The build up to the much-anticipated return of the Premier League last night was anything but standard.

Empty stands, disinfected match balls and players taking a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement just before kick off all gave further credence to the theory that football is reflective of the society in which it exists and not the other way around.

As far as Arsenal were concerned though, as soon as the game kicked off, it was if nothing had ever changed.

Groundhog Day

Arsenal's Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka receives medical treatment before leaving the pitch injured during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on June 17, 2020. - The Premier League makes its eagerly anticipated return today after 100 days in lockdown but behind closed doors due to coronavirus restrictions. (Photo by Dave Thompson / POOL / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. /  (Photo by DAVE THOMPSON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Arsenal’s Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka receives medical treatment before leaving the pitch injured during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on June 17, 2020. – The Premier League makes its eagerly anticipated return today after 100 days in lockdown but behind closed doors due to coronavirus restrictions. (Photo by Dave Thompson / POOL / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or ‘live’ services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo by DAVE THOMPSON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Within two minutes the Gunners they had picked up their first injury of ‘project restart’ with Granit Xhaka twisting his ankle on the sodden Etihad turf. Not long after they had picked up another as January signing Pablo Mari was forced off early against his old club.

This sparked arguably one of the most calamitous cameos in Premier League history as David Luiz came on to replace the stricken Spaniard.

Luiz was only on the pitch for a grand total of 25 minutes. In that time he was able to gift City a lead on the stroke of half time before pulling down Riyad Mahrez in the box just moments into the second period.

The foul was enough to earn the Brazilian his third red card of the season against ‘big 6’ opposition, and allowed Kevin de Bruyne to wrap the game up from the spot.

From then-on the game was a non-event with City adding a third late on to complete Arsenal’s night of misery.

Post-Match

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JUNE 17: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Arsenal during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Arsenal FC at Etihad Stadium on June 17, 2020 in Manchester, England. (Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – JUNE 17: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Arsenal during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Arsenal FC at Etihad Stadium on June 17, 2020 in Manchester, England. (Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

The only point of interest from an Arsenal point of view was watching their club captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – who is in the midst of a contract dispute with the club – grow increasingly frustrated as the Gunners failed to even muster a single shot on target.

After the match Mikel Arteta was forced to come out and write the game off before fielding questions on why he had chosen to leave Mesut Ozil – the club’s highest earning player – out of the 20-man squad for “tactical” reasons.

For the socially distanced journalists covering the game it was a match report they could have copied and pasted from any one of Arsenal’s away games against the Premier League’s traditional big 6 over the past five years.

Arsenal Come Up Short Against Big 6 Opponents Yet Again

In that time the Gunners have taken seven points from a possible 69 and failed to achieve a single win across 24 matches.

It would be harsh to blame Arteta as these are long-term issues that he has inherited from years of mismanagement at the Emirates.

Before Luiz took an atom bomb to his carefully constructed plan to gain points against the side where he was assistant coach for three and a half years, it could be argued that Arsenal were just about shading it at the Eithad.

Arteta Needs Time

Arsenal's Spanish head coach Mikel Arteta looks on during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on June 17, 2020. - The Premier League makes its eagerly anticipated return today after 100 days in lockdown but behind closed doors due to coronavirus restrictions. (Photo by PETER POWELL / POOL / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. /  (Photo by PETER POWELL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Arsenal’s Spanish head coach Mikel Arteta looks on during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on June 17, 2020. – The Premier League makes its eagerly anticipated return today after 100 days in lockdown but behind closed doors due to coronavirus restrictions. (Photo by PETER POWELL / POOL / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or ‘live’ services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo by PETER POWELL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

The Spaniard has already shown why he is so highly rated in his short time at the helm of the club he once captained as a player.

Not losing a single domestic game in 2020 had begun to give some Arsenal fans hope that this might be different.

But the problems of error-riddled defenders, injury-prone squad, contract disputes and disinterested stars have been going on for so long that even broken records are getting bored of the sound they are making.

They will take years for even a coach as clearly gifted as Mikel Arteta to fix.

Arsenal’s humiliation at the hands of Manchester City last night showed nothing new to Arteta and the Arsenal hierarchy. All it showed was how urgently they need to fix things.

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