Liverpool 4-0 Arsenal
How many times has Arsene Wenger stood in front of the cameras after a defeat and pointed out that we were not â€œat the level requestedâ€? Iâ€™ve lost count. Arsenal not being properly prepared or set up for big games is a festering sore that he now cannot fix. Youâ€™ve all seen the stats about how often weâ€™ve won away against the top six in recent years, so Iâ€™ll spare you it.
Yesterday: well where to start? Bellerin was in the wrong place and Kolasinac was sacrificed, all to squeeze in the Ox, who wants to leave and how it showed. Monreal was in the wrong place because Wenger either doesnâ€™t trust his other central defenders or they donâ€™t want to be here. Holding looked every inch a 21-year old defender plucked for Â£2m from the Championship, because we didnâ€™t have a midfield to speak of to help him. Ramsey was playing some kind of modernist free-form role – what was that all about? Xhaka was a mess. Our Â£55m striker was also sacrificed to fit in both Welbeck and Alexis. The former shanked our only presentable chance and the latterâ€™s body language told you everything you needed to know. Ozil was invisible.
â€œThere are some reasonsâ€, said Wenger when pressed on quite how we were so ill-prepared despite not having played all week, â€œbut I donâ€™t think I have too much to come out on that nowâ€. Wise, Arsene – because it doesnâ€™t reflect well on you.
â€œIâ€™m happy with my squadâ€, said Wenger a while ago, or words to that effect, and you have to wonder what theyâ€™re smoking over at the Emirates. Itâ€™s got holes all over it, players want to leave and on yesterdayâ€™s evidence it looks to be a pretty unhappy place.
Somewhat fittingly, today is the 6th anniversary of the 8-2 humiliation at Old Trafford. â€œThese are all problems of Wengerâ€™s making,â€ I concluded then, and the same can of course be concluded now. Both teams were set up wrong, played out of position, tactically absent, low on energy, error-riddled, lacking concentration, and were weakened either by recent exits or by players who patently wanted out.
On that note, to have so many players in their last year is not just a huge error of strategic planning, it feels like a bellwether for what the players think about this teamâ€™s prospects under Wenger. Ozil, Alexis, Mustafi and Ox donâ€™t want to be here anymore, and other players arenâ€™t so stupid as to not be affected by it. Some of them will be thinking it themselves. I wasnâ€™t keen to get rid of any of them, but seeing those who played go through the motions yesterday makes me care just a little less. I think Ox will go, I think Mustafi will go and I still think Alexis might, too.
So finally, belatedly, onto the man himself – Wenger. The performance yesterday was a slaughter; an embarrassment. It could not be more removed from the exhilaration of taking Chelsea apart in the cup final a few short months ago, when we dominated from beginning to end. But that run at the end of the season, culminating in Wembley, now feels like a blip. Yesterday, while not the norm, is the kind of result that Arsenal are always capable of under Wenger, and have been for seven or eight years, because he simply isnâ€™t the manager he once was. He doesnâ€™t motivate his players like he once did. This side is not set up to challenge for the big prizes in this market of ruthlessness and naked ambition. Itâ€™s not set up to win the difficult, big matches away from home. Wenger is still erudite and charming, and his achievements are legion, but in managerial terms heâ€™s yesterdayâ€™s man.
Ah, but itâ€™s just one game, donâ€™t go overboard, some of you might say. True enough. Itâ€™s one bad game – one very bad game. But itâ€™s symptomatic of so many other things that are wrong and that wonâ€™t change until Wengerâ€™s gone. Most fans have seen this for a while; most journalists know it only too well.
Where that leaves us is anyoneâ€™s guess.