It's difficult to know where to start after a game like the one that Arsenal had against Manchester City on Sunday. Part of what makes it difficult to analyse the match is that Arsenal had 10 men for 80 minutes – it's impossible to tell what could have happened otherwise.
City had of course been in the ascendancy for the first brief period of the game, but if the first ten minutes of a game were definitive, Arsenal wouldn't have either of their 5-2 wins over Tottenham Hotspur, for example.
It's perhaps harsh that Arsenal were hit with the double whammy of a sending off and a penalty against them when Laurent Koscielny hauled down Edin Dzeko (the correct proceedings according to the laws of the game but still perhaps not quite a fair punishment, as Arsene Wenger has pointed out before) but the Gunners were rather lacklustre after that.
Jack Wilshere and Thomas Vermaelen looked particularly desperate to get their team back in the game having gone 2-0 down, but their joint efforts were fruitless as Arsenal found themselves out-numbered and over-powered by the champions. A swift move from a free-kick had caught Arsenal out when James Milner fired home, before Dzeko had the easiest of finishes after Wojciech Szczesny had saved.
Arsenal's defending had left a bit to be desired, and City had ruthlessly punished them. Fans had hoped that the penalty save could be the catalyst to an unlikely 10-man triumph against the champions, but instead it merely postponed the concession, with Arsenal seemingly intimidated by their opponents.
It's something which concerned Arsene Wenger too, and he noted his frustration that his players had put in a 'timid' performance. The same could be said of when Arsenal visited Old Trafford – Wenger's men seem to be developing an inferiority complex this season when it comes to the big boys. With Chelsea up next in the league, that can't be good.
While Wenger was frustrated by his team, he made some questionable decisions himself. The notable one was playing Theo Walcott alone up front up against a beastly Vincent Kompany and a very impressive Matija Nastasic – while Nastasic was calm and composed, Kompany is a colossus, and a player of Walcott's frame and, more importantly, attitude was never going to get any joy from him.
A better option would have surely been to play Lukas Podolski up front. While not a particularly physical player himself, he could have at least challenged Kompany. Walcott, on the other hand, was merely brushed aside.
It seems as if we're saying this every time Arsenal lose, but the outlook isn't great for the team in the near future. The team are yet again failing to fire when having seemed to have a bit of a resurgence, and consistency is certainly an area in which they're lacking.
Credit, of course, where it's due. Manchester City played an intelligent game and exploited Arsenal well when they went down to 10 men. They passed the ball around effortlessly, in the first half especially, inviting the home side to press, which was mostly pointless when they did and only served to tire them out and leave gaps in behind. City weren't spectacular, but were efficient and clinical – the cliched mark of champions, if there is such a thing.
The disappointing thing for Arsenal at 2-0 down was how some of the players seemed to be looking around for others to start a revival, rather than working as a team to do it. One gets the sense that having had talismans like Robin van Persie and Cesc Fabregas in the past to bail them out, they seem to be struggling without one – rather than being compelled to step up themselves, as had been hoped when the Dutchman departed.
There's very little confidence at Arsenal at the moment, and at times it doesn't look as if the players are all pulling in the same direction. In the past Arsenal have been defined by their free-flowing attacking football, but at the moment they don't really appear to have a style.
The hope at the beginning of the season was that the players, newly-acquainted as many of them were, would gel and form a cohesive unit, but that isn't happening. It may just be that they need time, but an equally valid solution to the problem may just be that they don't really fit together. And if they do, Arsene Wenger just isn't using them right.
It seems as if Wenger's preference of idealism over pragmatism is hindering Arsenal again – it could be that he's asking his players to play in a way that he feels is good to watch, rather than a way that would suit the collective. It's harsh, but there's something not quite right with Arsenal.