Mikel Arteta’s VAR outrage cannot distract from a harsh truth about Arsenal

Kai Havertz has failed to make an impact for the Gunners following his £65m signing

That came before Gordon’s goal, not in the remaining half-hour when Arsenal required a response; instead theirs was a mediocre reaction. This is a team who demonstrated an ability to finish strongly: they came from 2-0 down to draw at Chelsea, held their nerve to get a late winner against Manchester City and an even later brace against Manchester United. There was no sequel.

Arteta’s Arsenal have shown an ability to share the goals around which perhaps explains why they always tended to score. Yet on a day when Newcastle kept Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka far quieter than usual – doubling up on them with great energy and perhaps benefitting from Dan Burn’s back injury as it meant Kieran Trippier swapped flanks to go up against his England teammate – Arsenal were more subdued. Last season’s three top scorers had a negligible impact: Saka and Martinelli were nullified, Martin Odegaard injured.

Yet, in turn, that highlighted other shortcomings. This might have been a match to suit Gabriel Jesus, with his battling qualities: instead, with the Brazilian injured, Eddie Nketiah was ineffectual. The Londoner got a hat-trick against Sheffield United last week but his goals tend to come at home and against sides who are likely to finish in the lower half of the table, not away against teams in the Champions League.

The theory remains that Arsenal need a high-class predator. The funds that could have gone on one were instead spent on a conundrum, in Havertz. The German played a part in Martinelli’s winner against City; apart from that assist, however, the only goal he has made a direct contribution towards in his 17 appearances for Arsenal is a penalty that was gifted to him. That £65m could have either brought in a more compelling midfielder – Dominik Szoboszlai, say – or a striker.

A ranting, raging Arteta dominated the post-match discussion, his histrionic overreaction presumably suiting those who like to claim that referees and VAR are turning football into a farce, his club’s silly, self-righteous statement on Sunday an exercise adding further fuel to the fire. Yet if a man in black bore a certain responsibility for defeat, if it could be traced to his decisions, perhaps it was the one who paired a dark coat with trademark grey slacks: Arteta himself.

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