The journey over to the Emirates on Saturday was a suitable metaphor for what Arsenal have become over the past decade. The flight was delayed and the as the plane was about to land, it had to take off again due to the strong winds around Heathrow.
As the plane climbed urgently again, there was a five-minute silence from the cockpit that had everybody staring blankly at nothing in particular in front of them, before we were informed of what had happened and that another attempt was forthcoming.
Now that our senses were that bit more alert, the mundane had become remarkable and the second attempt had our full attention. The plane shook, rattled and dipped —much more violently than the first time — before finally finding the Heathrow runway.
These are turbulent times to be supporting Arsenal. And, with the mundane now being remarkable, nothing, not even Wolves at home, can be taken for granted.
A run of results that had seen Arsenal lose meekly to Sheffield Utd, blow a two-goal lead at home to Crystal Palace and lose a crazy Carabao Cup game at Anfield on penalties ensured this would be another uncertain afternoon where events around the game would be just as important as what was happening inside the white lines.
Arsenal fans, so often derided for their silence, found their voice again in the last week. Granit Xhaka felt their wrath a week ago and his decision to return fire meant it was better for all that he be somewhere else on Saturday.
He certainly hadn’t used his free time to muster an apology in his programme notes. Instead, there was just the same text that he posted on Instagram on Thursday. In it he implored fans to “move forward positively together.” One couldn’t help but think that a move would indeed be the most positive way to bring an end to this particular debacle.
The absence of Arsenal’s captain from the centre of the field made no discernible difference on the game. Of course, there were gaping holes in the middle of the Arsenal side that Wolves looked to exploit. But that gap has been there for much too long now, and there still isn’t anyone in the squad capable of filling it.
In Unai Emery’s own programme notes he spoke of the “need to connect with our supporters again over these 90 minutes.” To do so, he picked a reactionary team. Mesut Özil, Emery’s apparent bête noire, was restored to the starting eleven and played the full 90.
The crowd’s enthusiasm on his inclusion was a not so subtle message to the manager. The big guns were out, and it was a team based on players rather than a system. A team to dig him out of a hole.
Wolves played like the home team in the first 15 minutes. They trapped Arsenal in their own half and outplayed them, to nobody’s surprise.
Arsenal were relying on their full backs for width and while Kieran Tierney was able, Calum Chambers offered only perspiration, but the goal did come from his side. A bit of class from Lacazette gave Aubameyang a sight of goal and that’s all he needed.
Arsenal were decent after that but never really looked like adding to the lead. There was a time, of course, when 1-0 would have been enough but these days you wouldn’t feel comfortable at 3-0.
Wolves could have gone in level and brought that form into the second half as Arsenal played like a side crippled by fear and uncertainty. In possession, they ran out of ideas very early and it was only a matter of time until they conceded. The equaliser was always going come from something simple; a quick throw-in that Ceballos failed to react to, a decent cross and a lost header. The same type of silly goal they’ve been conceding for 13 years. Where once there was patented miserliness, now there is just charity.
Jota’s late miss may have saved Emery the guillotine but his stay of execution won’t be too long. The boos that capped another sterile and aimless performance gave a clear message that what’s on display is just is not good enough.
The talent is there. The sense afterwards was when will Arsenal twist, not whether they’ll stick. Wait for the inevitable defeat at Leicester? Hold tough until Christmas? Or prolong the agony until May?
Who comes in? If it’s a special one, there’s more turbulent times to come.