This always had the feel of a bogey night for Arsenal. There might be fresh faces as part of a new era but history and the stigma attached to some clubs is often impossible to shift.
Bar that capitulation at Watford, their away form coming in was certainly improved on last year. So go and continue it convincingly. Send a message. Look as if you are building something, stand up against a baying Bramall Lane.
That needed old-fashioned character of course but this was more a test of consistency. Arsenal lack both and their sense of chaos barely registered as any sort of surprise.
Lys Mousset scrambled home Sheffield United’s opening goal in their 1-0 win against Arsenal
They were dumbfounded by Sheffield United’s eagerness in midfield, hurried at the back. Not savvy enough in possession. Too passive. A lack of leadership. No conviction. A full house in Arsenal away bingo.
Turning this around would not have masked the obvious frailties Unai Emery has still not corrected. The way they too frequently approach these games means defeats are always lurking just around the corner.
Theirs is a recent past littered by poor results at grounds they ought to have had the measure of. That, in many ways, is the Arsenal way and will take Emery some time yet to alter.
It was an unsurprising performance as Arsenal lack leadership and conviction once again
The tone was set early, Arsenal struggling in their own third, giving up too many corners and eventually conceding a 22nd goal from a set-piece since the beginning of Emery’s reign. ‘You have to have a defender to protect your goalkeeper. I don’t understand, no one was marking him (Lys Mousset), I don’t understand,’ Patrice Evra said on Sky Sports.
The hosts were half-a-yard sharper, a cohesive unit. Conversely, Arsenal did not know whether they were coming or going.
Unai Emery has failed to find a solution to his side’s obvious frailties away from the Emirates
Bernd Leno’s distribution was shaky. The back four often appeared on the edge of catastrophe. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was offered little help and, when a presentable chance was fashioned, Nicolas Pepe skewed wide after meeting a cross with the wrong foot right between the posts.
Pepe, the big £72million summer signing, is in real need of something to happen for him. Arsenal were merely left waiting for something to drop in their favour, a desperation as a direct consequence of their floundering start.
£72million man Pepe is in real need of something happening for him in an Arsenal shirt