“Embarrassing”, “pathetic” and “disinterested”; just three of the words used by pundits and supporters alike to describe one of the worst Arsenal performances of the Arsene Wenger era.
But unfortunately for the Gunners faithful, this type of performance is far from becoming an uncommon occurrence in recent years, particularly against the league’s best sides.
6 years ago Arsenal’s 8-2 collapse at Old Trafford to Manchester United was seen as a crisis, exaggerated by the fact that it was rare to see an Arsene Wenger side collapse to a title rival in such a way.
In the years since came the 6-0 humiliation at Stamford Bridge on Wenger’s 2000 game in charge, the infamous 5-1 defeat at Anfield and a 6-3 drubbing at the Etihad.
Last season also saw the Gunners outplayed and outclassed – much like they were today – at Anfield in a 3-1 defeat, alongside a 3-0 battering by none other than Crystal Palace following the turn of the new year.
This season however Arsenal fans were promised a different fate, with Chief Executive Ivan Gazidis calling the previous season a “catalyst for change”.
But what we saw on Sunday afternoon was far from that, with the same reoccurring problems presenting themselves in such a way that baffles Gonners and neutrals alike.
“I’m absolutely fuming watching them, honestly,” were not the words of an Arsenal fan on Arsenal Fan TV, but of Gary Neville.
“I’d stick all of them [the Arsenal players] on the transfer list. None of them would get a better club than where they are now.”
If the problems are appearing so blinding obvious to the likes of Neville, as well as the Arsenal fans themselves, then why is the club not acting on it?
Is it a stubbornness? Are they refusing to justify their show of faith in Wenger with the new contract (a move described by Jamie Carragher as a “bottled decision” on Sunday)?
Where is the ruthlessness of this football club? The same ruthlessness that saw Patrick Vieira sold to help fund the move to the Emirates Stadium. The same ruthlessness that saw Bruce Rioch sacked after just one full season in charge.
What is clear though is that very characteristic can not be associated with the performance shown by the players out on the pitch today.
The following are my personal ratings for the Arsenal players today at Anfield, including substitutes and the manager himself.
Petr Cech – 5/10
The day could have been far worse for the Gunners had it not been for the Czech Republic international. Cech made a great save early on to deny a golden chance for Mohammed Salah at the back post. One criticism however is the fact that Liverpool’s third goal was slotted to his near side, but a one-on-one is a difficult task for any goalkeeper.
Rob Holding – 3/10
The drop in confidence that Wenger noted in Holding during the opening day victory over Leicester City was clear to see yet again today. The young centre half was bullied by Liverpool’s front three all game, of course being one of the players at fault for leaving Firmino unmarked for the first goal.
Laurent Koscielny – 3/10
His presence at the back was meant to lift Arsenal defensively today following a poor showing at Stoke – that was not the case as he was another of the players who left Liverpool’s number nine unmarked for the first goal. One excuse the Frenchman can have is his lack of match fitness, but should this be an excuse for a professional footballer?
Nacho Monreal – 3/10
It’s clear for everyone to see, Monreal can not play centre back. The Spaniard does not have the physicality, nor the positioning skills, to take up the role; as illustrated throughout the game today. He had a torrid time dealing with Salah, winning only a handful of his duals with the Egyptian all game.
Hector Bellerin – 2/10
The young Spaniard had a terrible game away to Stoke, and was even worse at Anfield. Bellerin’s position at corners involves being the last line of defence in the event of a counter attack. Never have I seen a player in this position fail to deal with a falling ball so spectacularly as he did for Liverpool’s third goal. It summed up not only Bellerin’s game but his season.
Aaron Ramsey – 2/10
Ramsey’s new role in Arsenal’s 3-4-3 formation showed such promise at the end of the last season; his FA Cup Final goal highlighting just this. It gave him more freedom, with more opportunities to express himself as an attacking player. But being allowed such freedom has so far been his downfall this campaign. Against Stoke he was caught out of position for Jese’s goal. Whist on Sunday, the Welshman was not even watching the play as Liverpool went ahead. His dismissal at half-time proved to be Wenger’s only wise decision all day. Ramsey needs to understand his role in this new team as midfield pivot sooner rather than later.
Granit Xhaka – 3/10
Xhaka has been a consistent performer for Arsenal this season. By consistent I mean the Swiss international has given the ball away leading to goals in each of Arsenal’s games so far this season, without fail. Xhaka tried to get the game going for the Gunners, but when a simple pass was available he went for the fancy flick, something not needed in a game like this. Overall, he struggled to get into the contest and was out fought by Liverpool’s midfield.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – 2/10
Many were surprised at his inclusion on the team sheet following this week’s speculation surrounding the Englishman supposedly turning down a contract offering 180k a week. What his performance showed today is that such a sum of money should not be associated with a player like that. His general attitude and unwillingness to get back when Arsenal were counterattacked was appalling. Very rarely did his forward runs come to anything fruitful and his clear lack of respect for the badge was there for all to see.
Mesut Ozil – 3/10
Ozil was as culpable as the rest of the team when it came to misplaced passes and failing to track back. Although he created a couple of chances for the Gunners, the German lost possession 19 times during the game, summing up a frustrating start to the season for the midfielder.
Alexis Sanchez – 4/10
As was a common feature of last season, Alexis tried and failed to get Arsenal going in attacking positions when the team was struggling. His runs were strong and positive, but none of his teammates responded meaning these came to nothing. The Chilean appeared to give up after the third goal and was substituted on the hour mark, his last appearance for the Arsenal?
Danny Welbeck – 3/10
A strong first half in terms of forward runs, much like Alexis Sanchez. But missed a glorious one-on-one at 1-0 down and from then on failed to get into the game. Gunners fans are becoming increasingly frustrated at the Englishman’s inability to finish chances, if only we had a proven goalscorer to take his place!
SUB 1 – Francis Coquelin – 3/10
A strange substitution at half time from Wenger as he replaced Aaron Ramsey. Although he showed some fight at times to win the ball back this only resulted in Liverpool regaining possession soon after.
SUB 2 – Alexandre Lacazette – 3/10
Should have been starting the game, simple as that. Welbeck had a couple of glorious chances to get Arsenal back in the game and fluffed his lines. When Lacazette came on the game was already dead and he spent most of his time attempting to collect the ball out wide when he should have been going through the middle.
SUB 3 – Olivier Giroud – 3/10
Once again came on and made a slight difference just as he did at Stoke through his physicality and his ability to pick out a neat pass in a tight area. The Frenchman also won a couple of headers but they of course came to nothing. One of the few players who came over to applaud the fans.
Arsene Wenger – 2/10
Failed to alter the team in the appropriate manner based on the weaknesses of the last game. Welbeck missed a host of chances against Stoke, but kept his place over Lacazette who had one opportunity and scored (although it was offside). Bellerin had a shocker on the left flank last week (not his preferred position) but was favoured to the new left-wing back signing Sead Kolasinac – leading to the same results performance wise this weekend. The Spaniard was also one of a whole host of players who were played out of position. Something needs to change and drastically.