Familiar failings surface as Arsenal lose opener at home to Liverpool
PUBLISHED: 15:56 15 August 2016 | UPDATED: 15:56 15 August 2016
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Same ol’, same ol’ for the Arsenal? This was the question on everybody’s lips ahead of the curtain-raiser against Liverpool. Unfortunately for Gunners fans across the world, the answer was yes.
You’d have to go back to 2009 for the last time Arsene Wenger’s men got off to a rip-roaring start to the season, with a 6-1 thumping of Everton.
Since then, Arsenal have flattered to deceive, with three drab draws, one unconvincing win (courtesy of a 90th-minute Aaron Ramsey winner against Crystal Palace in 2014) and three agonising losses, with Liverpool the latest to spoil that ambitious new-season feeling.
You could draw a lot of similarities between this and last season’s start – the 2-0 loss to West Ham.
Boos rang around the Emirates on Sunday as an opening-day home defeat marred that new-season buzz, swiftly bringing us all back down to earth with a thud to the sounds of ‘Coutinho-o-o-o’ – and chants that ‘encouraged’ Wenger to spend some money (a polite way of putting it) were again caught on camera as the fans made their feelings clear over the present transfer situation.
Despite the imminent arrival of centre-back Shkodran Mustafi, the need for a forward is as obvious as ever. While Alexandre Lacazette was hitting a hat-trick for Lyon, Wenger lamented the lack of an out-and-out striker in Olivier Giroud to lead the line, despite Alexis Sanchez’s best efforts as he scampered across Liverpool’s back four.
After promising that we would be ready for the start of the season, Wenger admitted post-match that his side were not quite there yet and lacked maturity at the back, which contributed to Liverpool’s second-half dominance.
New boy Rob Holding and Calum Chambers are not to blame. They certainly played their best and they will learn from this experience. The sight of Philippe Coutinho and Sadio Mane shredding their back line will not be one they intend to replicate in coming seasons – give them time.
The fault, unfortunately, lies with Wenger. Excuses about the Euros leaving the Gunners bare are simply not good enough, as it was a problem any fan could see coming from a mile away.
Following injuries to the new club captain Per Mertesacker and Gabriel, the manager’s priority should have been, as he said, grabbing those first valuable three points of the season. This means bringing in adequate cover to deal with the likes of Adam Lallana, Mane, Coutinho and Roberto Firmino and not watching on as they waltz through feeble challenges.
The mixed signals from the boss have not been at all comforting. One moment he’s assuring us we’ll be ready for the fight – the next he’s admitting that we weren’t, and that were underprepared.
Likewise with the transfer scenario. If Wenger had told fans from the start of the summer that we were only going in for Granit Xhaka and another centre-back, we would probably be a lot more accepting of the lack of arrivals.
But dangling the carrot that was Jamie Vardy and a plethora of other No9s in our faces, only to reel in the wire and dismiss talk of a goal-getter arriving, has angered us all.
Arsene says relax. That was the message from the boss on Sunday. We’re not at panic stations yet, so please do justify that claim Mr Wenger and prove to all of us that we are, as you said, competitive.
Let’s just hope that with the returning spine of Laurent Koscielny, Mesut Ozil and Olivier Giroud, we will be able to pick up at least four points from the next two league games, away to champions Leicester City and Watford.
Follow Joe on Twitter @Joe_Nelson1994