up to remind everybody just how bad it was.
Like many, I would much rather the team had a week on the training ground so they could be drilled into dust by the coaching staff, as opposed to having their time eaten up by preparations for Eintracht – a game which probably won’t mean much in the grand scheme of things, win or otherwise.
I accept and understand that the summer was the time in which the serious coaching should have taken place and leaving it until now to sort out the festering mess of our defence is probably already too late. Something has to be done, however, because this is an issue that simply won’t go away on its own.
Whether Unai Emery feels pressured enough to change tack and put more focus on his defence, or whether he has simply been galvanised in his belief that his methods are the way to success, remains to be seen but I feel as certain as I can be that the latter is the more likely outcome. The success or otherwise of that gamble will be the determining factor in whether Emery is still in a job by the end of the season.
Perhaps it is just the way football is now. Perhaps the emphasis is so much on attack that out-scoring the opponent first, rather than preventing them scoring, is the most viable route to success.
In any event, with so little time to turn things around since Sunday, I don’t expect miracles will have taken place. Whether the team will be embarrassed enough to respond positively on Thursday, or whether the fear that seems to simmer under the surface of all our performances will re-emerge, is anyone’s guess.
If we’re grasping for positives, though, we can at least look forward to some of our stellar young talents getting some minutes on the pitch. Joe Willock, Reiss Nelson, Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe, and Gabriel Martinelli are all in the squad and, fingers crossed, they are all given minutes because they are an exciting bunch of players who could form the centre-piece of our future as a club.
Rob Holding has also been named among the travelling squad after what feels like an age and it would be nice if he could get some miles under his belt as we look restore some form of sanity at the back.
He is unlikely to be the cure for all that ails us, but he can’t possibly be as error-prone and reckless as David Luiz and Sokratis, can he?
If naught else, these young lads will hopefully not be quite so susceptible to panic as their more senior counterparts and just may be more willing and capable of putting in the sort of measured 90-minute performance we have seldom seen from an Arsenal in recent years.
The pessimist in me says this testing little tie has come at the wrong time for the Gunners, whose confidence is so fragile that it can decimated in the space of single half of football.
But, as we all know so well, it is the hope of something better that keeps us coming back, the undying faith in brighter skies ahead, in the performance that changes everything. Who knows, the Commerzbank Arena may just be the place it all comes good for Emery’s men.