There was always the hope that Arsenal could get something from their Carabao Cup quarter-final against Manchester City and for a 15 minute spell at Emirates Stadium it looked like a positive result was possible.
Mikel Arteta’s side aren’t getting much luck at the moment but in life you make your own luck and the decision to start Shkodran Mustafi and Alex Runarsson was one that came back to bite him during the game.
Mustafi, as football.london revealed a couple of months ago, wants to leave the club and will let his contract run out until he becomes a free agent in the summer.
That doesn’t mean he shouldn’t play, of course, yet the likes of Calum Chambers or William Saliba would be a better fit in defence – or Sokratis, a player who was exiled by the Arsenal boss but would have been ideal to play in the cup competitions.
Runarsson was a signing made in the summer following the recommendation of goalkeeper coach Inaki Cana. There were already doubts over whether he’d make the grade at Arsenal after he failed to keep a clean sheet in 11 games for Ligue 1 strugglers Dijon last season.
The signing appeared to be a cost-cutting approach based on a recommendation instead of extensive scouting, and if his performance on Tuesday night was anything to go by – it’s already failed.
The decision to leave Emile Smith Rowe and Folarin Balogun on the bench prompted further questions over whether the Spaniard really wants to give youth a chance, while playing the likes of Mustafi and Sead Kolasinac makes little sense when both players will be leaving the club soon.
Typically for Arsenal right now, the only positive of the night turned into a negative.
Gabriel Martinelli’s first senior start of the season reminded everyone of his attacking qualities and enthusiasm in the final third. He created the equaliser with an excellent cross for Alexandre Lacazette and his work rate was infectious among the rest of his team-mates.
However, he suffered an injury towards the end of the first half which forced him to come off a few minutes into the second half.
Arteta will be hoping that the injury isn’t too serious as Martinelli will be needed over the festive fixtures with a game against Chelsea on Boxing Day the likely fixture to see the Brazilian return in.
Only four players have had more goal involvements since the start of last season for Arsenal than Martinelli (14) and while his ‘saviour’ status has been played down by the Gunners boss, it’s clear that he’s the club’s most important player right now.
“We cannot put that pressure on his shoulders, I don’t think it’s fair for him,” said Arteta ahead of the game.
“He brings that enthusiasm that the fans can see because he’s got something special. He’s got a special energy every time he steps on that field.
“But remember that what Gabi has done in the Premier League in the time he has been with us is very limited and let him develop like we are doing with many other young kids we have here.”
This won’t get any easier for Arteta. It’s understood that the Arsenal ownership will stick by him and the January transfer window can’t come soon enough for a manager who possesses a squad full of deadwood and players who want to leave over the coming months.
Manchester City’s Gabriel Jesus scores his side’s first goal. Picture: Nick Potts