A lot can change in half an hour, especially in Arsenal’s case. In their 2-1 loss to Brighton on Saturday, it started with the prospect of sealing their first away win since December and ended with the reality of dismal back to back defeats.
A 95th minute winner from Neal Maupay was the most painful way possible to lose the game, with the Frenchman playing an unfortunate role in Bernd Leno’s awful injury.
It all culminated in a confrontation at the final whistle, as Arsenal players crowded around the match-winner to confront him. Leno’s injury was unfortunate and a sorry picture to see, with some blame naturally falling on Maupay.
Arsenal were outraged with the former Brentford striker, but frankly they should be far more frustrated with themselves.
Across the entire 90 plus minutes, Arsenal led for just seven of them. Seven. And by the time those seven minutes were up, Brighton had grabbed an equaliser purely because the visitors could not clear the ball from their own box.
Arsenal’s goal was well taken, a delightful finish from Nicolas Pépé. But that should have been their second, third or even fourth goal of the game. They squandered so many chances throughout the match, some a result of Mathew Ryan’s excellent saves, but many simply due to a lack of a cutting edge and accurate finishing.
They looked to have picked themselves up from midweek disappointment, when they fell to a 3-0 defeat to defending champions Manchester City. They looked a new team with a breath of fresh air, revitalised and ready to really challenge for a top four finish once again.
But for all their smooth attacking football, it amassed to nothing.
In a winnable game against Brighton, a team struggling to avoid relegation, Arsenal could not even see out the draw. They couldn’t stay focused for the entire game to come away with a point, which would have been an improvement after leaving Manchester with none.
That being said, they have been dreadfully unfortunate to lose three players to injuries in the space of two games. It was Granit Xhaka and Pablo Mari first, and now Bernd Leno could be facing a long spell out on the sidelines. They are all huge blows for Mikel Arteta, perhaps none more so than losing his number one goalkeeper and one of his best performers all season.
The performances are lacklustre, the players are slacking, and the results are not going their way. Nothing is going right at Arsenal, and it is a mentality problem more than anything else. The results have not helped at all, but the negativity and lack of desire sparked by Unai Emery has not been eradicated yet.
Arteta should be the man for the job in the long-term, but he needs a lot of time, money and patience to really fix this Arsenal side. But the changes cannot be solely implemented by throwing millions of pounds at the problem – if the Gunners even have that cash at their disposal.
Arsenal need to regain that winning mentality and the urge to play beautiful football again, the same style that became renowned in world football under Arsène Wenger. They need to dispose of all the negativity and hopelessness, which is currently condemning them to a mid-table finish, with Europa League qualification far from guaranteed.
There have been so many wakeup calls this season. The horrific defensive performance at Liverpool back in August. The run of one win in 12 league games, an unprecedented rut of form for the once mighty force of north London. Being knocked out of the Europa League round of 32 by Olympiacos, at the Emirates, after extra time.
But having been handed three months to wake up, regroup and come back stronger, to lose back to back games seems unforgivable. This should be the ultimate wakeup call that something deep in the roots of Arsenal Football Club has to change, and quickly.
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