Following Arsenal's fourth Premier League defeat in five games, Pat Nevin says manager Mikel Arteta could face his biggest challenge yet in the coming weeks.
The Gunners were beaten 1-0 by Burnley yesterday with Granit Xhaka red carded, slipping to 15th in the table following their seventh defeat of the season.
It's almost a year since Mikel Arteta took over from interim boss Freddie Ljungberg, and while the Gunners did impress at times in the latter part of the 2019/20 season, their form has plummeted since their 1-0 win against Manchester United at Old Trafford back in November.
The manager has come out strongly to deny reports he has fallen out with defender David Luiz, while his determination to work without Mesut Ozil has been called into question of late - despite that same policy being viewed as a show-of-strength not so long ago.
Pat Nevin | 'David Luiz could be Arteta's lightning-rod moment'
Pat Nevin joined Joe Molloy on this Monday's Off The Ball, and says the relationship with Luiz in particular could be the "lightning-rod moment" that accelerated Arteta's problems at the club.
"The thing is with these situations there's usually a lightning-rod. It comes from the fans, the press or comes from somewhere, it's a lightning-rod moment. Is it going to be Ozil? I'm just not sure it's going to be him because I think in the end Arsenal fans know that if they had Ozil in the team - and his limited work rate - and they were struggling, that's a nightmare, that's possibly worse than you've got right now," he says.
"Is it going to be the David Luiz thing? It might be, it could be that one. There's every possibility it could be that one because David's a huge character in every dressing room he's in and he's always loved by the players he plays with so if it's a battle of wills between the two Arteta may win it individually but it will weaken him as time goes by.
"I've just got a feeling there's a moment coming for Arteta, it doesn't look great. Most of the people who have been brought in haven't been phenomenal - although I will say Tierney has been one massive exception that's proved the rule," Nevin said.
Nevin did pinpoint the aforementioned Kieran Tierney as being one of the few players who has excelled for Arteta and Arsenal lately.
"It doesn't look great at all. As a team and as a group and as a unit it doesn't look right. If you look at them - and I'm looking at them most weeks - their best player is their left back (Kieran Tierney). That's generally not a good thing.
"OK, I'll go on about him because he's Scottish - fair enough - but he is their best player, he looks the most dangerous player," he added.
"You look at Lacazette lacking in confidence, Aubameyang similar, the backline is messy. Xhaka - to be honest - you can almost give up now because he's a liability too often. He went through periods where he was just kicking out at people, and now that everyone knows they can just wind him up.
"You look around the side and I mean who is doing really well for them? It's Kieran Tierney, and very, very few others. Even Willian who they brought in, he's not doing as well as he did at Chelsea last season, I rate him as a a player but he's definitely not the future either. There's a hell of a lot to be done there. You look at lots of teams in the Premier League and you can be as average as you like but if you've strikers banging in the goals, it's alright, it's fine," Nevin added,
And despite Arsenal's form and Arteta's seemingly strained relationship with his squad, Nevin says it's the players themselves who he believes are responsible, rather than the manager.
"I've no doubt at all he does (know his tactical plan). None of that matters. It's about 11 guys there; are they good enough? Are they good enough to do what he puts them out to do? He has adapted it a bit. I look through the squad and think I don't really know what I would do massively different with that group. I'm not sure what I would do technically different.
"There's a little bit of a switch here or there, but the rest of it, he's probably trying to get the best out of what he's got," he says.