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We admit it: we were taken in a little.
Taken in by the idea of Mikel Arteta using the three months away from the Premier League as a time to focus his thoughts and whip the Arsenal squad into shape.
But after two games, they once again look a mess. Defeat to Manchester City was understandable, but to Brighton? In the admittedly short time the Premier League has been back so far, all the old foibles seem to remain, from the mental fragility to the David Luiz-related fragility.
They’re now 10th in the table, six points of fifth (which might be a Champions League place) and 11 back from fourth (which definitely will be), so it’s most definitely time we stopped automatically regarding them as one of the elite.
“We are hard-wired to consider certain teams as top six, or top four, or even title contenders,” said Daniel Storey on the Totally Football Show this week, “and it is unthinkable for me not to go into a season assuming Arsenal will finish in the top six or even get close.
“But they are testing our patience on that, because they’ve won twice away from home this season, which is pitiful really. Only Norwich have won fewer away games. They’ve drawn plenty, but that’s not good enough, and it’s not good enough for us to consider them automatic top six contenders. They only are this season because the competition around them is so average, I think.
“There’s a lot of work to do and not a lot of money to do it with.”
Furthermore, while Arteta may well ultimately be the manager to supervise their grand rebuild, Michael Cox wondered whether he really has the players to achieve that.
“I worry with Arsenal about who they’re going to build around. Arteta has done a decent job so far in terms of their shape, but the players that historically have been good enough to play for a Champions League side – Ozil, Lacazette, Aubameyang – I wouldn’t really bet on them still being there in 18 months time.
“The players that will be there have still to prove themselves. You’re left with a pretty minimal group: I’d say Bellerin, Torreira, maybe Tierney, but even he’s very early into his Arsenal career.
“It was a pretty worrying display from Arsenal against Brighton.”
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