Thank you. Next...

I went to the theatre last night. It was months in the planning. I'd reasoned with impeccable logic that there was no way that Arsenal were going to have a match on this particular Thursday evening; Thanks, Amazon Prime...


I'd been looking forward to it for months. Sir Ian McKellen's farewell tour; a three-hour one-man show from a genuine national treasure. And it was excellent - even if there was a little too much Shakespeare and not quite enough Gandalf. And I even got to shake the great man's hand during the interval!

So there I stood on the wrong Piccadilly Line platform at King's Cross St Pancras, watching Arsenal fans streaming onto the eastbound platform while my wife and I were waiting to go to Piccadilly Circus. A part of me was regretting missing Freddie's first home game in charge. But as it turned out, I'd made absolutely the right decision.

And it all went wrong once I got home. Having managed a 'news blackout' for the entire journey home, despite sitting in a train carriage with what I now realise were ominously subdued Arsenal fans, I foolishly decided to watch the midnight rerun on Amazon Prime.

And so it was, as I finally hauled myself off to bed at 2.30am - in a foul mood - that I realised that things are far worse than even I thought they were.

I'm not sure what Emery has done to this group of players, but they seem utterly devoid of confidence and frankly any idea of how to play football at this level. But it all goes back much further than that; over ten years of steady decline have now turned into a full-scale fall off of a cliff. I'm sorry to be proved right, but as I predicted as a worse-case scenario the current ownership simply don't understand English football, nor the ethos of the great institution that is Arsenal Football Club. And as a result, they've set it back so far that it may be irredeemable in the near future; look how long it took Liverpool, for example, to get back to the top table.

Years of neglect and mis-management - including missing out on both Guardiola and Klopp in the past few years - since the move to the new stadium have left Arsenal miles behind where they should be and where they need to be. How they go about getting back there I wish I knew, but they need to be bold. Somehow, I suspect that the sort of resources they need to throw at this project is the sort of money that this owner is simply unprepared to spend.

And the foolish and short-sighted thing about it is that he bought the club as an investment vehicle, yet is presiding over a gigantic fall in the value of his investment. As I say he didn't - and doesn't - understand what is required.

And so to the game. It started OK; for about 10 minutes. Until Brighton realised that they had absolutely nothing to fear.

I wasn't 100 per cent happy with the team selection, which looked strangely shaped, but I did prefer it to the previous one. At least Torreira was in the side. But the combination up top looked and felt wrong, and the defence is inevitably a disaster waiting to happen. Coupling any combination of the available central defensive personnel with a refusal to insist on at least one central midfielder sitting and shielding them was simply asking for trouble.

And so it proved. It's going to take a lot to coach Emery out of this team, and the invitation to attack was very much taken on board by the opposition; the goal was coming and when it came was well-deserved. Arsenal were terrible, and got exactly what their meek play was asking for.

And so they left the field - not for the first or last time - to boos from the sparse crowd.

Understandably, Freddie made a change at half-time, bringing on Pepe for the unfortunate Willock. It was a shame for the youngster to be scapegoated for an appalling first-half team performance, but something had to be done after a new nadir in a season of nadirs.

And Pepe's introduction did make a difference. Suddenly, with the Fab Four all together, Arsenal started playing with verve and energy and equalised - albeit from a corner - as Lacazette's header looped in at the far post.

But then the switch went back off. I have no idea why. Did they feel that the job was done; because it most certainly wasn't. Foot back off the pedal, and Brighton were back in charge.

And the goal came as a result of lack of closing down, and of Luiz losing his man on the six-yard line. But what options does a manager have when Luiz is arguably the best of the centre-back options he has available? And so Arsenal huffed and puffed after that, but never quite looked like getting anything out of the game; and left the field to even more boos from the 10,000 or so who stayed to the bitter end.

If this was part of an audition for Freddie to get the job full-time, I'm afraid that he has failed it already. As he himself said afterwards, the players are lacking in confidence, but surely it is part of his job to reinstill it. There has been no 'new manager bounce' here. As it turns out, selecting Freddie as interim has been like Spurs plumping for Tim Sherwood, or Everton for Big Dunc.

A look at the league table shows that Arsenal are in dreadful form. No wins since early October, and now on their worst run for fully 40 years. A series of draws and defeats against sides they should be dealing with comfortably. Please note, by the way, that this one was Brighton, 16th in the table and on the back of three successive defeats. They've lost to Watford and Brighton, and drawn with Norwich and Southampton. Teams that under any normal circumstances Arsenal should be taking care of with little difficulty. No more is that the case, and this is freefall; relegation form.

How they are going to turn this around I do not know. Of the mooted candidates I'd want Rodgers, but why on earth would he leave Leicester City now, for any money? But one thing is for sure; an experienced manager needs to be appointed; and damn quick!

It's West Ham on Monday. And Everton quite soon. But I'm not sure it matters who they are up against for the foreseeable future. I think they'd struggle against Vanarama opposition at the moment. And it gets worse, because over the next few weeks they have to face City, United, and Chelsea (twice). Quite where they'll be in the table after that little lot is anybody's guess.

I'll be back Tuesday, as the West Ham game is on Monday. I'm going back to bed.

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