Today's center half options, all like...
All you need to know is that the money quote from Arsene's press conference was: "We lacked experience at the back and we were physically short..."
The final of Euro 2016 was over a month ago, so we knew that Laurent Koscielny would not be available. We also knew that the injury that Per Mertesacker suffered in our very first friendly - also a month ago - would have him out for ages (never mind whatever you think about his deterioration as a player). Gabriel was injured a week ago today. Either way - we knew that we were three short for a week, two short for a month. Mertesacker and Gabriel both had question marks about their ability anyway.
But sure, awesome, throw the kids that played the best that they could under the bus when they were out there specifically because a decision was made that they were equal to requirements. Great. Terrific.
I get that these early games are always a little bit problematic, especially in a year with major tournaments. But, we have won exactly one opening fixture in the last six years, that being a fluky win over Crystal Palace. By the way, that includes losses to Aston Villa (!) and West Ham along with dire draws against Newcastle and Sunderland.
Still, who would have thought that at one point we'd be down 1-4 when we were 1-0 up with just a few minutes to go in the first half? I swear, this team's ability to fall completely apart at the drop of a hat is almost impressive in its scope and comprehensiveness.
It's funny - this was a match where even the guys who did something well had those things far outweighed by their failings on the day. Theo Walcott's finish (aided and abetted by awful positioning from Simon Mignolet) was nice, but previous to that was one of the worst penalties I've seen in some time - it had no pace and could not be at a more comfortable height for a keeper to save.
Calum Chambers scored a nice header off of Santi Cazorla's free kick, but conversely he was our worst defense performer on a day when none of the back four played well. Rob Holding wasn't that good either, but frankly one can expect more from Chambers given his greater range of experience. Positionally, he was all over the place, never knowing where to be at any given moment. Nacho Monreal kept feeling like he had to come over to cover, and often got dragged out of position because of it. Liverpool's second goal doesn't happen if Nacho was where he should have been.
The fourth goal, though, was far more inexcusable. Sadio Mane had a brilliant game to be fair, but Chambers was still in a good position when Mane began his run. The nanosecond it became apparent that Mane was going to beat him for pace, he should have fouled him and taken the yellow. The ongoing frustration of how bloody nice we are (zeeeeeeeero killer instinct) is a separate conversation, but just about any defender alive knows to take the foul there. Literally unbelievable.
That's the thing - we probably could just about get by if either one of Holding or Chambers were playing next to a veteran that could talk them through the game. If you are flailing, and your partner is flailing, your covering fullback is now flailing, and the whole thing breaks down. You don't need a goddamn UEFA A License to know this. Especially with Mertesacker being out for much of the season, there's room for another center-half no matter what. Factor in that Chambers would get some games at right back anyway, and there's just no excuse.
Besides that, goals either end of the halftime break are killers, and we managed to concede on both ends of it. Again, the absolute lack of fight and strength is astonishing. There was nothing anyone could do about Coutinho's brilliant free kick, but it was a needless foul from Holding that allowed it to happen. Nacho getting sucked into the middle happened for the second, just after the break.
After that? It all went remarkably pear-shaped.
Oh, and Aaron Ramsey and Alex Iwobi both got hurt, too. Perfect bloody day.
Hell of a goal from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, though. Also, Granit Xhaka came on and contributed naught other than fouling anything he could reach. I'm sure there'll be better days for him though.
So, yeah. An utterly preventable loss against a nothing-special Liverpool side, in exactly the same basic fashion as years and years and years and years past.
Not much nice to say today.
Man of the Match: Coutinho.