I think the last thing you need on a Monday morning (albeit a bank holiday makes it better) is me starting this review with a phrase: “I’ve seen Arsenal lose many games”. Before going on to recapture some of the hammerings past. It will certainly do nothing good for your mood.
Let’s just set the rules here then: it was an embarrassingly bad performance and result, but I’m not going to compare them to other thrashings we received down the years. Things are pretty grim as they are. So, shall we?
The starting XI
Before the game, when the squad was announced, Twitter went into the usual meltdown. I tried to reason, that there must be a feasible explanation to Wenger’s choices. That there must be a plan in his mind, one which doesn’t include Lacazette, Kolasinac or Mustafi.
Alarm bells started ringing right away, when I saw Bellerin on the left again. I feared not so much Hector’s inexperience of playing at left-back, but what Mane could potentially do to Oxlade. I knew Mane was on fire, I watched him play against Hoffenheim, and the last thing I wanted was for us to make his job easier by not fielding a proper full-back on the corresponding wing. As it turned out, I should have been equally, if not more, worried about Bellerin’s predicament.
Mustafi was dropped for Rob Holding, a player Wenger admitted suffered a loss of confidence after being part of a defense that conceded 3 from Leicester. Well, Rob will now feel much better, won’t he?
But the poor young Englishman aside, you’d like to think that if the reason Mustafi was dropped was to keep him fit ahead of a potential move away, Oxlade too should have been dropped. And so I’m left scratching my head. However the half-measure Wenger resorted too paints him in unfavourable light. Either drop both, or play both.
Unfortunately the half-measure we saw was just the latest in a long line of truly dubious decisions from the manager, and I’m putting it mildly, otherwise NewsNow wouldn’t pick on this article as they don’t like swear words. Wenger’s lack of a ruthless streak was part of why we lost so badly. He appears to be chronically incapable of taking a stand, and his resulting pandering to Oxlade, and possibly Sanchez and Ozil contributed to a pasting.
However the one truly inexplicable pick was Welbeck ahead of Lacazette. Leaving aside all the “our most expensive signing” talk there was just no reason whatsoever to have done such a thing. Maybe Lacazette isn’t as fast as Welbeck, but it’s not a 100m sprint. We don’t need athletes who can run fast, we need forwards who can put the ball into the back of the net. Welbeck cannot.
I love Danny. He gives us something nobody else does, but he isn't a lone striker. He couldn't finish a three piece jigsaw puzzle.
— Goonerholic (@TheGoonerholic) August 27, 2017
He is a good lad, works hard, and runs fast. But that’s it. He cannot finish. He cannot win aerial duels. He cannot hold the ball up. His first touch is atrocious. Giroud is better than him, by a mile. Lacazette is just on another level to Welbeck. But Wenger picked neither his most consistent goalscorer, nor his most expensive signing. Yes, I said that!
It was absolutely shambolic. Inexcusable. Damning.
Was the root cause of it squad selection? Formation? Something else? I’m going to go with the intangible here: desire. Barring maybe Welbeck and Coquelin, none of our players seemed arsed about the result.
There were so many non-performances. From the revered Alexis, who most of you pity so much, to poor Rob Holding, thrown in at the deep end. Honestly, I fear for the Englishman. I fear this game may have a lasting and damaging effect on his mental state, much like when Jefferson Montero roasted Calum Chambers.
At this point in time I’m inclined to just say “burn it all down and start again”. There are precious few players I would be sad to see pack up and leave today. The simple and inescapable truth is that this squad is riddled with players either not good enough or not consistent enough.
Ramsey? Still glory-hunting. Xhaka? Mindless and underwhelming. Ozil? Invisible, and frighteningly careless on the occasion. Alexis? All me me me, but nothing to differ. Oxlade? I’d drive him to Cobham myself. Seeing as I don’t even have a driving license, you are now starting to realise the lengths I’m willing to go to.
We simply surrendered. Liverpool were good, but not 4-0 good if we bothered to show up at least. There was no fight, no cohesive plan going forward and no adequate cover for our central defenders and Petr Cech. Oh, and no shots on target.
We were careless, disorganised and once again, simply indifferent. Liverpool were anything but. They punished us severely for such a sloppy performance, and we have Petr Cech to thank for keeping the score down. Not respectable, I hasten to add, just down.
Ultimately, the buck stops with him. Why? Because he is the manager, and he stayed. Arsene Wenger could have left in May. Regardless of what Stan Kroenke or the Board wanted. His contract expired. He could have chosen to walk away. He did not.
Not only did he stay, he oversaw a completely shambolic summer. It was apparent he didn’t want to give away any of his power and share responsibilities around. Well, there’s a downside to that, Arsene. Overseeing everything, from transfers to training routines, makes you responsible for failings in each of those. Congratulations.
I see no reason whatsoever not to blame him for having the contract situation we have. 9 players can walk away next summer for nothing, further 8 can do so in two years. The futures of Ozil and Alexis are still up in the air.
Transfer policy? Be my guest. Arsene has brought in two players and then declared he is happy with the strength of the squad. Despite the mentioned precarious situation with contracts and despite a very obvious hole in central midfield. And that’s ignoring smaller issues like lack of cover at right-back. Hell, if Hector continues to play the way he does on the left on his beloved right flank, we may actually need a replacement, not a back-up plan. Currently this back-up plan is Oxlade (which it might cease to be come Friday). Next on the list is Debuchy. That’s right, he still plays for us.
But most depressing, and something entirely down to Arsene Wenger, are our gameplans, selections and hoards of unmotivated players. In short, players don’t know how to play, who will play, but they don’t care.
The decent thing would be for Wenger to resign, but I’m long past believing or even hoping he will. My only faint hope is that such a spanking from a team we are supposed to be competing with for Champions League places may spark some last-minute frenetic transfer activity. But I wouldn’t bet any money it will.
The last word
We now have two weeks until the next game, and four days to plug some squad holes. After that…
Well, I don’t know what exactly. On the evidence of yesterday a proclamation that it will somehow work out may earn me a one-way ticket to the madhouse. I’m not going to lie, I don’t know where this improvement might come from.
I doubt it will be the transfer market, even if we somehow do manage to find and buy the player(s) we need. As aptly demonstrated at Anfield, our problems run much, much deeper than just personnel.
I need a break. I’ll definitely see you in two weeks’ time for a preview, but I cannot guarantee anything before that. Maybe I’ll start a FPL section, just to take my mind off things.
Take care, and try to keep yourself occupied with something unrelated to Arsenal. No need for any self-inflicted torture.