Arsenal were torn apart by Liverpool in a 5-1 loss to the Premier League leaders, despite opening the scoring through Ainsley Maitland-Niles. Five minutes later, though, the Gunners were 2-1 down and went on to concede three more times — including twice from the penalty spot– en route to a one-sided defeat.
Hmmm… Tottenham also lost on Saturday. Perhaps this reminder of how awful Arsenal’s defence can be will convince the club that major surgery is needed in the January transfer window.
Even by Arsenal standards, this was an appalling performance that will raise questions about whether any progress has been made under Unai Emery over the last six months. Stephan Lichtsteiner, Shkodran Mustafi and the normally solid Sokratis Papastathopoulos all looked like rank amateurs at times, while there did not seem to be a game plan to deal with the well-known speed and directness of Liverpool’s front three.
And it was depressing to see Arsenal again give up a lead straightaway, having done so twice at Old Trafford against Manchester United earlier this month. Not learning from mistakes has been a hallmark of this team for way too long.
Manager rating out of 10
2 — Granted, Emery has several defensive injuries to deal with, but his No. 1 task since arriving at the club has been to make the backline solid. Judging by this display, he has not come very far; things rarely looked this bad in the later years under Arsene Wenger.
At the other end, Mesut Ozil’s absence limited his attacking options (though it is unlikely the German international would have started anyway) but it was surprising to see Emery leave Alexandre Lacazette on the bench, given Arsenal’s only hope of getting something from the game was to fight fire with fire.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Bernd Leno, 5 — Let down by his defenders but helped keep the score down with a couple of decent saves in the second half. He probably needs to take some blame for the back four being so disorganized, as he does not seem to have the vocal presence of Petr Cech.
DF Stephan Lichtsteiner, 3 — It was not surprising to see that the 34-year-old could not keep up with Liverpool’s pacey attack, but it was disappointing that the experienced defender looked so out of his depth.
DF Sokratis Papastathopoulos, 4 — A stupid challenge from behind let Salah earn a cheap penalty that basically killed the game off, this after Sokratis had been made to look silly on Firmino’s second goal. A stellar challenge denied Mane another goal but this was one of his worst games for Arsenal.
DF Shkodran Mustafi, 3 — Returned from a hamstring injury, but Arsenal would have been better off without him. Embarrassed by Firmino on the second goal, Mustafi constantly looked like a liability before being hauled off at half-time.
MF Ainsley Maitland-Niles, 6 — Popped up at the far post for his first Arsenal goal and played a key part in the few dangerous attacks the Gunners mustered. Perhaps a bit over-confident at times, he was nonetheless one of the few who could hold his head high.
MF Lucas Torreira, 4 — A rare poor performance by the Uruguayan midfielder, who finally came up against opponents more aggressive and energetic than him. He gave the ball away for the second goal and generally offered a reminder that he is still only 22 and has much to learn.
MF Granit Xhaka, 4 — Too slow and immobile to be effective against this Liverpool side, he played with heart and aggression but could not help Arsenal find any rhythm in their attacking play.
MF Aaron Ramsey, 4 — Had a few good moments going forward but did not offer a consistent focal point, which was one of the reasons why Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was so isolated up front. This was a chance for Ramsey to add to his value ahead of January, when he can start talking to other clubs, but he mainly made Arsenal miss Ozil.
MF Alex Iwobi, 6 — Created the goal for Maitland-Niles and was the only Arsenal attacker who consistently caused problems for Liverpool’s defence.
MF Sead Kolasinac, 4 — Gave away a silly — albeit soft — penalty in the second half for a foul on Dejan Lovren as frustration set in, adding to overall defensive calamity. He did not get forward in the way he normally does, while his link-up play with Iwobi was almost non-existent.
FW Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, 4 — Looked isolated leading the line on his own, but he is not as good a target man as Lacazette. Aubameyang somehow missed an open goal from a yard out with his only decent chance, but his blushes were spared by the offside flag.
DF Laurent Koscielny 5 — Replaced Mustafi at half-time and brought a semblance of stability, although perhaps that had more to do with Liverpool not taking their chances.
FW Alexandre Lacazette, NR — Did not come on until the 71st minute when the game was already decided and could not do anything to make the score more respectable.
MF Matteo Guendouzi, NR — Made a late cameo appearance to help play out the last 10 minutes. At least Arsenal did not concede while he was on.