Liverpool 3-1 Arsenal: the reckoning

I sometimes do that thing where I take the manager’s comments from the post-match press conference and explain just why all the shortcomings he points out in the team are his fault. Or, rather, I did that thing.

I did it when I was still reading what Arsene had to say. Now I don’t. I do not remember the last time I went to dot com to look up AW’s quotes after a match. Before you light your torches and accuse me of cherry-picking and double standards, I don’t read his comments after ALL games, not just the ones we lose.

The thing is … I don’t care what he has to say anymore. At least what he has to say about his team kicking the ball. Of course, being on Twitter makes it impossible to avoid seeing some quotes altogether, however even those have recently caused only mild outrage.

I’m vaguely aware, for instance, that Wenger cited a 12-day break as one of the reasons behind yesterday’s performance. He also made some meek excuses about dropping Alexis Sanchez. But I cannot be arsed to find out what exactly he said or in what context. Why? Because at some point Arsene’s words became empty sounds, a kind of white noise, background static.

The atmosphere of lethargic indifference spread like wildfire. The fans just can’t care anymore. However it has also spread among the players. Are they thinking the same thing as fans? Has Arsene said the same thing to them so often they have become immune to the sound of his voice? We can only guess.

Is he even getting through to his players?

We seem, as a club, to be slowly drifting away, unable and unwilling to fight against the tide. This atmosphere of apathy is reflected in the performances and the results. We have now lost four of the last six games across all competitions. Come Wednesday it will likely be five out of seven.

Is is a defeatist attitude? Perhaps. Is it unreasonable on the basis of what we’ve seen in the last month? I don’t think so. Whereas before the team really did “bounce back” from disappointing performances and results, however much we hate this “bounce back” talk, this season we seem unable to do even that. We cannot muster a response because we just can’t be arsed.

I would have liked to discuss the game in some more meaningful way, but I’m not sure what there is to discuss. What were our tactics going into the game? Was it possession football? Then why did we do so little with the ball despite enjoying 48% of it? Was it the direct approach Arsene suggested before the game? Then how come we were so leaky at the back and so ineffective in transitions?

I look at the first goal and I marvel. Or rather I would if I could muster an emotional response that strong. It was a combination started by Simon Mignolet from a goal-kick. And it didn’t involve 28 passes. A kick from Mignolet, a failed header from Koscielny and suddenly our defences are breached. It was that simple. Even then the goal was preventable, as it was a 3-vs-3 situation, Pool players didn’t have us outnumbered. However I wasn’t surprised when we didn’t prevent it.

Wenger talked about how Ozil is useless in parking the bus, but if yesterday was us parking the bus, we will never find out how much we gained from Mesut’s absence, simply because Iwobi started at ten.

Absent today, but it didn’t matter

Arsene stuck to a 4-2-3-1. He didn’t drop Iwobi. He didn’t, by the looks of it, equip his players with tools to beat Liverpool. What he did do, though, was drop Alexis Sanchez, presumably to show the Chilean who is the boss. Well, now we know. Alexis Sanchez is. At this point in time, he really does come across as more important than the man on the touchline.

Alexis Sanchez has his faults. He may play on instincts, he may overcook it at times, he may defy tactical instructions and go rogue. Well, now we’ve seen an alternative world, one without Alexis Sanchez, if only for 45 minutes. It is a rather scary world.

The problem is, it’s the world we’ll have to live in starting next season unless I’m very, very wrong. And there are few times I wanted to be wrong so badly. What did Wenger accomplish by benching Sanchez? The answer is very simple: nothing. Worth than nothing, in fact, he made things worse for everyone concerned.

He deprived the team of its top scorer and chief assistant. He made his own position even more untenable by losing another game. And he clearly showed Alexis Sanchez the level of this team’s incompetence without the Chilean in it. If before the game Alexis entertained the thought of leaving, I’ll be very surprised if he hasn’t made his mind up after it.

Will be surprised if he stays

The other player who might have made up his mind is Lucas Perez. While losing the Spaniard in the summer is much less damaging than losing Alexis, I’m afraid it’s not an either/or case. We don’t get to pick and we can lose both players quite easily. What message does it send to Perez, when Alexis and Walcott are benched, but he still doesn’t get a look in?

But hey, why am I only talking about mistakes of omission? Let’s talk mistakes of commission. Can anyone explain to me how in the name of God Iwobi still commands a starting place? What is there to be gained from playing a young lad going through a bad patch of form? Iwobi will most likely receive all kinds of abuse on social media for his another atrocious performance, which will likely dent his confidence even further. Still, at least Wenger showed who is the boss, right? Right?

The chickens have come home to roost. Arsene went into this match without a plan and with a dysfunctional team for a coherent performance. He made all the decisions I warned in my preview would prove fatal, plus the one I could never even imagine he can make.

The result was as sad as it was predictable. We have now slipped out of the top four, albeit with a game in hand, our confidence is at all-time low ahead of hosting Bayern and our star player is even less happy than he was before. Quite a feat. All in a day’s work, Arsene. Bravo.

I can’t talk about this shambles anymore. Take care everyone.

And until later

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One Response to Liverpool 3-1 Arsenal: the reckoning

  1. Victor Thompson March 5, 2017 at 11:50 am #

    Alex, this is just so you know that there are others who think exactly as you have said here. I don`t need to repeat your words. I do however have to mention Iwobi because I have picked him out in most of my comments because exactly as you say, he is a young man who can be a top player if he is nurtured. He is not fast but he does have nice touches. One thing he does lack is physicality. In a match like yesterdays against a physical hard pressing team in their own back yard, we were always going to get pummelled.

    That has been our recent history with Liverpool and for that reason, he should never have been picked. He was not going to be afforded the time or room to make his contribution to the game and that is what happened.To my mind he was a direct pick instead of Perez and that was Wenger`s first mistake. The other glaring one, as you say, was dropping Sanchez. I have just heard Wenger`s explanation for that gaff. He says that he wanted to play more direct ( a euphomism for the Long Ball ) to by pass Liverpool`s midfield. The great genius manager has resorted to Sam Allardyce football?

    If he wanted to be direct, he was right not to play Ramsey but Perez is as economical and direct as you can get. He takes as few touches as possible and shoots at the first opportunity. The other main problems we have are constant and repeated every game now. Kos and Mustafi play too far apart and Monreal has just forgotten that he is a left back. He ignores the wing and plays at the corner of the box. That vacant side of the pitch is the springboard for the opposition to cause havoc and dismantle our defence ( for want of a better name )

    Rio Ferdinand, in his comment after the game said that Liverpool were playing to a plan and they stuck to it. Everyone knew what they were supposed to do and they looked like a proper team whereas Arsenal were a bunch of players scattered all over the place who had no plan, no defence and no confidence.

    If the players are in that frame of mind, then it is the fault of the manager, On paper, we had better players than Liverpool and a very strong bench but we were completely outplayed. The difference was that they had Klopp and we have Wenger. He has no idea what he is doing. I have seen a description today of him today- “He is a brilliant man and a very great manager”. He may be a brilliant man, but he has long since lost the right to be called a great manager. 2 wins out of 19 matches against the other top 5 clubs screams out quite the opposite. Compared to those managers he is a dunce.

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