At the start of the season, everyone circled this very period as the one that would make or break Parramatta's season. They would have the hardest run home of any side and they could either prove their premierships mettle or wilt into the background as an also ran.
It is clear this side will be doing the latter.
These are the championship rounds of the season. It's where teams begin staking their claims to be considered contenders. It's supposed to be the time when top four teams show why they're in the top four.
Last season the Eels stumbled at a similar point. There was a caveat here given the team's injury struggles through the middle of the year which forced Junior Paulo, RCG and Nathan Brown to play massive minutes and they looked completely burnt out at the end of the season.
This season though, there is no excuse like that. The Eels have been fairly blessed on the injury front. No season ending injuries and no real cascade of injuries either. Arthur was able to rotate his team around through the Origin period, getting game time into his reserves and giving the starting middles a rest.
You'd expect them to be hitting the back end of the season like a runaway freight train.
They're not. The team is not mentally there. It's the only explanation.
Brad Arthur's coaching systems no longer work. The team is set up so poorly defensively I don't know where to begin. You cannot, under these rules, operate an up and in defence. It needs to be an adaptable system that accommodates for what is occurring on the pitch.
The Sharks won a premiership off up and in defence because referees are loathe to blow penalties, but they'll give six agains.
And teams are wise to that defensive structure. It's basic sporting theory. When a team wins a comp, everyone looks at how to break them down.
Teams figured out that up and in defence years ago, but Parramatta has never really gone away from it.
There is a time and a place for it. That time and place does not mean 20 metres from the opposition goal line with a slow moving defensive line.
This game against Manly made it abundantly clear, the issue is not the players, it is the coach and his systems.
We've had a mixture of Ferguson, Dunster, Opacic, Sivo, Penisini, Niukore, Blake and Russell in the backline.
The only time the side has looked cohesive in defence was with Niukore in the centres.
What made that work? Perhaps it was the realisation that up and in put him under too much pressure, so allowing the side to come up and slide allowed the play to unfold and Niukore to tackle one-on-one.
Funnily enough, we also looked the most threatening attack-wise with Niukore on the edge as well.
Sometimes, you think something won't work and then it does. So why go away from it?
It was also interesting to see Penisini's debut and the way Parramatta's attack changed down the right edge with another powerful ball runner in the centres. There was a lot more focus on quick shifts designed to get him one on one.
Why do we not play this style more?
You honestly can't single out one player for a failure in this system because it is the system that is failing.
It hangs our halves out to dry and it makes our outside men passengers.
We play far too much to a system and a structure. You can predict an Eels set. Three one-out runs up the middle, one big sweeping play, another big sweeping play, then a bomb.
Now you can blame the players, but it's pretty clear this is a direction from the coach.
The two tries the Eels scored against Manly came from some room to move for our edge players and taking advantage of some broken play.
It didn't come from sweeping backline movements. It came from offloads and it came from putting doubt into the defensive line.
Brad Arthur is done at this club.
We're in the championship rounds and he is shrinking under the lights.
The fact he put the blame on the players at half time means he cannot continue to lead this side. As a coach, you are responsible for their performances. If they aren't following your plan, it's your fault. Plain and simple.
I will in due time, thank Brad for what he has done for Parramatta, because it truly is remarkable to drag this side back into relevance with, what has mostly just been continuous hard work.
But now it is time for something more.
You want the Eels bouncing into a title fight like Muhammad Ali or Mike Tyson with that murderous glint in the eye, ready to stake your claim, own the field and devastate your opponent.
For my final thoughts on Arthur for this post, I turn to Jurgen Klopp who sums up coaching and his role in leading a championship team quite beautifully:
"Can the boys disappoint me? Not really. If something doesn’t work out, I think my message wasn’t clear enough, not that they are too dumb to get what I told them. But why should I be unhappy with myself? I just have to improve my message.”