TOWNSVILLE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 18: Eels coach Brad Arthur speaks at the post match media conference at the end of the round 10 NRL match between the North Queensland Cowboys and the Parramatta Eels at 1300SMILES Stadium on May 18, 2019 in Townsville, Australia. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

The Parramatta Eels have officially fallen to a zero and three start in the 2023 NRL season, which could quickly become a zero and five start on account of their tough schedule to open the campaign.

Last year's grand finalists would have been hoping to hit the ground running this year to move on from last year's premiership decider defeat at the hands of the Parramatta Eels, but they have done anything but.

That has created very relevant questions over some of their recruitment and retention decisions, with the most notable of those being the exit of Reed Mahoney, only for the club to reportedly spend as much, or potentially more, on Josh Hodgson.

While not a lot made sense off the field over the last 12 months for the men in blue and gold, they now have a very real issue with results, and if they do go zero and five, it could almost be curtains on their season - if not for the top eight, then certainly for the top four.

Things will get easier after the horrid opening five weeks, which includes playing three teams in a row coming off a bye, and you'd expect a turnaround, but when Brad Arthur can only sit in the press conference and suggest a lack of concentration from certain players in key moments, there is clearly a deeper issue running through the club.

“We need more than fronting up with effort each week – we need to execute our plan,” Arthur said during the post-game press conference.

“At different stages with individuals – there's a lack of concentration or the simple fundamentals we're getting wrong which is really hurting us.

“We had four sets down in good ball and I don't think we got to the end of the set in any of those. We're making it hard for ourselves by shooting ourselves in the foot.”

But that deeper issue is something Arthur needs to address in his coaching style, rather than it being any individual player.

Sure, you can point the finger at fitness, or the fact Josh Hodgson hasn't quite fit in yet, or the fact their defence doesn't seem to be up to par.

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And it's not - leaking 34 points if you're going to be a premiership contender simply isn't good enough.

But when Arthur didn't swing his first chance from the bench until the 27-minute mark and then gave his bench players 34, 27, 18 and 14 minutes respectively, the awkwardness of a comment around lack of concentration becomes clear.

Manly had already run on two fairly soft tries by the time Parramatta made their first change of the game, and some of the damage had already been done, but it continued with missed tackles becoming a theme of the performance.

For all the good J'maine Hopgood has done so far in the number 13 jersey so far this year, another four missed tackles on Thursday evening ensures he leads the competition in the stat no one wants to be anywhere near with 16 in three games.

While the bench players barely saw the park, the influence of Junior Paulo, who played 66 minutes, was debatable, with Reagan Campbell-Gillard also playing more than 50 minutes on what was a warm night in Sydney.

Bryce Cartwright never looked like playing 80 minutes successfully but did so anyway despite Jack Murchie only seeing 34 minutes on the park, while Wiremu Gregig and Jirah Momoisea - both props capable of handling themselves - barely made a dent in the game and frankly, would have been better off giving up their spot to a utility, even if that did mean bringing Jakob Arthur into the side.

There is no doubt Paulo and Campbell-Gillard are among the best players in the NRL, and that Hopgood has had a wonderful start in the blue and gold, but there is also very little doubt that playing a team coming off a bye, the Eels had to be different in their strategy, and they simply refused to move the needle.

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It's no good burning players who then aren't going to produce at the same level, and unfortunately, it's not the first time an argument has been made such as this about Arthur's coaching style throughout his career.

Arthur has been extended by the Eels, but the talent of this squad should have won a premiership over the last couple of years.

Instead, they had three semi-final exits which left Arthur all but needing to make the grand final last year to save his job. No coach should ever need to go that well to be renewed by a club, but that's where the Eels sit.

Arthur can blame lapses of concentration all he likes, but when he has major issues over giving bench players minutes, has Josh Hodgson playing the full 80 week in and week out - something most clubs don't do with their number one dummy half anymore - and refuses to acknowledge that changes are needed against teams coming off the bye, it makes the comments look somewhat odd.

It's worth noting that Shaun Lane and Ryan Matterson are still to return to this side, but I'm not sure in the slightest that they are going to fix all of the issues which are currently presenting themselves.

Parramatta are off to a horrendous start in 2023, and Arthur needs to think on his feet quickly if he is going to save the season.

It's still early days and more than salvageable, but a zero and five start will be nigh-on impossible to recover from.