There is a frightening symmetry between Arsenal and Manchester United.
Arsenal have made their worst start to a season since 1974/75 which is the same season United found themselves relegated to the old Second Division.
Too good to go down? That is what they said about United when they went down in 1974 under Tommy Docherty just six years after winning the European Cup.
While Arsenal were hardly champions of Europe, it would be unthinkable for this squad to go down – but the Premier League table makes for grim reading. And will serve as a frightening wake-up call for Mikel Arteta.
And the fixture list and results make it a genuine concern for a club in free fall with just one win in their last ten Premier League games.
They face Chelsea on Boxing Day, go to Brighton three days later and then – nightmare of worst nightmares – now play at Sam Allardyce’s West Brom on January 2.
Or, to put it another way, if Arsenal lose to Chelsea on Boxing Day and Burnley win their next two games then Arsenal will finish December 27 below Burnley and stuck in a relegation scrap.
The unthinkable, that no-one at the Emirates, dare think about it, is in serious danger of becoming a reality.
And that begs the question… how on earth did it come to this?
There are several factors behind this decline – and, whether Arsenal fans like it or not, the view from within the Emirates is that most are not down to Arteta.
Too many bad buys, a history of mistakes in the transfer market which has left Arsenal with an unbalanced squad which will probably take two to three windows to fix.
The big players are simply not playing well at the moment as Willian has struggled badly since his move from Chelsea and that increasingly looks a bad piece of business as he is on a big money deal and a three year contract.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has managed just two goals from open play since signing his new contract at the club. His slump is baffling. Yet he and Willian seem undroppable.
Alexandre Lacazette is struggling badly, Nicolas Pepe cost £72m and has never lived up to that price tag and so much pressure is being put on young players but it is hard for them when confidence is at rock bottom.
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Bukayo Saka has been a revelation, Gabriel looks a superb signing, the Arsenal hierarchy pushed the boat out for Thomas Partey and yet injuries have restricted him so far. They must improve discipline as three red cards in five games gives you a huge handicap.
There is still a confidence that when everyone is fit, Arsenal’s squad will quickly move away from the bottom half of the table. Mind you, they probably said that about United…
The dressing room dynamic is such an issue because Mesut Ozil is a big character, the biggest earner but he, and Sokratis, are not even in the squad or available to play.
Ask any manager and they will say that a big squad is hard to manage. A big squad with disaffected players is nearly impossible to manage. While the current squad are still on board with Arteta, the factions are an issue.
Where will Arsenal finish in the Premier League? Have your say here.
Arteta overachieved last year by winning the FA Cup, that probably raised expectation level and yet everyone at the club accepted it would be a long term job with some pain along the way. Arguably no-one expected it to reach excruciating levels.
The players have, in turn, spoken up loudly in support of Arteta. Bernd Leno, Kieran Tierney, Hector Bellerin, David Luiz and Aubameyang have all offered unwavering support. There may be little gripes and niggles among individuals, but the overall feeling is they are still with him.
Arteta is a good coach, he has tightened up Arsenal’s defence – but at the price of their creativity. They are lacking flair and inspiration in midfield. That is a balance they desperately need to address.
Arteta was also acutely aware of a difficult training ground which had become an unhealthy place under Unai Emery, a world away from what Arsene Wenger built.
It was too casual, not competitive enough and, restoring that edge and determination plus professionalism, must be Arteta’s biggest goal.
There have been mistakes along the way. Why Arsenal chose to make Arteta manager and change his title from head coach at the start of this season is anyone’s guess. Arteta is a rookie, still learning and being a good coach doesn’t automatically make him a good man manager.
Maybe that is through not having a stronger football voice on the board, urging caution, speaking up on transfers and big football decisions. Arteta wanted that role and his early success meant the club gave it to him.
Longer term, Arsenal’s squad needs an overhaul. But now Arteta must get back to basics. Getting results is the No1 priority. Otherwise, the old adage of being too good to go down will be severely tested again.
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