Arsenal were thoroughly beaten 4-0 by Liverpool on a sunny Sunday at Anfield. For fans of the north London team, being humiliated by four goals is one thing, but the way in which the Gunners performed was undoubtedly the bigger issue. A majority of the Arsenal players were far too casual, almost as if they were just going through the motions on the pitch. The perceived lackadaisical attitude coming from such a highly-regarded side was both surprising and unacceptable.
Manager Arsene Wenger is currently receiving most of the blame for the poor performance (to put it lightly). The Frenchman brought the team to Merseyside with absolutely zero ambition and motivation on the day. Wenger’s decision to include Danny Welbeck in the starting XI instead of new signing Alexandre Lacazette is one for the books. A strong case could be made that outside of maybe Welbeck’s own mother, Wenger was quite possibly the only person on the planet that would have started the England international over Lacazette.
Although Wenger definitely deserves criticism for how his own team performs on the pitch, the players also need to be held accountable as well. Wenger was not the one that was seen jogging back to defend a marauding Sadio Mane right before the Senegal international scored Liverpool’s second goal (that was Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain). Wenger was also not the one to stupidly give the ball away after being the last man of defense around the halfway line, which led to the third goal of the game (that was Hector Bellerin).
Outside of those two massive points in the game, the Gunners were flat out anemic with the ball going forward. The aforementioned Welbeck had a very good chance to put Arsenal ahead when the match was still at 0-0, but failed to even make Liverpool’s goalkeeper make a save in the situation. In fact, the Gunners failed to record a shot on target for the first time in their last 110 Premier League games.
One strange point, however, is the fact that this starting lineup was practically the same group that were victorious against both Manchester United and Chelsea in May. These players have shown that they are capable of beating extremely talented teams, there just appears to be something, or perhaps someone, holding them back at times.
A large portion of the lack of focus and motivation in the team at the moment could very well be the swirling uncertainty of the futures of Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (as I wrote over two weeks ago). All three players are currently in their final year under contract at Arsenal and none of them have put pen to paper on new deals. Wenger was in a very similar situation last season, and he eventually conceded that his own contract speculation hurt the team heading into the final half of the 2016/17 campaign. The Gunners ended up finishing outside of a top four place in the table for the first time in over 20 years.
Going forward, the north London outfit need to sort out these contract issues, and do it quickly, if they wish to compete in the Premier League this season. Luckily for them, the summer transfer window is set to close before they play their next match. This should help, as then everyone in the dressing room will know who exactly will be there for the entirety of the 2017/18 season. Along with re-signing Ozil and Sanchez in particular, the Gunners need to strengthen their squad with an additional signing or two before the window shuts. They then should focus on putting this ugly loss behind them and regrouping before their September 9th match against Bournemouth.