Lest we forget, the international break was preceded by Liverpool’s 4-0 walloping of Arsenal at Anfield.
For many, this was simply a result like any other. And probably Arsenal will bounce back like they have done before, and go on a winning streak, even if it does not end in lifting the English Premier League title.
But unless you are critical enough, Arsenal’s latest defeat is more than just a result. This was a landmark result like many others before, which point to how ominous the future is for the Gunners, a fact that should actually prompt Arsene Wenger to resign as soon as possible.
This column has in the past leaped to the defence of Wenger, and shown what a great coach he has been, using meagre resources to keep the team in competitive mode. And then also making Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry, ‘Kolo Toure’, Ashley Cole, Lauren Mayer and Cesc Fabregas top-class players from total scratch.
However, ‘has been’ is the catchword therein, and for clear reasons. During the time of the aforementioned players, when they were at the peak of their powers, Arsenal beat all and sundry, playing some breathtaking football.
Wenger’s way worked. He taught them how to play in a special way, which made Arsenal stand out. Its fans were proud to be called The Gunners. Not anymore. It is all about recriminations, remonstration and gnashing of teeth, as Arsenal continues to decline.
And there has been a pattern to this for a protracted spell. While all teams, big and small, lose games, the trend at Arsenal has been tellingly poignant. In 2011, they lost 2-8 at Old Trafford. This was followed by other disappointing results only the fans of Sunderland or Hartlepool have probably grown accustomed to over time.
Yet, for some reason, even Arsenal has retrogressed towards those levels. In 2013, Manchester City beat Arsenal 6-3 at the Etihad. That was followed by the 1-5 humiliation at Anfield as the 2013/2014 season end drew nigh.
In fact, as Arsenal nursed the wounds subjected to them by Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge, a visit to Stamford Bridge came calling. Chelsea beat them 6-0.
Great sides do not experience such humiliations in a recurrent manner. It can happen in a one-off like once Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson lost 0-5 at Stamford Bridge back in 2000.
For Arsenal, it has become a constant, that every season, they suffer a hiding. Top teams tend to protect their reputations jealously, something that enables them to safeguard their pride. Sanctity is everything, and it is not acquired unless heavy defeats are stopped.
That is where the strong winning mentality begins; the self-belief. Just peer around the top leagues in the world, and examine the top clubs, that win championships. One common aspect therein, is that they are built on a strong base, that some call pedigree, for their success.
Over the last few seasons, when AC Milan has been struggling, they have travelled to Sassuolo, led 3-1 in the second half, and ended up losing 3-4. During Real Madrid’s hard times, they travelled to Anfield and lost 4-0 in the 2007 Uefa Champions League.
Such scorelines do not simply reflect badly on a team, but they are a pointer that a known giant side is slipping away and has lost its gusto. In December 2015, even Southampton also had a chance to beat Arsenal 4-0. It is, therefore, wrong for people to just scour over Arsenal’s heavy defeats in recent years like they are nothing.
They are big and show how much the dark clouds continue to gather on the club. The character has been lost in the players. The will to fight and protect the sacred name of the club has gone.
It is Wenger’s responsibility to have these attributes in his team, and if they are lost on them, it is time up for him. Do not be fooled by the fact that the club has, until this time round, been in the Uefa Champions League.
That is all it is - a decline in aspirations. Arsenal cannot simply be about making the top four. Of course winning the FA Cup is a big thing, like it is winning any cup at the end of the season.
But a great club is marked out in its ability to win the league, the 38-game marathon. This shows fortitude and resilience, the same that makes sure a club does not suffer heavy defeats like Arsenal has been doing in recent seasons.