Although becoming accustomed to poor starts to seasons, most Arsenal fans must feel traumatised, after the 3-4 mauling at the hands of Liverpool at the Emirates.
The score line doesn’t really tell the full story. Even when Arsenal took the lead they were well below par. Theo Walcott finished well for the opener, but critics will be quick to point out that he missed a penalty. I would reply that he hit the target and forced Mignolet into a save and, at least, he won the penalty, after being felled by the clumsy Moreno. Aside from that, Theo largely disappeared unfortunately.
However, I don’t blame him completely for that. The lack of service he received from midfield was unforgivable at times, especially, for example, when Ramsey tried a shot from near the halfway line, rather than pass the ball 10 yards to Theo, who was through on goal. How can Theo improve his goal-ratio with crass midfield play like that?
The equaliser from the man-of-the-match Coutinho was inevitable. The free kick award was a tad harsh, but we have to face it: Liverpool did not deserve to be behind at half time. I’m not sure how Wenger could describe Arsenal’s first half performance as ‘great’, as it was far from it.
The second half, of course, was even more dire. It is difficult to really see who emerged from the match with much credit, as far as Arsenal are concerned.
Rob Holding made his Premier League debut. He did alright at times, but looked jittery also, not surprising given the chaotic defending around him and lack of protection from midfield.
Hector Bellerin was far from his best, but did make some saving tackles.
Petr Cech was partly at fault for the Lallana goal, but that was about it. We don’t have too much to moan about there. He was let down by what was going on in front of him.
Calum Chambers played brilliantly and awfully, as if he was having mood swings or confidence crises during the game. I still believe in Chambers, but we can’t expect him to perform well if he’s one of the most senior players in the back four.
The most senior was Nacho Monreal, and he underperformed by his own high standards. Most of the goals were scored down his and Chambers’s side, so he must be culpable. I don’t think he added much going forward either. I would have been tempted to bring on Gibbs, before Liverpool scored their third and fourth, but Wenger’s religion only allows him to bring on subs once the holy 70th minute is reached, unless someone is injured.
In this case, his hand was forced by the injuries to Iwobi (who set up the opener) and Ramsey, who despite playing magnificently for Wales at the Euro seemed to have lost his mojo.
The Ox came on and quickly made an impact, scoring a superb albeit slightly fortuitous goal. However, he then went downhill so dramatically that it is difficult to figure what went wrong.
Santi Cazorla also joined the fray, with the most depressing body language I’ve seen in a player in recent times. However, he did provide an assist for Chambers’s goal, but little else.
Elneny, for all his brilliance last season, was a passenger for much of this game. He was withdrawn and replaced with the gung-ho Xhaka, who looked like a red card waiting to happen more than a super sub.
Coquelin was average, but strangely unable to stop Liverpool from rampaging freely through the middle of midfield and offered little protection for the inexperienced back four. If he can’t do the latter job, it makes you wonder what he’s there for.
Further forward, Walcott did score, but did little apart from that, while Alexis Sanchez contributed much less than that. On this showing, Sanchez should not be playing 90 minutes and should not be playing upfront.
All in all though, I don’t blame the players. The manager picked a side that lacked experience, as he readily admits. He’s had ample time to address these personnel issues, but he’s not done it for whatever reason. Arsenal fans can only hope he sees the light, as he did briefly after a bigger mauling at the hands of Man Utd a few seasons ago in August 2011.
Suddenly, big names started arriving at the Emirates that time but, the truth is, big clubs should not need wake up calls to realise the blindingly obvious: the current squad is not strong enough to sustain or mount a title challenge.