Arsenal players have spoken regularly this season about their new-found mental strength. After last night’s ragged display and a tough week, now feels like the moment to prove to it.
This was a chastening night for Arsenal, as they slumped to a 2-0 defeat after Joey Veerman and Luuk de Jong both struck in the space of eight second-half minutes. It could have been worse, too, with PSV having three more goals ruled out for offside.
The goals that did stand were poorly defended by Arsenal. For the first, De Jong rolled defender Rob Holding far too easily to tee up Veerman. Then, for the second, Aaron Ramsdale came to punch a corner but got nothing but thin air, which allowed De Jong to head home.
To top it off, Arsenal failed to score in a game for the first time this season, and Mikel Arteta did not hold back after seeing his side put in their worst performance of the season so far.
“We were nowhere near our level today, especially the way we competed,” said Arteta. “Even though we had periods where we controlled the game, I didn’t feel that we had the threat and the aggression that we’ve been playing at. That was worrying.”
This felt like a result that had been coming for Arsenal, and Arteta spoke afterwards about the need for a “reset”. Performances have been declining in recent weeks. Arsenal had to battle to a 1-0 win at Leeds and were then held to a 1-1 draw at Southampton last Sunday. The zip and vigour that was so synonymous of their early-season displays has gone, and instead they look disjointed and lethargic.
That was certainly the case last night. The bobbly pitch at the Philips Stadion did not help, but even so Arsenal were uncharacteristically sloppy with their passing and they never truly got going.
“We gave so many balls away, which allowed so many transitions, which was what they were looking for whenever they got in the right structure,” added Arteta. “We have to be much better than we were today.”
There is no need for major panic at Arsenal, who remain top of the Premier League and their Europa League group. PSV closed the gap in the latter to two points last night, but provided Arsenal match the Dutch side’s result next week they will stay top and get a bye to the last-16.
A reaction, however, is needed against Nottingham Forest on Sunday, and the key for Arsenal is to stop this slide. Struggling to respond to setbacks was a problem last season, as twice they lost three Premier League games on the spin and on two other occasions they suffered back-to-back defeats.
The belief now is that fragility is a thing of the past, and Arsenal players have spoken about how the mentality in the squad is stronger than ever. After their first real blip of the season, now is the time to show it.