After weeks of flattering to deceive, it’s time for Arsenal to put up or shut up in their bid to get back on track in the Premier League.
A run of encouraging performances in European competition have served to raise hopes among Gunners fans for months, hopes that have invariably been dashed come Sunday when an almost unrecognisable group of footballers have toiled from one poor performance to another.
When Burnley visit the Emirates this evening, however, that run of rank inconsistency must come to an end, the wait for a good league performance must end, and the impotence in front of goal must end.
Nobody is more aware of that than Mikel Arteta but the Spaniard, for all his efforts, has been unable to inspire his team to replicate their European exploits at home, too often outmaneuvered by tactically astute Premier League managers who have been content to allow the Gunners to frustrate themselves with their own lethargy and incoherence.
That can’t be the case today. Though most will agree we have seen gradual, creeping increments of improvement over the last two or three weeks, it will require a whole gear shift in order to ensure we don’t come away with less than three points against Burnley.
I suspect the manager will trust once more in the same senior XI that has so far let him down but perhaps the addition of a few more young Gunners in and around the squad will help add some zip. Joe Willock and Eddie Nketiah are almost certain to be involved in some capacity but why not Reiss Nelson and Ainsley Maitland-Niles too? There may even be a case to involve Emile Smith-Rowe in the matchday squad given the abilities he possesses, abilities that no other in the current senior XI can quite muster.
Frankly, Mikel will need all the tricks he has available at his disposal. As much as I’d hope for a fast start and stackful of goals, the reality is we will probably face a lot of the same issues we have been battling for weeks, particularly against a Burnley side not renowned for its ambition in attack. To that end, we will likely need every man of the matchday XV to be switched on and ready to give it 100 per cent.
It feels like our season has arrived at a crossroads; victory and progress in one direction, defeat and a lost season in the other. There can be no more false dawns or ‘do-overs’ again after today. It really is time to put up or shut up.