The scenes in the 95th minute as Alexandre Lacazette fired home from close range to snatch a point against Crystal Palace in a fixture where Arsenal could, and probably should, have left with nothing painted a different picture to the reality.
While last minute goals to rescue anything are special moments in football and are unavoidably celebrated, the immediate aftermath sunk in: this was a dreadful performance and a woeful result.
It’s a chance blown to gain ground in the Premier League and another collectively passive display from an Arsenal team that Mikel Arteta has to be starting to gel into a functioning unit. He’s been here for 22 months. What has changed?
All the excuses of not having the right team or enough time to implement his ideas are historical notes. Every ounce of mitigation and all the respite has vanished. Arteta has to deliver, and he isn’t.
🗣 "We started well, I don't know what happened but we stopped playing."
Alexandre Lacazette is pleased to grab the late goal that rescues his side but doesn't understand what happened in second half pic.twitter.com/xwA3WomeEN
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) October 18, 2021
The one reassuring aspect of the woeful Crystal Palace performance was a collective understanding of the failings by Arsenal and the spirit of the players
Are the players covering themselves in glory? Not especially.
Poor outings across the board, some that have been ongoing all season long, are persisting and the points of frustration from supporters remain ever-present issues that plague the side week in, week out.
Against Crystal Palace it was one of the usual suspects that incited endless groans: the failure to sustain attacks. A strong opening 15-20 minutes hardly set the pulses racing, but it was fluid and inventive enough to grab a deserved goal and have a platform to build on. That dissipated in quick time as the team curled into its shell, sat off and invited pressure.
Where on earth is the reassuring aspect of this? It’s in the acknowledgement. At least the players are acutely aware of where the match unfolded on Monday. It may well be clutching at straws, searching for a modicum of solace to cling onto until Aston Villa on Friday, but straws are all we have left.
Alexandre Lacazette made a point of noting it in his post-match press conference:
“When we were winning we could have done more maybe, but I don’t know why that happened, but we managed to come back at the end,” he said.
Arteta noted that the team began losing belief having been a goal up:
“We started to defend something,” he said. “We were not moving fluently enough and taking the right decisions, playing forward more and being more ambitious to score the second goal in that moment.”
And after the game the captain – who has shown more leadership this season – echoed the sentiments of his teammate:
“Not enough for an home game,” he said on Instagram. “We stopped playing after the first goal but we didn’t gave up and fought till the end.”
Has the last straw been clutched and instead we’re just yanking at peoples’ fingers now? Perhaps. But to have Aubameyang and Lacazette both single out the submissiveness of the performance having gone a goal up at least hints towards a collective understanding of the failures.
The manager would surely have pinpointed that out (as well as his own failings, you’d like to think) in the days to come pre-Aston Villa, so at least in this instance everyone is on the same page. The celebrations at snatching the draw are in stark contrast to those when Lacazette did likewise against Southampton late in Unai Emery’s tenure.
On that occasion there was no trust in the manager. The players weren’t playing for him and they knew that goal would in turn only extend the pain longer. On Monday the reaction in the game and after the game signals that there is a spirit and unity among the group to improve under Arteta; to grow and develop as a team and with a clarity of thought that indicates they know where they’re going wrong.
Nothing has been fixed though, which is a different thought that runs along adjacent with this one, but here we’re trying to seek solace. No matter how deep we must dig.
Next: Arsenal aren't fun anymore