BEATEN, bedraggled and bested in Belarus.
But the heart of the matter for Arsenal and Unai Emery was the man who was not there.
Gunners fans rained down the scathing criticisms in the wake of a Europa League defeat that, while not fatal, has turned next week’s tea-time second leg into a defining moment of the campaign.
For Emery, though, there should be a realisation that it all boils down to Mesut Ozil.
That the German is the boil that has to be lanced, one way or the other, to prevent things drifting further.
The reality of the issue is incontrovertible. This is a problem of Arsenal’s own making.
It was the Emirates board, so spooked by the potential loss of both Alexis Sanchez and Ozil that they offered the German a new deal worth £350,000 to prevent him walking out.
It seems we are being asked to believe that it was just the view of two men no longer at the club, Arsene Wenger and Ivan Gazidis.
Yet this WAS a policy decision. One that had to be signed off by the hierarchy. All of them.
That decision meant that, when Aaron Ramsey and his agent came knocking for the Welshman’s own upgrade, they were told the cash cupboard was bare.
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When Ozil fell from favour under Emery, it left the club in a truly ludicrous position.
The player who was told he was not wanted, and who has now agreed terms on his summer move to Juventus, is getting plenty of game time.
But the one they kept to deny Ramsey the deal he required, cannot get a kick.
Ozil is playing a canny political game, using his social media profile to persuade the Arsenal fans that it is not him who is the troublemaker or the problem.
Look, over here – that’s me training.
I just want to help the team win.
Come On You Gunners.
Emery suddenly appears a man under siege.
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Not from the fans, yet. Or the board. But from events. From results. From the Premier League table.
Ozil was not responsible for the lax defending that cost Arsenal against Bate.
Certainly not for the utter foolishness of Alexandre Lacazette’s petulant, frustrated elbow and the red card it brought.
Yet it all comes back to the German. The underlying cause of all the problems assailing the club.
Emery has to bite the bullet one way or another.
He could restore Ozil to the first team. Play him. Make it sink or swim.
If the German delivers, starts to show his quality and guides Arsenal into the top four spot that will be worth £40m-plus in hard cash but will have a priceless value for the club’s self-esteem, it will be make ingesting the humble pie more palatable.
Alternatively, if Ozil fluffs his chances, makes little or no impact and fails to make any difference, then he will not have any further complaints. Emery’s point will have been made for him.
The other option is to make his ostracisation official.
Come out in a public environment – after informing Ozil he is going to do it, of course – and state that the German is no longer in his thoughts.
Not easy, by any means. But maybe the most honest approach, if that is the truth of where the ground lies.
Until there is clarity, resolution, end-game, it seems that the shadow will continue to
hang over the club.
A shadow which seems to be having a greater impact with every passing week.
Arsenal’s next game is that second leg. Their season is on the line. Lacazette is suspended.
Surely, surely, it is Ozil next week, or never.
It is stick or twist for Emery. But he has to put his cards on the table.