ARSENAL assistant manager Steve Bould blamed jadedness for his side’s alarming slump after Schalke condemned the Gunners to their first home group stage defeat in the Champions League since 2003.
Dutch pair Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Ibrahim Afellay scored in the last 15 minutes to heap further misery on a side already reeling from Saturday’s shock Premier League defeat at Norwich.
Arsenal took until the 93rd minute to muster an effort on target in an anaemic display typified by the misplaced passes of Gervinho and the hapless defending of full-back Andre Santos.
Bould cited this month’s international break as a turning point, and it would appear to have prompted their two worst showings of the season, even though less than half of last night’s starting line-up were fielded by their countries.
“We havent played anything like we can, I think that’s the big disappointment,” said Bould, in the dugout as boss Arsene Wenger completed a three-game touchline ban.
“We lack a bit of confidence, for whatever reason, and it’s a tough competition. They're a good side, they beat [German champions Borussia] Dortmund at the weekend and played really well. A 0-0 would have delighted us I think.
“We looked jaded, I don’t know why that is, coming off the international break we haven’t performed.
“The West Ham game [before the international double-header], I thought we looked really sharp and confident, but since the international break we’ve looked jaded. We need to pick it up again. We’ve got a really tough game here on Saturday [against QPR], regardless of positions -- we found that out last weekend.”
Bould said he expected midfielder Jack Wilshere, kept out of first-team action for 16 months by injury, and fellow youngster Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to return at the weekend, but contract rebel Theo Walcott remains doubtful.
Despite only a second home defeat in the competition in 45 matches, the Gunners look well placed to progress from Group B, although this morning’s AGM is likely to simmer with greater discontent than recent years.
Arsenal failed to pierce Schalke and were given a warning just before half-time when right-back Atsuto Uchida escaped Santos and centred for the unmarked Huntelaar, who side-footed wide from close range.
Jefferson Farfan was next to expose the left-back, pulling back for captain Benedikt Howedes to blaze over, and Santos was duly culpable when the visitors took the lead in the 76th minute, playing Huntelaar onside, the forward collecting a loose ball before rifling low past Vito Mannone.
10 minutes later Farfan beat Santos again and crossed for Afellay -- who Arsenal could have signed this summer -- to tap in at the far post and seal the first away win by any European side at the Emirates since Manchester United in the 2008-09 semi-finals.