Arsene Wenger deserves immeasurable credit for what he had achieved at Arsenal. He took them from their mid-table mediocrity of the mid 1990s to become a genuine power in world football.
But Arsenal now risk becoming a shadow of the sides that combined glorious football with a hard edge, and brought three league title to North London.
Not since the days of Patrick Vieira have Arsenal looked as if they were genuine title contenders, capable of going to grim Northern towns on cold afternoons and coming away with three points.
It has been common knowledge for several seasons amongst the Premiership's less heralded clubs that it if you get amongst them and rough them up a bit, Arsenal are liable to crack.
On their day they are still capable of delivering jaw-droppingly pretty football, and destroying proper football teams, as Milan can testify. But there are underlying problems that Wenger refuses to address, which if rectified, would lead to Arsenal becoming genuine title contenders again.
Firstly, the captaincy. William Gallas is a liability, not a role model for the younger players and not a strong enough character to bind together Arsenal's precociously talented individuals.
Ever since his histrionics at St Andrews last season, Gallas has been found wanting in the leadership stakes. Wenger must appoint a new skipper, but this leads on to the next problem.
There is no real alternative at Arsenal. Sure Cesc is a wonderful player, but he is not a player who can intimidate opponents and rally a team as Vieira, Adams or even Henry once did. Arsenal lack a biting personality who will stand up to the Boltons, Stokes and Blackburns of this world.
Yet Wenger is loathe to bring in an established personality. He insists on buying youngsters who he can mould into the type of player he wants.
The trouble is, the Gunners have been missing this vital piece of the jigsaw in recent years, with none of the youth graduates fitting the bill. Flamini fleetingly looked as though he was able to step up to the task, but his departure has left a void that the neat feet of Denilson cannot fill.
Adebayor's ankle and Walcott's recurring dislocating shoulder bring to light the other glaring problem at the Emirates: squad depth.
Wenger's young stars may be able to destroy Championship teams in the League Cup, but throwing them in against Premiership teams is another matter entirely. Players like O'Shea, Fletcher, Bridge and Belletti are experienced pros who give United and Chelsea the edge when injury lists grow.
Until Wenger recognises these problems and acts on them, Arsenal will continue to lose ground on United, Chelsea and now even Liverpool.