The last time Arsenal failed to win in nine consecutive matches it was March 1977, under Terry Neill. Freddie Ljungberg had not even been born.
A 2-1 defeat at home to Brighton last night ensured the Gunners’ winless run continued and increased the pressure on Arsenal’s board to appoint Unai Emery’s permanent replacement sooner rather than later – and to get it right.
This was Brighton’s first ever win at Arsenal and their first victory on the road since the opening day of the season.
Caretaker boss Ljungberg had promised improvements on Sunday’s error-ridden performance against Norwich, but they were not forthcoming.
A 36th-minute opener from Brighton’s Adam Webster triggered apprehension and frustration among Arsenal fans and players alike.
And while both rallied for the second half, an 80th minute header from Neal Maupay after Alexandre Lacazette had equalised saw an exodus of fans from Emirates Stadium bewildered by what they were witnessing.
Arsenal’s set-up looked wrong from the off and the use of Mesut Ozil as a winger clearly failed to utilise his strengths.
It was the same system that Ljungberg deployed against Norwich and remained largely ineffective as a midfield trio of Granit Xhaka, Lucas Torreira and Joe Willock struggled to get a foothold.
Arsenal were at their most dangerous when Ozil came inside to collect the ball and Ljungberg opted to replace Willock, who had been playing at No10, with Nicolas Pepe at half-time.
The hosts became instantly more threatening as runners from midfield played the ball off of a central Ozil and began to dominate proceedings, scoring from a corner in the 50th minute when Lacazette flicked a looping header into the far corner.
However, as the game wore on Arsenal’s comeback faded, midfield holes began to re-emerge and Brighton clawed back possession, which ultimately afforded them the chance to score late on.
In the early stages of Ljungberg’s first match, it was clear the Swede had tried to get the Gunners back to the basics of quick, incisive passing as they opened Norwich up repeatedly.
There were further signs against Brighton that he had been at work behind the scenes as Arsenal endeavoured to produce one of their most intense pressing displays to date.
It is perhaps one of the reasons Willock started as he and Aubameyang were particularly effective in preventing Brighton from playing out from the back.
However, when Brighton were able to play out – either through slick passing, or Arsenal’s ill-discipline – it left the Gunners short in defence, where they need all the help they can get.
It was a tactic Emery tried to implement on arriving in London but eventually ditched. It now feels as though a fresh perspective is needed from a coach who was not a part of the Spaniard’s set-up.
Brighton’s ability to play out from the back was better than Arsenal’s, with home goalkeeper Bernd Leno particularly culpable for some poor distribution.
The Seagulls’ owners must have seen something they like in Graham Potter to have awarded him a contract extension just months after joining and it is likely to be the possession-based, attacking brand of football that was not seen under predecessor Chris Hughton.
Potter’s men looked dangerous throughout the match and outplayed Arsenal for large parts of the game.
Despite their more expansive football, it was from a corner that Brighton opened the scoring, before sealing the win with a header from an Aaron Mooy cross.
Webster’s first-half goal came as a result of Arsenal failing to clear their lines and means seven of their last 10 goals have come from set-pieces.
For Arsenal, it means they remain 10th, 10 points off the top four and in dire need of change.