Mesut Ozil goes missing as Arsenal suffer a horrendous run
The immediate aftermath of a disheartening defeat makes it easy to find the most vociferous opinions. You didn't have to look far in the wake of the 2-1 defeat to Manchester City on Sunday to find some tormented Arsenal fans advocating the immediate sale of Mesut Ozil.
Some said he should be relegated to the Under-23s, others that he should never play for the club again. It's heat of the moment stuff, obviously, that makes little sense when you consider that just a week ago the same fans were apoplectic the club hadn't yet tied down the German and teammate Alexis Sanchez to new, lucrative deals.
With nine goals and five assists to his name, Ozil has been one of Arsenal's best players this season, something that's too easily overlooked in the wake of a difficult week for him. He was poor against Everton last Tuesday night, and at the Etihad on Sunday the game completely passed him by.
Or, to put it another way, he allowed it to pass him by. He has been accused of laziness before and it's usually wide of the mark. His languid style often belies how much work he does put in, but there was no excusing his performance on Sunday. Having just gone 2-1 down, he more or less stood and watched as City passed it around in midfield, and it was a sight that summed up his day and that of the visiting side.
On a day when they needed to make a statement, the club's record £42.5 million signing -- and a player of immense quality let's not forget -- simply didn't turn up. He wasn't alone, in fairness. You'd be hard pressed to say anyone but Sanchez did themselves justice, but if the signing of Ozil was one to drag the club into a new era, fixtures like City away are where he really needs to show the best side of himself.
To win those games away from home against title rivals, your best players have to perform, and across the board Arsenal were found wanting against City. Not least because they took the lead through an excellent Theo Walcott goal, the kind of strike that should have been a dagger in the heart of a City defence which has been shockingly bad at times this season.
With Sanchez, Walcott, Alex Iwobi and Ozil, Arsenal had the pace, power and creativity to cause a comparatively less speedy back four all kinds of problems. But instead of being a goal that inspired Arsenal, it sent them back into their shells, and Pep Guardiola's side slowly, relentlessly turned the screw.
Having seen them go 1-0 ahead at Goodison Park, only to throw the game away, City knew that Arsenal were vulnerable. They knew that the last time they'd won away from home against one of the traditional big boys of the league was almost two years ago (coincidentally against City in January 2015). They knew from the way Arsenal looked strangely inhibited and passive, that this wasn't not opposition that were going to cause them too many problems.
So, the team with the dodgy, somewhat makeshift defence, grew in confidence and dominated Arsene Wenger's men. They had no response. There was no tactical shift, no change in intensity; nothing. It's hugely worrying to see a team so flat in a big game, particularly as it's not the first time we've seen that this season.
Last month they were poor at Manchester United, and in September they played out a 1-1 draw with Tottenham in a north London derby which showed many of the same traits.
When a team can't get motivated properly for a derby against the local rivals, alarm bells start ringing. Results subsequently helped drown those bells out, but they're going off again now after what has been a horrendous week for them.
From top of the table last Sunday morning, they now sit nine points behind leaders Chelsea. It's been a hugely damaging and disheartening collapse, there's no other way about it. There's still a long way to go this season, but unless they smarten up their act pretty quickly, Arsenal are going to get well and truly left behind.
Andrew Mangan is one of ESPN FC's Arsenal bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter: @arseblog.