Arsene Wenger knows what the problem is, he recognises the flaws, he just does not know what to do about it as Arsenal’s reputation as the crumbliest, flakiest team in the Premier League received another unwanted boost.
This was the Gunners’ fifth successive away league defeat and Wenger is now openly embracing the idea that too many Arsenal players are mentally fragile, stuck in a negative spiral and seemingly incapable of escaping from it.
Arsenal look like a spent and fading force, a team that has more in common with those scrapping in mid-table than those competing for the title. This was not a victory for a plucky Newcastle United team, it was a persuasive one.
As soon as pressure was exerted, as soon as the noise inside the stadium and the ferocity of Newcastle’s tackles made things uncomfortable for them, Arsenal melted like a chocolate bar in front of an open fire.
It is an all too familiar story and an all too familiar sight. This was their 11th defeat of the Premier League season. This feeling of disappointment, the frustration, the anger, it no longer a new sensation, it is the Arsenal way.
“Of course, the away form is a concern because traditionally we have a very strong record away from home. It has a subconscious weight in our minds.
“Once you’re in a negative spiral like that, it’s very difficult to get out. I feel like today the team gave everything and we have to keep playing like that.”
Except they will not win games playing like this. Arsenal were the better team in the first half, took the lead with a lovely goal, Alexandre Lacazette keeping the perfect body position to hit a volley on the stretch, beyond Martin Dubravka, the assist provided by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
But they failed to control Newcastle’s midfield, where Jonjo Shelvey was once again superb, and paid the price.
They had already had a let off when Rob Holding got back to poke the ball away from Dwight Gayle after he had ran on to Shelvey’s laser-guided pass, but when the same players linked up with an almost identical move, Gayle’s first touch took him away from the defender, laying the ball off to DeAndre Yedlin, whose first-time cross was smashed into the back of the net by Ayoze Perez.
Arsenal initially responded well, Calum Chambers missing a similar chance to the one taken by Lacazette, the centre-back boasting neither the composure or the technique of a £50 million centre-forward.
Chambers also put a header over from a corner, but the biggest opportunity spurned came just before the break when Lacazette was gifted possession by the otherwise excellent Mohamed Diame, but then hit his pass far too strongly to Joe Willock, who shinned his shot well wide.
It was not a happy memory to take from his Premier League debut, although the England Under-19 international will surely come again.
A game that seemed to be delicately poised at half-time, fizzled out rather than ignited, with neither side mustering a shot until after the hour mark.
Newcastle, though, were the more confident side, the team which needed a win to guarantee their place in the Premier League.
In contrast, Arsenal looked jaded and flat, drained no doubt by their Europa League game against CSKA Moscow on Thursday night, but Arsenal supporters are tired of listening to excuses for what happened next, a header from Islam Slimani, flicked on by Perez into the path of Matt Ritchie, who finished clinically.
Newcastle almost scored a third when Kenedy hit the crossbar and even Wenger’s persuasive argument in support of Video Assistant Referees, after Aubameyang’s penalty claim for a handball by Jamaal Lascelles was turned down, lost their impact.
“Unfortunately, the Premier League has again decided not to go for VAR and, personally, I believe that is a very, very bad decision,” Wenger said.
“The Premier League has been created with people who had a progressive mind and wanted to be in front of the rest in Europe. It worked. I believe that, with that decision, we are behind the rest in the world and that every big game this season has been decided by mistakes that could have been avoided with VAR, especially in the Champions League with Manchester City and Liverpool.”