Arsenal fans desperate to find a scapegoat following last night's frankly pathetic late collapse against Anderlecht have no shortage have candidates to aim their scorn towards, but it's the collective malaise which Arsene Wenger presides over which should leave them seriously frustrated rather than any one player.
Yes Per Mertesacker was culpable for losing out in the air to Alexsandar Mitrovic when it mattered most. Yes Nacho Monreal's decision to bring down the same player and hand Anderlecht a spot kick while Arsenal still led 3-1 was awful, and yes Lukas Podolski's efforts to close down Andy Najar's deep cross for the equaliser bordered on embarrassing.
Problems at the Emirates run deeper than those errors though and should have easily been avoided thanks to cohesion and tactical nous at even a basic level regardless of injuries or suspensions. I'm almost certain Arsene Wenger is acutely aware of that fact, but if he's not it would be a denial bordering on delusion that means Arsenal are doomed to perennially fight for fourth place and exit the Champions League at the last 16 stage until he decides to step aside.
Urgent action required to avoid Groundhog day
Wenger's failure to find a suitable replacement for former club captain Thomas Vermaelen is among the most negligent transfer mistakes of his entire 18-year spell in North London, but its one that can't be undone until January at least.
There is work to be done on the training ground though in the immediate and from a tactical standpoint a switch to 4-1-4-1 clearly isn't working. Perhaps its time to give assistant manager Steve Bould a more active role in working with a defence that's only managed to keep three clean sheets in the Premier League all season long.
Let Bould get more involved
Bould must have been more seething than most when Arsenal were pressing for a fourth goal last night, with the game still very much up for grabs.
Surely if the former Gunners stalwart was given time direct input into sessions or allowed to put his own stamp on the setup from set pieces at the very least Arsenal would see the benefit, but beyond that there are pretty worrying accusations being fired across the Arsenal squad that need to be addressed.
Alarm bells should be ringing over post-match reaction
Arsenal linchpin, fine collector and leader Per Mertesacker's quotes in the Evening Standard today the Evening Standard make his feeling very clear.
The World Cup winner said: “When we drop sometimes everyone has to be involved to defend.
"You can’t afford for just five or six players to defend, or just the back four. That is what we lacked especially in the final third and in the last 20 minutes."
Mertesacker didn't name names but it's clear, but its clear he's absolutely sick to the back teeth of not Arsenal not pressing as a unit and protecting their last line of defence properly, a criticism which Wenger has to take on the chin.
Oxlade-Chamberlain also chimes in
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain clearly agreed with his more experienced colleague, also bemoaning Arsenal's inability to cut off danger at the source.
He told Metro: "The goals were disappointing that we conceded, they were goals that we would liked to have been able to stop at source.
"They were simple goals, we need to stop crosses. We failed to do that and to be fair they managed to put some good balls in and get on the end of them."
No time to sulk
In fairness to Arsenal and Wenger his troops bounced back consistently from absolute hidings at the Etihad, Anfield and Stamford Bridge to produce consistent results against sides they were in truth supposed to beat, but this season's been a different story.
The wave of euphoria which met Arsenal's FA Cup triumph and Wenger's new bumper three-year contract last May is now firmly in the past, it's time for some serious soul searching at the Emirates about ambitions, coaching, tactics and team spirit or even the outstanding performances of Alexis Sanchez will not paper over the cracks that are emerging.
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