When you see Arsenal lose a game in the manner we did at Anfield on Sunday there will inevitably be a lot of anger from the fans and plenty of fingers pointed at both the players who performed so poorly and at the manager whose ultimate responsibility it is to make sure the team does well.
Understandably enough, Arsene Wenger has been the main focal point of most fans’ anger because a lot of us did not want him to be given the new contract that he signed this summer. And once he did sign that extension we wanted some real change from the Frenchman, which has not been the case.
The TV pundits reserved most of their anger for the players, with Gary Neville saying on Sky Sports that it was disgraceful the way key players Ozil, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Xhaka and Alexis Sanchez played, or did not play.
He said, “When you’re at a football club, you all take the blame. I can’t personally look any further than the players.
“The issue today I had in the first 15 or 20 mins – and why I was as scathing I was – is because [Mesut] Ozil, [Alexis] Sanchez, [Alex] Oxlade-Chamberlain, Xhaka, Ramsey, they didn’t do most basic things I think every fan, manager, and player knows – when the ball goes past you and it goes towards your goal and your team-mates are struggling, you run back as quickly as you can.
“You’re told that at the age of five. Aged 12 or 13, you’re told to get into your shape quickly and when you get into the first team you’re told about transition – give the ball way, get back in, transition, transition.
“I’m naming those five – there may be more – but that is absolutely disgraceful. That doesn’t represent the Arsenal shirt or what they’re about and they’ve let themselves down as individuals. In terms of who’s to blame, I can only start and end with that.
“In terms of the tactics, the football, the mistakes, you’d need five Monday Night Footballs to analyse what went wrong there. But the simple premise of working hard, getting back towards your own goal – it’s just unacceptable.”
These players have more than enough experience so the question has to be why they did not do their jobs and that brings up the old idea of them not playing for the manager, whose tactics and team selection was also criticised by Neville.
He said, “I don’t think the team is correct. setting up with [Granit] Xhaka and [Aaron] Ramsey in central midfield at Anfield, with Sanchez and Ozil just outside them is never going to be enough with Liverpool the way they are. I’ve never understood the lack of attention to the opposition.
“You play against an Arsenal team 10 or 15 years ago and at United, Darren Fletcher comes into the team to sit to the right-hand side. You play against Liverpool, you have to go and mark Steven Gerrard on the right because you know he’s going to whip crosses in. You have to pay attention to the threats and Arsenal never do that in games.
“You don’t turn on managers and coaches. Wenger deserves the utmost respect but his players, time and time again, are letting him down and he shows too much loyalty to those players.
“Some of those players have been at the club for a long time and they’re not doing it for him. When they’re crossing that white line, they’re not giving the absolute maximum. He was dejected in that interview, I feel for him but I’m not going to start sticking the knife in and saying he should go. Of course, you look at Wenger – and he’ll look at himself.”
He certainly should and a lot of us will say he should have walked onm a high after winning the FA cup. This is not the first time that people have suggested that Wenger has lost the Arsenal dressing room or that he simply cannot motivate them and get the best out of some real talents, but this time it has happened right at the start of a season and feels worse.
What can Wenger do to turn this around?