Arsenal

Hibernian friendly shambles & Amazon announcement pile more misery on same old Arsenal

Max Cooper
A telling image
A telling image / Steve Welsh/Getty Images
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We are an entire month away from the start of the new Premier League season, and we've already had our first shot of Mikel Arteta slouched back in the dugout with his hand covering his face in complete despair.

Until a week ago, this summer was promising to reveal green shoots of positivity and new beginnings for Arsenal, whose failure to qualify for European football for the first time in 25 years had seemingly kicked their hated owners into gear.

Arsenal Fans Protest Against Owner Stan Kroenke
Protests have been in full swing against the owners / Leon Neal/Getty Images

The promise of young, exciting, English recruits gave hope that the Gunners were ready to make improvements, and Arteta's desperation to gut the squad and begin a new era at least demonstrated that the man in charge was not blind to their crippling ailments.

With moves for Brighton's Ben White, Leicester City star James Maddison, and Anderlecht captain Albert Sambi Lokonga lined up, along with the confirmed signing of Portugal Under-21 starlet Nuno Tavares from Benfica, things were looking up.

But all that positivity has come crashing down in the space of a few hours. The doubts resurfaced at the beginning of July, when Arsenal announced they were joining forces with Amazon to make the latest in a series of cringe 'All or Nothing' documentaries.

The official Twitter page broke the good news with the phrase, "You asked. We heard you", showing just how disconnected and out of touch the club is with its fan base.

Not a single right-minded supporter would want this embarrassment and humiliation thrust upon themselves - especially not after they'd spent the past year laughing at bitter rivals Tottenham Hotspur for doing the exact same thing.

Arsenal fans already suffer at the hands of the fractious and divisive AFTV, a group of Gooners who, such is the nature of the world, benefit from their outrageous and exaggerated reactions to the Gunners' shortcomings. So to have a set of professional cameras capturing every behind the scenes failures, which have been so painfully obvious over the past decade anyway, is only going to end in one way.

This is a club whose fanbase is divided over their coach, their captains, their star players, their ambitions and realistic expectations. In fact, the only thing they share in common is their hatred for the owners, the Kroenkes, who have now cast all of their deficiencies into the spotlight.

The documentary offers an ultimatum of All or Nothing - and we can guess which way this particular edition will fall.

That is unless the filming of this money-spinning documentary is a catalyst for change on and off the pitch. Sometimes the only way to improve is to raise the stakes so high that failure is not an option.

So while we don't usually read too much into the results and performances in pre-season friendlies, we couldn't help but gawp at the disaster that was Arsenal's trip to Hibernian on Tuesday. A Gunners side which included the likes of Eddie Nketiah, Willian, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Ainsley Maitland-Niles were humbled north of the border, losing 2-1 in comical fashion.

Nketiah had the chance to set the tone for a positive pre-season when he was put through on goal with just the goalkeeper to beat after five minutes. Despite having all the time in the world, the forward somehow managed to miss the target and the scores remained level.

The worst was yet to come, however.

Hibernian v Arsenal - Pre-Season Friendly
Stress / Steve Welsh/Getty Images

19-year-old shot-stopper Arthur Okonkwo was trusted between the sticks, and it's fair to say he wasn't ready for the occasion. He flapped at an early cross and then handed Hibs the lead in horrific circumstances, misjudging a pretty awful back-pass, swiping a leg to try and clear the danger - only to kick the fresh air and allow Martin Boyle to tap into an open net.

The fact that these calamities continue to occur, no matter which unfortunate soul is on the pitch must raise some alarming questions. Does Arteta really know his players? Does he know what's best for them, and when they're truly ready?

Okonkwo was replaced by Karl Hein at half-time, while big hitters Alexandre Lacazette, Thomas Partey, Nicolas Pepe, Emile Smith-Rowe and Hector Bellerin were all introduced to try and rectify the situation.

Narrator's voice: They did not. (Better get used to that, Gooners).

More shoddy defending from a set-piece and weak goalkeeping from Hein allowed Hibs to double the lead and highlight that whichever fears Arsenal fans held at the end of last season have not been addressed during the first few weeks of training.

Smith-Rowe did halve the deficit towards the end (not before Pepe had missed a penalty), and the Gunners were sent home with another defeat to their name. Let's hope this one won't make the editor's cut.

In all seriousness though, this defeat could be a sign of things to come. Arsenal are further away from winning a trophy than they were 12 months ago, and the chaos surrounding the club only confirms that they are in crisis.

Amazon know this, and that's why they've struck this mega deal. After all, which documentary got most people talking? Manchester City's 100-point All or Nothing, or Netflix's Sunderland 'Til I Die? Mayhem makes great television, and Amazon have hit the jackpot with a declining club dining out on its ever-fading past glories.

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