Faltering Arsenal's season in the balance

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta trudges off after the Premier League match against Brighton

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta trudges off after the Premier League match against Brighton - Credit: PA

Arsenal’s Premier League season is in the balance after back-to-back defeats.

Two weeks ago everything was looking rosy as they sat in fourth place with games in hand and a host of players called up to represent their countries, signalling Arsenal’s rise.

But two weeks on and Arsenal’s season is seemingly in freefall.

Successive losses to Crystal Palace, and most recently Brighton at the Emirates, have evaporated any freedom and confidence the players had been playing with and exposed the Gunners' perilously thin squad.  

Arsenal's Gabriel and Brighton's Marc Cucurella battle for the ball at Emirates Stadium

Arsenal's Gabriel and Brighton's Marc Cucurella battle for the ball at Emirates Stadium - Credit: PA

Before the international break, Arsenal were flowing, playing with a swagger from front to back and dominating teams, albeit without dominating the scoreline.

But now passiveness and doubt have crept in, and the loss of a few key players has only exacerbated Arsenal’s struggles.

The losses of Kieran Tierney and Thomas Partey have already looked alarming, with Mikel Arteta deploying a makeshift defence and midfield in Arsenal’s 2-1 defeat to Brighton.

Arsenal's Martin Odegaard is helped to his feet during the Premier League match against Brighton

Arsenal's Martin Odegaard is helped to his feet during the Premier League match against Brighton - Credit: PA

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The downfall of the 2020/21 campaign coincided with an injury to Tierney, resulting in Granit Xhaka moving out of midfield to cover for the Scotsman.

A year on and Arsenal are back in the same position.

Arteta’s lack of squad depth and unwillingness to rotate his side to give the likes of Nuno Tavares and Albert Sambi Lokonga game time has resulted in a lack of options and squad players looking rusty when called upon. 

However, this same approach is also why Arsenal have been so successful this season, playing with a settled side which has formed an unmatched cohesion in comparison to the teams around them.

The flaws in the side have been obvious from day one, but in spite of that Arteta has created a team that fans can have hope in through consistency of selections and unity.

Many of these flaws can be addressed in the summer: a new striker to improve their goal threat, a new midfielder to reduce the reliance on Partey and Xhaka, and a number of back-up options to provide healthy competition for places.

Despite Arsenal’s season seemingly in the balance, it would be wrong to dismiss the positive signs, but the club must also be aware that there remains a lot of work to do as they head to Southampton this weekend.