At what point does a quirk of our recent run become an identifiable weakeness?
As much as last night’s aberration involving Bernd Leno and Dani Ceballos appeared to be another in an increasingly long list of unfortunate errors, there comes a point where you wonder if teams are starting to wake up to our fallibility.
Once or twice, you can shrug these things off as blips or incidents in isolation but, in Arsenal’s case, it has gone beyond that and I worry that last night’s error was in-part because Olympiacos knew they would force a mistake if they waited for the right opportunity.
Is a mistake still a mistake if it is planned?
The way in which the Greek side’s front three immediately descended on Ceballos from all angles when it became obvious he was the most likely recipient of Leno’s pass looked dangerously like they had done their homework.
Any coaching staff worth its salt would have sat down with their manager and watched Arsenal’s recent run in the build-up to this match and it wouldn’t have escaped their notice that there have been a hit parade of errors of late – Leicester, Burnley, and a double-header at Benfica to name just a few.
And those are just the errors that have resulted in goals, there have been plenty more that we escaped unscathed with and those would simply have been grist to the mill. In fact, if you think back to last night, we almost gifted them two other goals through mistakes in possession at the back, including a moment of utter idiocy from David Luiz which was inexplicably (and thankfully) put wide.
There’s no doubt in my mind that, at the least, Burnley and Olympiacos planned to force errors from us and, in that respect, both were rewarded. But for some rank profligacy of their own, the rewards may have been greater, particularly for the Greek side. In the end, it was our attacking quality that bailed us out but that is by no means a given, despite the quality of chances we have been creating.
If we are to stop this uncomfortable trend becoming a stick used to beat us with, we need to put an end to it now. Jose Mourinho is a wily campaigner and I would put enormous amounts of money on his employing a similar tactic against us on Sunday. He will have a front three pressing up against our defence, pushing to force the error that, at the moment, seems inevitable. Unlike Olympiacos and Burnley, Spurs have the calibre up front to put away every chance that comes their way and the result of that will be unthinkable.
In what little time Mikel Arteta and his team will have on the training pitch before Sunday, they must focus on their decision-making under pressure or we face an uncomfortable trend becoming a fatal flaw. Falling foul of stupidity is one thing but having it weaponised against us is quite another.