Sunday, 27 August 2017

Liverpool 4 Arsenal 0: Arsene Wenger's embarrassing shambles of a team given hiding at Anfield

Liverpool 4 Arsenal 0: Arsene Wenger's embarrassing shambles of a team given hiding at Anfield

It was as bad, if not worse, than performances such as the 5-1 slaughter here three years ago, when Liverpool scored four times in the opening 20 minutes, and the brutal 8-2 defeat away to Manchester United in 2011 although at least, then, Wenger had the mitigation of a makeshift line-up.

That was not the case here. In fact he even decided to start without his two big summer recruits – record signing Alexandre Lacazette, who appeared bemused, and Sead Kolasinac. And while Alexis Sanchez took to the pitch, for the first time this season, as he still hopes to leave (as does Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, wanted by Liverpool and applauded as he was substituted, and Shkodran Mustafi) he was withdrawn before the end and had that familiar look to him that says ‘get me out of here’.

So this side finished fifth last season and the two players brought in to improve it were left out? Inexplicably Bellerin was playing at left-back – again - with Kolasinac on the bench while Nacho Monreal drowned in defence where he was cruelly exposed.

This was supposed to be the season when Arsenal ended the uncertainty, when Wenger had signed his new contract and the distractions were over, when he would re-arm his team and re-build confidence. Back-to-back league defeats away to Stoke City and Liverpool have followed a fortunate win at home to Leicester City and the same demons are there. The same questions; the same failings. It is an enduring, maddening, interminable ‘ground-hog day’.

Maybe he will confound critics. The season is new. But what is so difficult is that the result and the flow of the game were so predictable. Same old, same old.

This is not to detract from Liverpool who have a free-flowing brilliance about them when they attack and are managing to cope with Philippe Coutinho who still wants to leave for Barcelona before the window closes. They scored four and could have had seven, eight, who knows. Arsenal’s best player was goalkeeper Petr Cech who produced a world-class save to spread himself and deny Salah before the scoring had even begun.

But begin it did and what is so awful about the way Arsenal defend – does anyone feel that three-at-the-back is working? – is the lack of pressure they put on the ball. They just do not press; do not harry; do not work. Summed up by the ambling Granit Xhaka in midfield and, ahead of him, Mesut Ozil, of course.

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