If you didn’t know it already, following last Monday’s rather painful experience at Selhurst Park, Saturday’s home defeat to Brighton, told us rather emphatically, that nothing can be taken for granted as we head towards the end of this Premier League season.
The steady progression of the last few months has vanished as if it were some kind of mirage, along with our players confidence.
And now there is only desert and not the yummy, Black Forest Gateaux kind.
Having been at the game on Saturday, with James, we staggered away from the Emirates on the final whistle, the taunts from the Brighton fans separated from us by only a couple of seats and a line of stewards, ringing in our ears,
“How s**t must you be, we’re winning away…” Good question.
“Your support is fucking s**t” True on the day. In fairness, so were our team.
Also true was the fact that Arteta’s team selection, when it dropped, had us scratching our heads.
James outright said it, “it’s a bad call”.
The call, of course, being Arteta’s decision to replace Nuno Tavares with Granit Xhaka.
Stupefyingly, voluntarily further decimating a midfield which had already lost Thomas Partey and putting someone in at left back who, on Saturday, had absolutely no interest in progressing the ball up the line, instead relentlessly turning the ball back inside to an increasingly nonplussed Gabriel.
When the ball did find its way to Gabriel Martinelli, out in front of us at left wing, he basically had to deal with the Brighton defence on his own.
To compound Martinelli’s isolation, when the ball was loafed into the space where our left back might have been, Xhaka was nowhere to be seen, Smith Rowe and Odegaard ambled back and when Mwepo crossed the ball back, Trossard had the freedom of Holloway to fire the visitors ahead.
It was no more than they deserved, with Arsenal completely unable to get any sort of foothold in the game.
Just before the break, we equalised, or at least, we thought we had.
We’ve had a bit of debate at Cannon Towers over the rights and wrongs of the decision to disallow Martinelli’s goal.
We were up that end of the pitch and, to me, instinctively, even as I celebrated it didn’t feel right.
That it took four minutes to overturn the goal was pretty galling, although of course the longer it went on, you knew what was going to happen, especially when the ball got rolled back towards the Brighton penalty area.
Further, the goal appeared to have been disallowed on inconclusive evidence, but I think they probably got to the right outcome, even if the methodology used wasn’t great.
Insult to injury in the second half.
A throw in awarded to Brighton right in front of us, despite the fact the ball clearly should have been given to us. I don’t think we touched it again until Aaron Ramsdale was picking it out of his net, again.
He did well to even see Mwepo’s half volley from the edge of the box, but he couldn’t stop it rocketing home.
In truth, it was no less than we deserved.
Finally, Arteta got Nketiah onto the pitch and in the 25 minutes he was on, he hit the post (again – is he the second coming of Kaba Diawara?) and forced a pretty good reaction save from Sanchez in the Brighton goal.
In short, in his very short time on the pitch, as on Monday night, he had more impact on the game than Lacazette has for weeks and weeks and weekzzzzzzzzzz.
I don’t know about you, but whilst I know that Nketiah is highly unlikely to be the answer to the striker’s position long term, not least because of his contract situation, I am quite up for seeing him given a few starts.
I appreciate that with Partey and Tierney out of the team, there is a leadership aspect to consider, but the only place Laca is leading us at the moment is up the garden path.
You never know, having a striker who can actually run, move defenders about and get into the penalty area might turn out to have its advantages for us.
If not him, then let’s have have a look at Martinelli there because Always Crashing In The Same Car is a better David Bowie song than concept for the last eight games of Arsenal’s season.
Despite Martin Odegaard’s last minute goal that threatened a comeback we would not have deserved, we were traumatised by what we had just witnessed.
So traumatised, in fact, that we left the ground and headed up past Drayton Park, turning left onto Avenell Road and walking down past the still magnificent facade of the East Stand for a bit of reassurance, a slight soul repair.
The Arsenal Stadium, The Home Of Football, the memory of hundreds, literally hundreds of thousands of footsteps, our own footsteps, echoing along the streets.
Memories of better days, glorious days.
Of course, nobody remembers the bad old days we had there – why would you? Anyway, it made me (I can’t speak for James, we were both a little lost in our thoughts by then) feel a little better, for a bit.
Then I remembered we’d lost at home. To Brighton. Let us get to the pub and drink to forget, immediately.
A weird little symmetry with Unai Emery’s first season is developing.
Top 4 looking at first possible, than likely, before we unexpectedly crash against at the twin pillars of Crystal Palace and Brighton.
We have a bit more time to put it right now than Unai did, but we absolutely can not afford any further days like this Saturday’s.
Not with Chelsea and Manchester United on the horizon.