The worst part of defeat for any fan is the search for answers that inevitably follows.
Our instincts tell us that it wasn’t our fault, that there must have been some reason for our failure, some malign force that conspired against us. Latching on to a crumb of comfort, any crumb, allows us to compartmentalise the low moments and look ahead in hope.
‘Next time, the luck will go our way’.
In defeats like the one at the Emirates tonight, however, even the most hopeful of Arsenal fans would struggle to find cause for hope. The feeling of helplessness is overwhelming. It’s a feeling I didn’t think I’d experience again for a long time.
This current miserable run evokes the very darkest moments of Unai Emery’s final weeks, when the team had lost faith, the fans had turned, and the club was in disarray. At that stage, there seemed no cause for hope to the point that I genuinely couldn’t see where the next win would come from. Relegation seemed a genuine threat.
That we are back in that mindset again so soon after Emery’s departure is as mind-boggling as it is dispiriting. How has it come to this?
The first 45 minutes against Wolves was as rudderless a performance as we have seen for years. There was no shape, no order, no discernible method. Still, after all these weeks, we can’t build pressure or hold onto the ball in any sort of meaningful or purposeful way.
It was too easy for the Wolves backline to swallow up our attacks and break forward. It was at times, as if our midfield two Granit Xhaka and Dani Ceballos weren’t even there. It’s becoming painfully obvious that these two can’t play together. They’re ineffective to the point of being a hindrance to our play.
Coming into the match, Wolves hadn’t managed a first-half goal all season. Needless to say they found two against us in an opening half that would have sent the atmosphere at the Emirates plummeting towards toxic.
When you’re stuck in a shitty run of form – the dreaded negative spiral – nothing runs for you and, despite an improved second half, we couldn’t find the back of the net, and it wasn’t as though we lacked for opportunities.
Such is our malaise that Bukayo Saka and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, players who you’d back from six yards 99 times out of 100, spurned chances that would have earned lesser names a torrent of ire.
That our talismanic striker and captain looked utterly bemused by it all should sound alarm bells. This cannot go on. Four defeats in six is relegation form.
I wrote last week, in the wake of another Sunday night defeat, of the need for Mikel Arteta to be practical in his thinking. He favoured five at the back when he arrived at he club and it’s a formation that served him and us well deep into last season. However much he wants to move us away from a packed defence and towards an offensively more productive four, nobody can argue that the way we’re playing right now is anything short of atrocious.
With a trip to a high-flying Spurs side next week, Mikel must bite the bullet now or risk real trouble heading into a packed – and difficult looking – December. The games will come thick and fast next month and we risk being battered from pillar to post. More than that, he risks losing the dressing and, with it, his job.
For now, there is still patience and understanding for the situation the manager finds himself in but, with every miserable defeat, it becomes harder for fans looking for hope and harder for the manager to make his case. We all desperately want to be back competing at the right end of the table, and bumps in the road are to be expected, but, at some stage, the bumps become a rut.
It’s no fun being an Arsenal fan right now