Latest Arsenal implosion leaves CL hopes in tatters – when will they get a better chance?

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 Credit: PA Images
Credit: PA Images

For the second time in five days, Arsenal lost their heads and the points in a season-defining game. They may not have expected Champions League qualification this season, but they have failed to grasp the chance when it presented itself.

There were no excuses from Mikel Arteta this time. No grand anti-Arsenal conspiracy to concoct for a defeat that inflicts a near terminal wound on their Champions League hopes.

Arsenal were absolutely rotten in the face of a full-throttle display from Newcastle that had not a shred of end-of-season sloppiness to it. This is a revitalised and transformed club from top to bottom and excitement about what the future may hold; even before whatever the summer may bring this is a side that has produced Champions League form across the second half of the season.

Eventually Arsenal may also be able to bring themselves to look forward to next season with optimism on the back of a season of progress and improvement, but that is either going to require serious time for the wounds of the last five days to heal or for some deeply unlikely events on Sunday afternoon even allowing for the history of the Tottenham.

There’s Spursiness and then there’s losing to already relegated Norwich on the final day, a Norwich side who have beaten only Burnley since January. Spurs fans will take nothing for granted just yet – they and Arsenal are now fundamentally the same banter club – but nobody else will go into Sunday expecting anything other than confirmation of the seemingly inevitable. This was surely a must-win game for Arsenal and they spent most of it looking like they would struggle to hold on for a point and then panicking dismally upon falling behind. Based on the last two games, you could argue that Norwich beating Spurs is the simpler part of Sunday’s equation. An Arsenal win – any Arsenal win – looks deeply unlikely after this.

Wider context is easy to ignore on decisive nights like this but it should be mentioned. Nobody had Arsenal down as top-four contenders at the start of the season, and fifth place – if it is to be fifth place – still represents progress for a young squad. But that doesn’t mean this shouldn’t sting, and most importantly it doesn’t mean that it is a chance that will definitely come along again. The stars aligned for Arsenal this season. Manchester United have been a mess, Spurs lost their way for months on end and Leicester’s own overperforming came to an abrupt end. Above all, Arsenal found themselves with a clear run thanks to no European football and an early exit from the FA Cup.

Arsenal manager Arteta Credit: PA Images
Arsenal manager Arteta Credit: PA Images

To end the season with a squad as thin and threadbare and exhausted as this represents a gamble that has backfired spectacularly. Arsenal may not have expected a chance to get back in the Champions League to present itself, but it did and they have p*ssed it right up the wall. Next year this Arsenal squad will be a year older and a year wiser, but they look set for another season of Thursday-Sunday football, as well as Spurs, a new-look Manchester United and on this evidence very possibly Newcastle as well.

With Champions League qualification in sight, Arsenal have lost five of their last nine games having opted to weaken the squad in January. Four of those five defeats have come against teams between ninth and 15th in the table, with the other that heads-gone collapse at Tottenham, the hangover of which could be felt throughout this latest sh*tshow.

Things were going wrong long before the opening goal, but it was a catastrophe of a thing. Beginning with a foul throw, ending with Ben White diverting the ball past Aaron Ramsdale, and littered with errors in between. Cedric charged inexplicably forward only to make no challenge on Allan Saint-Maximin. White failed to shuffle across to fill the space, allowing Joelinton to run clear down the left with only a desperately scrambling Mo Elneny for anything approaching company. White was then stuck in no-man’s land when the cross fizzed in with the excellent Callum Wilson lurking.

Going behind was bad, but Arteta’s response was worse. There were still 35 minutes remaining for Arsenal to work their way back into the game. But the Arsenal boss panicked. Forward players were thrown on to the pitch seemingly at random. Whatever defensive shape they had was lost, and their attacks become even more chaotic and disjointed than before. It was a Hail Mary and it got what it deserved. Two or three times Newcastle carved Arsenal apart before getting the second goal that had begun to feel inevitable as St James’ Park gave way entirely to the party that had been threatened all night.

Newcastle fans left full of optimism for what the future holds. For Arsenal, there was no escaping the chance in the present that looks to have slipped through their fingers.

The article Latest Arsenal implosion leaves CL hopes in tatters – when will they get a better chance? appeared first on Football365.com.

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