Arsenal cruised to a 3-0 win over Dundalk in their Europa League clash to sit at the top of their group with two wins from two games.
Somewhere between Liverpool’s third goal or their fourth, maybe even after both, Arsenal supporters must have questioned the insanity of it all.
The insanity which allowed Arsene Wenger to extend his contract, having been found wanting in the league, with the board confident of something different.
At times on the weekend it looked like Arsenal were unaware there was a football game at hand, such was the absence of desire or interest in their play. They were undeniably pathetic.
Come halftime, Arsenal had barely tested Loris Karius in Liverpool’s goal, failing to register a shot on target or break a sweat.
Their preseason had been full of posturing and grandstanding, promising a season of reinvention, reinvestment and somewhat optimistically, the reaping of silverware.
Those promises, under the benefit of hindsight, have been proven to be nothing more than fallacies.
The reinvestment delivered Sead Kolašinac and Alexandre Lacazette, both commendable players coming off formidable seasons last year for Schalke and Lyon respectively, yet both weren’t in Arsenal’s starting 11.
Are they, therefore, bench players? Given the current squad was lightyears away from being seriously in the conversation as a title contender last season, it seems like misplaced reinvestment if the starting line-up is not improved.
Wenger promised he could redefine himself as an adaptable manager who could be relevant in modern football. With the sample size on offer, no one could name one factor which has changed in Arsenal’s play.
When Arsenal reverted to Wenger’s trusted 4-3-2-1, Liverpool only gained ascendancy, breaking away with scintillating quick counter attacks and being irrepressible in midfield, despite the Gunners’ superior numbers and solidified defence.
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It is not his fault he stayed – anyone would do the same. The fault lies firmly with the board who believed him.
There remains the same tediousness, lack of flair and absence of work rate which has plagued the London club for several seasons.
Having been torn apart by a rampant Liverpool side, ironically reminiscent of early 2000s Arsenal, the Gunners have been underwhelming following losses to Stoke and now, Liverpool.
If you feel like you’ve read this before, it’s because you have. Last season. The season before last and the season before that.
Arsenal, its board and fans are now engaged in a season-long dance, a familiar routine, to the chants of Wenger in or out and the growing whispers of a player exodus.
The point in case this season being the likes of Mesut Özil and Alexis Sanchez, both looking increasingly despondent on field and linked with moves away.
Perhaps, somewhere in the Emirates, conversations are being had about whether Wenger should stay, but it is far too late for that. There is not enough time for a new manager to be found and meaningful change with time dwindling in the transfer window.
More likely is Arsenal, with delusions of grandeur, will push on expecting a competitive league finish. Even likelier, Arsenal will suffer a middling and mediocre season which fail to meet expectations, encouraging further scrutiny on Wenger and the board.
There was a time where Arsenal would take the game by force and dominant from first whistle to last.
Now, with a somewhat overrated squad and a stubborn manager stuck with an archaic gameplan, fans’ memories are replaced with a passive side which is dictated to and no longer feared by rival clubs.
Fans are well within their rights to look at rivals Chelsea or further abroad to Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga, and enviously wonder whether an injection of Antonio Conte type or Julian Nagelsmann could bring about the desired results.
Given Wenger’s forlorn look after the game and the chanting of the fans, it is clear everyone knows what needs to happen.
The true question is whether Arsenal are bold enough to do it.