Neil Humphreys: Mikel Arteta may not be able to save Arsenal
Decade-old defensive problems continue to cause the Gunners' decline
The thinking was obvious. They craved a return to their glory days, so they sacked the manager and appointed a beloved old boy in mid-season.
But Eddie Gray failed to stop the rot and Leeds United were relegated.
The former player and coach went down with his beloved club in 2004.
As Gray's flops fell through the relegation trapdoor, Arsenal's Invincibles headed for the stratosphere, finishing the campaign as undefeated champions.
The thought of a club of Leeds' stature going down was as outlandish then as the prospect of the Gunners slipping into the bottom three would be now.
Or would it?
After Arsenal's latest act of self-harm against Chelsea, only two other sides have won fewer games than the brittle Gunners - Norwich City and Watford. Those two clubs occupy the bottom two places in the English Premier League.
Mikel Arteta, like Gray at Leeds in 2003, has inherited a fallen club living on - or perhaps haunted by - past glories.
As the trophy room gathers dust, decision-makers often take the easy decision to bring back a familiar face to do the spring cleaning.
Nostalgia and some overeager friends in the media earned Ole Gunnar Solskjaer the job at Old Trafford. His resume certainly didn't.
The same could be said for Arteta.
But Leeds demonstrated in 2003/04 that there were no extra shades of Gray. His appointment proved a black-and-white issue. He inherited a broken dressing room that he was never going to fix with just a past connection to the club.
Arteta has already parroted the words of Gray at Leeds, Solskjaer at Manchester United and even David Moyes at West Ham United, who has laughably spoken of returning "home" to a club that recently fired him.
They repeat speeches on culture and heritage like an unpaid intern at a museum, hoping to get by on rhetoric alone, rather than cold, hard facts.
But Arteta's reminiscences can't gloss over Arsenal's decline. Their calamitous defeat by Chelsea on Sunday was a fittingly ignominious end to the decade.
They flattered to deceive. Transfer-market shortcomings left the Gunners without a Plan B on the bench. Mavericks were mercurial. Defensive gaps persisted.
Their eternal search for a half-decent centre-back has now surpassed Indiana Jones' search for the Holy Grail.
A sense of adventure, a collective endeavour, the odd backbone and all that other stuff of cliche that turns up in every rotated Liverpool line-up continues to elude the fragile folks at the Emirates.
So many of those vacant boxes from the Arsene Wenger era remain unticked.
But Arteta has promised to tick the lot, his major qualification seemingly being that Arsenal's DNA is now lodged deep in his Spanish soul, which presumably means that he's fragile, mercurial and has a deep aversion to half-decent centre-backs.
Yes, it's easy to be flippant with Arsenal, mostly because there's an almost endearing flippancy to Arsenal's game.
Against Chelsea, they shone brightly, but only initially. Reiss Nelson, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Mesut Oezil dashed around like tongue-flapping toddlers on their first day at nursery.
But they over-exerted themselves and required a second-half snooze as the Arteta-infused sugar rush wore off, reminding the Spaniard that his new Arsenal are just like the old Arsenal - less stable than a two-legged bar stool.
And their stats are the stuff of relegation nightmares.
Thanks to the Chelsea collapse, Arsenal have lost four consecutive home games for the first time in 20 years. Tammy Abraham's late winner ensured that the Gunners have conceded at least two goals in five successive home games for the first time since 1965.
In their last 12 EPL games, they picked up just one victory. As they prepare for Manchester United on Thursday morning (Singapore time), they are closer to the bottom three than the top four. Their form reeks of those lost in the EPL cellar.
Arsenal's erratic shopping sprees from the Wenger era - hoarding nimble, lightweight midfield tricksters while ignoring reliable defenders - have persisted.
Bernd Leno's missed punch stole the headlines, but Shkodran Mustafi's failure to track Abraham's run led to Chelsea's unlikely winner.
Arteta motivated his men to run farther against Bournemouth than in previous matches - literally, according to the stats - and inspired a lively first half against Chelsea.
But he can't repair the Gunners' defensive faults, not in the upcoming transfer window or arguably the one after that.
These longstanding weaknesses are a decade in the making. A popular old boy is going to need more than a shared history to usher in a new day at Arsenal.