While it’s true the vast majority of us expected Arsenal to get nothing from today’s visit to Manchester City, not many of us expected a humiliation of the kind meted out in our 5-0 drubbing.
There was absolutely nothing to like about the performance, not even a faint glimmer of a silver lining, it was the worst performance from an Arsenal team since Mikel Arteta took over and perhaps even beyond that. That’s no mean feat.
We can talk all day about all the mitigating factors that contributed to the gulf between the sides and, ultimately, the defeat but there are no excuses good enough to explain the utterly gutless performance from the Gunners this afternoon. For all its talent and promise, this side will continue to go nowhere without being able to do the absolute basics correctly.
From a defensive point of view, their efforts at the Etihad were amateurish bordering on child-like. Even before Granit Xhaka’s dismissal, the Gunners had gifted up two goals on a plate to the hosts, failing to pressure, clear, or challenge in any meaningful way. That, once again, we conceded an early headed goal to a man who probably isn’t even six foot tall, while fielding three centre-backs, is as baffling as it is unforgivable but it really set the scene for the afternoon.
But then, if you are prepared to field Cedric Soares and Sead Kolasinac in your starting line-up, two men deemed absolutely surplus to requirements, can you really be surprised we were so utterly abject? Both of them need to go and go now.
In the build-up to the game, I wrote about the need to be competitive above all else. While any reasonable person can accept that defeat was the most likely outcome for this side, there is absolutely no excuse for the lack of fight, character, or leadership on display. It was embarrassing from the first to the last and entirely unworthy of this club. That so many fans remained in the ground as the team was battered from pillar to post is a credit to each and every one of them. They are the only good thing about this club right now.
So where do we go from here? It is a mercy that the manager is able to escape the full glare of the media attention as his players disappear off for international duty but it will do nothing to relive the pressure that is now upon him.
Some people have marked down the visit of Spurs to the Emirates in late September as a D-Day of sorts for the manager but I put it earlier than that. For me, his future hinges on the Norwich game. It is a match he dare not lose. In fact, it is a match he must win and win comfortably in order for their to be any hope for his longer-term future as Arsenal boss.
While I am entirely prepared to accept his plan for a rebuild this summer and the rebirth of the Arsenal squad, what I am not prepared to accept is the utter mediocrity on display so far this season. Victory over West Brom bought the manager precious good will but that is already spent. At this point, he is living hand-to-mouth.
For their part, Norwich will be looking at their visit to the Emirates as an opportunity. There is such ineptitude running through this side that who can genuinely feel confident of victory, even with home advantage? That is how far we have fallen as a club.
The proverbial Fat Lady hasn’t quite sung yet for Mikel Arteta but, be under no illusions, she is warming up and awaiting her curtain call.