Neil Humphreys: Even pretty football is deserting Arsenal
End of Arsenal's attractive football must be final straw
If all else failed, Arsenal always had their training from the Paris Hilton school of thought to fall back on.
Despite an obvious deficit of talent, they were still pretty.
They looked good.
Their pedigree was questionable. Their actual purpose was uncertain, but the Gunners retained their prominent position in the pop culture landscape because they were attractive.
Arsenal offered eye candy for the purists.
Chelsea and Manchester United picked up silverware through sheer tenacity, but they were only aesthetically pleasing in patches, like the Ugly Sisters slapping on pancake make-up to get to the ball at any cost.
These clubs won ugly. Arsenal lost beautifully. Arsene Wenger endured.
But that moment has passed. The Gunners' wretched League Cup final defeat was a turning point.
Arsenal lose ugly now. Bad has given way to boring.
Wenger's last defence, the only justification for keeping him at the club, has gone.
Industrious artisans like N'Golo Kante, Nemanja Matic, Fernandinho and Mousa Dembele have been conspicuous by their absence at Arsenal for the best part of a decade.
The north Londoners were already the definitive football snowflakes, brittle individuals forever in search of a collective backbone.
But they were perpetually indulged in the hope of a few artistic flickers, those crumbs of creative comfort from Mesut Oezil, Jack Wilshere or their wingbacks.
But Oezil endured one of his infuriating performances at Wembley, the kind where he floats to the periphery like a hammy actor standing at the side of an amateur theatre insisting that all this toil and sweat is beneath him.
Wilshere remains another Arsenal midfielder still in search of that mythical potential. Hector Bellerin lost Danilo at kick-off and never saw him again and Nacho Monreal mistimed a tackle so badly, he injured himself.
And these were Arsenal's conductors. The rest of the orchestra hit more wrong keys than a blindfolded burglar. It was such an insipid display.
Pep Guardiola's swashbucklers have not only gone one step beyond the creative peaks of Wenger's finest sides, but they also win games, regularly and decisively.
Guardiola, like Jose Mourinho, Juergen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino, would never tolerate such a vapid showing from their star turns.
Sensitive souls must be handled with care and Wenger was once the past master in this regard, nurturing and cultivating raw talents like Thierry Henry and turning them into Highbury globetrotters.
But Oezil and the eternal passenger, Granit Xhaka, are seemingly excused physical duties whenever their stomach for a fight deserts them.
Throw in a back three where one is too old, one is too young and inconsistent and the other allows himself to be brushed aside by Sergio Aguero, and Arsenal are left with a club in terminal decline.
The Gunners are 27 points behind City and 10 behind fourth-placed Tottenham.
They're out of the FA Cup.
The only chance of salvaging anything from the worst season of Wenger's reign rests with the Europa League - a second-tier competition that the club once treated with disdain.
But their slide from trophy contention isn't entirely the point. Arsenal's current predicament is one familiar to supporters of 15 other English Premier League clubs; supporters who'd often tune in to watch the Gunners even if their teams weren't involved.
If they were not our team, then they were the other team, the one worth watching.
Wenger's men didn't always hit the sweet spot, but there was a soft spot for the Frenchman.
His hallowed principle of never compromising his core football beliefs, that insistence on getting the ball down, sticking the head up and finding a teammate with something clever and cultured, made Arsenal box-office viewing.
The reason so many writers - including this one - went overboard in their fulsome praise for Arsenal's 5-1 demolition of Everton was that the fast, attacking exhibition felt like a refreshing throwback.
Oezil and new boys Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan fired up the DeLorean and took us back to a time when exhilarating adventure was the norm in north London.
The Gunners could be wonderful. They could be woeful. But they were rarely tedious.
Now they are just another Premier League also-ran, providing cannon fodder for City and average opposition for just about everyone else.
Repeat the dull trick when the Gunners meet City in the EPL later this week and they can expect a full-throated terrace rebellion.
Exasperated Arsenal supporters are conditioned to fail. But the Emirates just isn't accustomed to such boring football.