We always had the toughest run in of those chasing the Top 4.
A few times we have pointed out that alongside the “big trips” to Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham, we also faced some tricky away days to solid mid-table outfits.
Trips to Wolves, Aston Villa, Crystal Palace, Southampton, Newcastle and West Ham were never going to be “easy wins”. A last night proved just that.
Yes, I am as disappointed as anyone with the result; and perhaps even more disappointed by the performance.
It felt like I was watching Arsenal from 2018-2021. Not Mikel Arteta’s New Arsenal.
Over the last 4 or 5 years, too often we were masters of our own downfall. Defensive errors at the back, conceding penalties or getting players sent off.
Last night was a hark back to yesteryear.
The first was easily avoidable. Nuno Tavares was too weak in the air to the point where he never even got off the ground.
Tavares failed to even challenge for the ball. Had he done so Joachim Anderson would not have had the freedom to head the ball back across as perfectly as he did.
The second, like the first, was also avoidable. A slip from Gabriel and then Tavares was too slow to react.
I do not want to blame the young Portuguese left-back for last nights defeat. He was the junior man in the team. Least experienced. But he is a concern.
He is now 22-years-old and is clearly in need of game time to develop.
The issue is can we afford to loan him out next season considering Kieran Tierney’s injury record? The answer is no.
With Tierney likely to be out for the rest of the season, Tavares will get a few consecutive games. We will need to see huge strides of improvement otherwise we could be looking for more solid cover for Tierney in the summer.
Back to the game; The third was a penalty.
Was it a penalty? Yes.
You can see why Wilfried Zaha wins so many penalties. He has excellent close control and the ability to take on multiple players in the box. It is only a matter of time until his quick feet lead to an opponent mistiming a swipe at the ball.
What I would also say, however, is that it was also a foul on Bukayo Saka in the box at 2-0.
So 2 avoidable goals and a penalty and we lose 3-0. Frustrating. But time to look at the bigger picture.
We were never going to win all 6 of those tricky away days mentioned above. We were always going to drop points in 2 or 3 of them.
The fact we have been to Wolverhampton, been to Aston and come away with 3 points still sets us up nicely in the race for 4th.
72 points still has to be the target.
If we finish on 72 and that lot up the road finish above us, we will not have too much to grumble about. It would have meant in the last 14 games of the season, they would have averaged 2.78 points a game. That is title winning form (Manchester City currently averaging 2.43 points per game).
Before the Palace game, the equation was simple to get to 72 points – win the 4 remaining home games and 2 out of the last 6 aways. We could afford to lose 4!
Defeat against Palace now means we can only afford to lose 3 of our last 9 games (if we win the other 6 we are at 72).
This weekend we are at home to Brighton whilst Tottenham travel to Aston Villa.
Villa are in horrendous form and look like their players are already thinking of a lads trip to Magaluf in June.
We just need to focus on ourselves and secure the 3 points against Brighton.
Let’s not throw the toys out of the pram yet. Some fans will be looking to destabilise a united fan base for hits, clicks, views and attention today. Block them and move on.
We Are The Arsenal.