Defensive mistakes attracted the majority of Arsene Wenger’s wrath as the Arsenal manager picked over the bones of another costly Champions League defeat, this time against free-scoring Barcelona, on Tuesday night.
Yet there is another malfunctioning aspect of his team that has garnered less attention as they enter a run of fixtures that could determine whether their domestic ambitions go the way of their European ones.
Put simply, the Gunners are firing blanks. They have failed to score in four of their last six home games, the exceptions being against second-tier Burnley and the 10 men of Leicester.
Worse still, they are creating few clear-cut chances. The visiting goalkeepers now routinely garlanded after a clean sheet at Emirates Stadium are not being required to make extraordinary saves.
This is not a new phenomenon for Arsenal. They encountered it at the start of the season, when they laboured in their unsuccessful attempts to breach West Ham and Liverpool in their first two home games.
In fact, the malaise bled over form last season, when they failed to score in three of their last four fixtures at Emirates Stadium, including against Sunderland and Swansea.
That attacking impotence contributed to the shock opening-day defeat to the Hammers and last month’s loss to Chelsea. Defensive mistakes were highlighted, but problems further forward were pertinent too.
Arsenal broke their sluggish cycle in September, recording back-to-back wins against Newcastle and Stoke and then really hit their stride in October with emphatic victories over Leicester and Manchester United.
That spell coincided with Wenger dropping an out-of-sorts Olivier Giroud and deploying Theo Walcott as a striker, a role in which he scored four goals in the last two games of last season.
Walcott’s return seemed to bring out the very best in Arsenal’s attack. His runs in behind stretched defences, allowing Alexis Sanchez to play higher up and giving Mesut Ozil another outlet for through-balls.
In the space of five games the Gunners hit five against Leicester, routed ragged United 3-0 and stunned Bayern Munich 2-0. It was unquestionably their best spell this term and Walcott was instrumental.
Competition for a place also appeared to bring out the best in Giroud, who looked re-energised and during that sequence came off the bench to score against Watford and Bayern.
The Frenchman is now without a goal in eight games, and Wenger has not only Walcott but Danny Welbeck, who looks fit and hungry following a 10-month injury absence, as alternatives to freshen up his forward line.
With Sunday’s trip to United followed by a north London derby title showdown with Tottenham a week later, Wenger must be considering swapping Giroud for one of his more mobile rivals for the striker slot.