Does Arsene really know best? Confused Arsenal are soundly beaten by Liverpool

Sanchez started on the bench in crucial clash at Anfield

Saturday, 4th March 2017 — By Richard Osley


Arsenal are playing catch-up in a race for the Champions League after being outplayed at Anfield

Liverpool 3, Arsenal 1

PICTURE this: Arsenal beat non-league Lincoln City next week and eventually get to another FA Cup final but… cue: horror movie strings… lose it to Spurs.

What a way that would be for the final curtain to crash down on Arsene Wenger’s stubborn reign at the Emirates Stadium.

But the opportunity to leave on his own polite terms are reducing, as he seemingly clings to a dream that he can somehow resurrect an Invincibles side from a club that he surely must take some responsibility in making weaker as each season passes.

It was another crushing defeat against top six opposition for Wenger

Defeat to Liverpool tonight once again revealed the sage has lost a share of his football acumen in both recruitment and strategy. It was he who bought Granit Xhaka. He who persists with Francis Coquelin. He who allowed both Jack Wilshere and Joel Campbell to disappear on loan. And tonight, he who decided Alexis Sanchez, by far and away the best player at the club, should start on the bench and only be introduced once Liverpool had set the Gunners a mountain to climb by advancing to 2-0 by half-time.

As well as Liverpool played, Arsenal looked slow and confused despite having waited almost a fortnight since their last match. The ease in which Liverpool’s star man Phillipe Coutinho was able to dictate the play in the midfield showed how Wenger has either failed to recruit well or, worse for a man of his ambition, to get the best out of the squad he already has. Players with vast potential are now, in front of our eyes, not fulfilling their pledges.

Within ten minutes, the truth hurt for Arsenal. After stringing together 30 or so sideways passes without seeing the Liverpool goal, their hosts cut them open with a long ball that eventually reached the dazzle-toothed Firminio who shot into the roof of the goal.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has that sinking feeling

Sadio Mane, with all the non-stop energy and danger which Arsenal have begun to lack, scored the second just before half time after the Gunners had been diced up by some cute passing. At the other end, there was hardly a sniff, as Olivier Giroud pottered around, occasionally looking at a leg which he intimated was sore but without asking to be withdrawn.

Wenger had no choice but to introduce Sanchez at the break and soon into the second period the Chilean had set up Danny Welbeck for a goal, which in happier times would have provoked a comeback. Not today, while Arsenal enjoyed more of the ball and occasionally broke well through Hector Bellerin, there were few moments of panic for Liverpool, a team which has surrendered to Swansea and Leicester in recent weeks.

The introduction of Lucas Perez and Theo Walcott did little to revive things further, although Arsenal did begin to obsess that Liverpool’s Emre Can had warranted a second yellow card when he lunged in on the latter.

All very desperate in the final moments, Liverpool broke and scored through Georginio Wijnaldum. There may have been an offside in there, but you’d be clutching at straws to complain too hard about how this fixture, a pretty important one when you look at the standings, turned out. Arsenal had been well beaten here, dropping to fifth and in danger of missing out on Champions League qualification, the basic target the club sets Wenger each season.

Olivier Giroud was ineffective in attack

You can understand, then, why the fans known as the Arsene Knows Best gang may be beginning to waver. The worst could be yet to come.

ARSENAL: Cech – Bellerin, Monreal, Koscieleny (c), Mustafi – Coquelin (Sanchez HT), Xhaka, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Iwobi, Welbeck (Walcott 74) – Giroud (Perez 74)
SUBS NOT USED: Gibbs, Ospina, Ramsey, Gabriel



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