A new week begins with further heartache as Arsenal fans are left to wallow in remnants of another defeat under Mikel Arteta. How many more days can be ruined as the after effects of a performance such as that filters through into everyday life?
Succumbing to a 2-0 defeat on Sunday, the season has kicked off with zero points and zero goals from the opening two matches, all topped off with a goal difference of -4.
Romelu Lukaku and Reece James combined to end the game as a contest after 35 minutes as their goals handed a dominant Chelsea the two-goal lead their performance merited, meanwhile Arsenal once again offered a poor (or fitting) example of themselves in both boxes.
Despite the beleaguering display, Arteta pointed to the volume of first team absences he had to deal with. For all the criticism, there is no shirking the unlucky hand he has been dealt.
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“It’s really challenging at the moment. We are missing nine players – and the majority of them are big senior players,” he told the official Arsenal website. “It’s what we have. We put out there a team that will probably be unprecedented in the history of this football club.
“We have nine players out of the squad at the moment. I don’t know if it’s a hand [tied behind our back], but it’s a big part of the squad.”
He’s not wrong. Without a £50m centre-back, a £27m centre-back, a £50m central midfielder, a £50m striker and another half-fit £50m striker, there is clear mitigation.
There was no Martin Odegaard either, who couldn’t secure a visa in time.
Would all of those have impacted the performance? Thomas Partey, Gabriel and White would have had some say, undoubtedly.
But the manager didn’t cover himself in glory. There were still mistakes made for the game that impacted the turn of events, those that even with the absences don’t give Arteta anything close to a free ride.
1. Being Nonreactive to Chelsea’s Strengths – More of the Same
Had Arteta planned to utilise a 3-4-3 for this game prior to White’s absence with COVID-19? This is something we’ll never know albeit being eluded to by the manager.
Even if he had set his team out all week to match the Blues’ setup before the unfortunate late news, then reverting to a back four would have not only disrupted preparations but also acted as a naive alteration to make based solely on availability.
While whoever would come into the right centre-back slot would not possess the distribution qualities of the 23-year-old, it would have at least put the players on the pitch in a position of greater defensive comfort to match their far superior opposition.
If the plan was a back four all along, it was a mistake. That system would have helped contain the wing-backs – in particular Reece James who must have been invisible to the Arsenal players – and handed the mediocre defenders a better chance of crowding out Lukaku.
Chelsea may well have been playing in red and white stripes since the approach to goal was eerily similar to that adopted against Brentford.
Aspects of the match, in particular the number of crosses attempted by Kieran Tierney, was reminiscent of the opening Premier League day, one that bore no fruit then and was never going to here. Granit Xhaka would slot into a faux left-back role with the Scot up wide and advanced in the usual scripted manner.
Nothing changed. A defender was ruled out and for some reason Arteta went for a more attacking system.