Three games into a new season, it is not being wise after the event if the thought should occur that maybe it would have better for everyone, not least Arsène Wenger himself, if he had guaranteed a happy ending after winning the FA Cup in May and spared himself these kind of ordeals.
Arsenal, once again, are lurching towards another of their now-familiar crises. It all feels so predictable and the danger for Wenger is that the boos from the away end here might become the soundtrack to his season.
Liverpool outclassed them in every department and perhaps the most worrying part for Arsenal’s fans is that these kind of routs no longer feel like a shock. Arsenal have now conceded 17 goals in their last five Anfield visits and, if anything, it was a surprise the latest capitulation stopped at four. Arsenal – weak, rudderless, anaemic – were not a great deal worse that time they let in eight at Manchester United.
Yet again, it was all the usual shortcomings, all the same old problems that should have been addressed a long time but now feel synonymous with the latter part of Wenger’s fading reign. Liverpool were a class apart and, in the process, Jürgen Klopp’s men proved something here. Liverpool without Philippe Coutinho have been portrayed in some quarters as a flower without sunlight.
It simply isn’t true.
Liverpool are entitled to think optimistically when Sadio Mané, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah are capable of playing with this kind of vibrancy. All of their three attackers scored, along with the substitute Daniel Sturridge, and by the time Salah had sprinted half the length of the pitch to stroke in the third goal Alexis Sánchez was crouched down by the left touchline, lost in his own thoughts and cut off from the rest of his teammates. His body language told its own story.
Perhaps they were unlucky to come up against a Liverpool side playing at the point of maximum expression but, unfortunately for Arsenal, these are the occasions when we are reminded why Sánchez wants out, why Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain thinks there might be greater adventures elsewhere and why a third player, Mesut Özil, is guilty of leaving the same impression.
Wenger was asked afterwards what had gone wrong. “Everything,” he said. Arsenal have now lost nine out of their last 14 away games if we think back to the travel sickness that afflicted them last season, too. They took only nine points from their 10 games against the other top-six sides in that campaign and it would be madness, on the evidence of their latest defeat, to think they will be any closer to challenging for the title this season.
Where to start? As tragicomedies go, it doesn’t get much better than Granit Xhaka trying to back-heel the ball to his own goalkeeper and putting it out for a corner. There was the attack when Georginio Wijnaldum took the ball past Aaron Ramsey, then went back to do it again. Or how about the moment Rob Holding aimed a simple pass out to Oxlade-Chamberlain on the right and could not even get that right? Holding missed his team-mate by several yards and gave away a throw-in. It might be harsh to pick out one player after a performance of this nature but Holding looks out of his depth and opponents have worked that out. He looked shot before an hour had been played and, for his own sake, he could probably do with a spell out of the team now.
Liverpool took a little while to realise their opponents were ripe for a beating but once Firmino headed them into a 17th-minute lead it was startling to see the imbalance between the two sides. Klopp’s men swarmed all over a team that, in Wenger’s own words, were “an easy opponent for Liverpool.”
Mané’s goal to make it 2-0 was just one of countless occasions when Holding was exposed. Joe Gomez, Liverpool’s young right-back, started the counter-attack. The referee, Craig Pawson, played advantage when Xhaka fouled Wijnaldum and within moments Liverpool had swept upfield, Firmino’s pass had left Mané with the chance to take on Holding and Petr Cech was picking the ball out of his net.
Gomez had also been involved in the first goal, pinching the ball off Hector Bellerin before crossing for Firmino score with an unchallenged header. Bellerin also gave away possession when Salah chased him down and ran clear for the third. An Arsenal corner had turned into a Liverpool goal and, once again, it was alarming to see the chaos within Wenger’s ranks.
Sturridge headed in the fourth from Salah’s left-wing cross and Arsenal will not even wish to contemplate what the score might have been if Cech had not made several splendid saves. Loris Karius, in stark contrast, must consider Arsenal were obliging opponents on the day Klopp made the unorthodox decision to “rest” Simon Mignolet, leaving his usual No 1 out of his entire squad. Karius still had some awkward moments, twice chased down by Daniel Welbeck with the ball at his feet, but he did not have to make a single noteworthy save.
“We’re going to win the league,” Arsenal’s fans sang. But at this rate, their humour will not last.
This story has been reproduced from today's media. It does not necessarily represent the position of Liverpool Football Club.