Arsenal's confidence fluctuated up and down, during an eventful 2-2 draw with Schalke 04 in the UEFA Champions League.
Their confidence peaked when Theow Walcott and Olivier Giroud gave them an early two-goal advantage. It waned, once Klaas-Jan Huntelaar scored Schalke's first goal seconds before the half time whistle.
Arsenal were clearly jaded early on and Schalke took the game to them in the first 10 minutes. The effects of a poor series of recent result , showed in every area of Arsenal's play.
Arsene Wenger's men were uncertain defensively and unimaginative in possession.
However, they were bailed out by vibrant and alert play up front from Giroud and Walcott. They netted Arsenal's two goals inside 30 minutes.
Giroud produced perhaps his best performance since signing for Arsenal. He was bullish and powerful at the heart of the Gunners' forward line.
The tall Frenchman held the ball up well and displayed some real craft around the box. Arsenal have been waiting for Giroud to emerge as a genuine mobile target man.
On this evidence, he could be getting closer to reaching the form he needs to threaten top-level defenses. His strength combined well with the direct energy offered by Walcott.
Clearly trying to impress and leverage his ongoing contract negotiations, Walcott made some useful runs from the right flank. When he is willing to regularly dart in between defenders, it doesn't matter where Walcott operates in attack.
If he continues putting this level of effort into his off the ball movement, Walcott will merit a new deal.
With two goals to their credit, the return of Arsenal's confidence was tangible. Suddenly their passing was a little quicker and more assured.
Players were looking to go forward first, rather than easily settling for the safety of a sideways or backwards pass.
That's the kind of impetus and verve Arsenal have lacked during their slump. Regaining it will bring the swagger and style back to their forward play.
Yet the psyche of this team remains delicate and was rocked with the final kick of the first half. Santi Cazorla, slipped on the ball and Schalke pounced, with Huntelaar netting, a mere second before the whistle sounded.
From that point on it was safe to assume Arsenal would retreat back into their shells.
So it proved in a second half showing defined by limited movement and rash decision-making. Arsenal's confidence was sapped and Jefferson Farfan's equaliser was the inevitable result.
Despite losing their lead, midfielders Mikel Arteta and Jack Wislhere still toiled hard. So did central defender Laurent Koscielny.
Arsenal can take some consolation from earning their draw with some dogged resilience in the final 20 minutes. However, they still proved they cannot afford to surrender the initiative the way they did to Schalke.
This is still a squad that looks likely to wilt under sustained pressure. That's because they are a team playing scared.
It's as if this Arsenal team believes one mistake should mean taking no more risks. That conservatism cost them three points against Schalke and could keep them mired in despair.
Only a return of their confidence can pull Arsenal out of trouble.692175