Make no mistake Gunners, this is now a relegation battle.
Gone is any hope of a tilt at the league title this year, gone is any hope of a European place, our main concern at this point is in staying in the Premier League. It really is as bad as that.
Defeat to Burnley was absolutely unthinkable at the Emirates tonight, too costly to even countenance as possible and yet it happened, surely crushing what is left of the spirit and will to win in this Arsenal side.
Some part of the blame for this latest aberration lies with the players but the vast majority must sit with Mikel Arteta. Despite a number of his senior XI letting him down badly for the last two months, the Spaniard has stubbornly persisted in their selection and that error of judgement could end up costing him more than just three points.
Burnley have been woeful this season and have found themselves picked to pieces by even the most modest of teams. And yet, all too predictably, Sean Dyche’s side came away from Arsenal with all three points, having to do little more than ride their luck and bide their time. We couldn’t even score a goal. At home. Against Burnley.
Quite what Arteta’s plan was coming into the game is anyone’s guess but changing the dynamic in order to improve our attacking performance clearly wasn’t at the forefront of his thinking. The same formation and same line-up that has been so underwhelming this season was asked to produce something different using exactly the same tools and it comes as no surprise that they were utterly unable to do so.
In fact, with every passing match, with every confidence-sapping setback, these same players get worse and we sleepwalk closer and closer to the precipice. If it wasn’t time to burn it down and tear it to pieces a month ago, it certainly is now.
Arteta must swallow his pride and open his eyes. He is being failed by several of the players in whom he has placed an inordinate amount of trust and, as a result, he is failing this club in a way that even Unai Emery managed to avoid. The only thing that separates our current manager from his calamitous predecessor is the faith of the dressing room and, week-by-week that must be cracking.
It is time now to put Granit Xhaka out to grass. For a player of his experience to be drawn into a silly and pointless confrontation is beyond the pale. His actions, at a time when Arsenal were in the ascendancy, cost the team three points. More than that, he has cost his manager the support of an even larger chunk of the fanbase.
It is also time that Willian spent some time on the bench. His continued inclusion, despite an array of evidence that suggests he is performing poorly, has become ideological, in the same way that the omission of Mesut Ozil is also ideological. It hasn’t worked (neither decision has worked) but continuing to play the Brazilian is actively costing the team.
In place of these two players we must now place our faith in our young talents who, at the very least, will add some vigour and drive to a side that is largely devoid of ideas, pace, synergy and movement. It is a side on its knees, it is spent, browbeaten and desperate.
I said last week that I couldn’t see where our next points were coming from and that is more the case now than it was then. Burnley are awful, truly awful and hadn’t beaten Arsenal in league competition for decades. Defeat to a side that bad is unforgivable and change now must be dramatic and instant in order to salvage anything from this season. That is, of course, if the manager keeps his job.