There comes a point at which even bad luck loses its validity as an excuse for a run of poor form and Arsenal are fast-approaching that point. In truth, they’e probably already beyond it.
As David Luiz’s effort slammed against the crossbar, down into the six-yard box and away to safety early in the second half, Mikel Arteta must have wondered what he had done to deserve such abject misfortune.
The Spaniard had already watched his team concede a second own goal in the space of a fortnight, as many as the club had conceded in the previous two season before this one, and came into the game with his captain picking up a late injury and his £45million midfield man still sat at home after picking up back-to-back injuries that have kept him out for almost his entire Arsenal career so far.
The misfortunes suffered by Mikel have been numerous and spectacularly ill-timed, I don’t think many would deny it, but, when all is said and done, he still has to find a way to get a tune from the players available to him and he simply hasn’t been able to.
Try as he might, nothing seems to click for the manager for any length of time and, in the absence of design, he can’t rely on fortune either. It’s desperate.
For all the howling and doom-mongering soundbites after the Everton defeat, I thought Arsenal had played far worse on previous occasions and managed to win. They dominated possession, chances, and had more shots than their hosts but, as has so often been the case since November, they can’t put the ball in the net. When the history of Arteta’s tenure is written, that will be the only measure that matters.
And, if the manager can’t lift his side to victory over Brighton on 29 January, I fear his tenure won’t last a day longer. If he had managed a win over Burnley or Southampton, and picked up a point against Everton, he may have accrued enough good will to see him through to the end of January. As it stands, with defeats highly likely against Manchester City (Carabao Cup) and Chelsea in the Premier League on Boxing Day, it would make the Brighton trip a make-or-break moment.
And, by that point, nobody could say he hadn’t been given enough time to show at least signs of progress. For all the small improvements we have seen since the 3-0 hammering by Aston Villa last month, we have yet to pick up three points and, in a results business, that’s all that counts.
If he wants the chance to bring in some new faces, shift out some deadwood, and galvanise his squad for a new year push, Mikel must pick up some wins. There is no more room for misfortune. For me, these next three games will determine the manager’s future at the club. It really is Brighton or bust.