Realistically, Arsenal was never likely to beat a Bayern Munich side that is cruising to the Bundesliga title, but what Tuesday's 3-1 Champions League loss might have offered was comfort. Yes, there was always the chance of an upset, but, realistically, a promising performance would have done, something that said, yes, this team isn't perfect, but it is on the right track.
Instead, there was a sorry reminding of familiar weakness that, allied to Arsene Wenger's uncharacteristically tetchy performance in Monday's press conference, adds to the sense of decadence about the Emirates, This, perhaps is how the world ends, not with a bang but with a bizarre attack on a journalist for a story that he didn't write, that wasn't even in his newspaper.
It's still not clear, even, why Wenger was so exercised about a report -- which he denies -- that he may be about to be offered a contract extension, something that would usually be seen as a positive, a sign of stability and the club's faith in him. A hint came later in the press conference when he said, in reference to talk of a new contract, "you will never find any story behind me that I've taken money anywhere, or things like that." What did that mean? It spoke of a pervasive paranoia, and that, in turn, suggests the pressure Wenger is under.
And while Wenger fights his demons -- real and imagined -- the team drifts. The most baffling aspect of this Arsenal side is that it so often gives the impression that it isn't far from being good. It keeps offering hope of better things to come. There are runs of five, six games in the Premier League that are good enough both to get Arsenal into the Champions League and to keep fans believing. Even against Bayern the opening minutes offered promise, Theo Walcott's pace looking as though it could unsettle Daniel van Buyten. But then, as so often, came a fatal sloppiness.