Commentary

Lack of accountability accounts for decline

Meetings between these famous clubs have settled Cup finals and titles, but the main issue settled on Sunday, as if any confirmation were needed, was that Arsenal are going backwards under Arsene Wenger and Liverpool are going forward - at pace - under Jurgen Klopp.

Wenger's players were a disgrace, showing an absence of belief, fight and organisation. The contrast with Klopp's buoyant, dynamic Liverpool was so clear that surely even Arsenal's blinkered board must realise the mistake they made in continuing to back their fading manager for two more years.

Occasional Wembley jollies cannot mask the slide from the elite ranks to the middle classes.

As Arsenal dithered, Liverpool pressed and raided. The Reds were so good, attacking with all the joyous pace and movement swiftly becoming the hallmark of the exciting Klopp era.

Arsenal were so poor, defending with all the paucity of commitment and leadership that stains the final years of Wenger's reign.

Liverpool were a class above, ripping the visitors apart. Arsenal had no answer to Roberto Firmino's positioning and invention, to Sadio Mane's acceleration and trickery or the strength and ambition of Emre Can, Georginio Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson in midfield.

Arsenal's players deserve all the opprobrium for their lack of effort, their failure to track back with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain almost showing Mane the way at one point, their dearth of concentration such as when Mesut Ozil paused like a poet waiting for the muse to call and was mugged by Henderson.


Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger hangs his head at Anfield as Liverpool tear his side apart on the way to a decisive 4-0 win on Sunday. PHOTO: REUTERS

Ozil seemed surprised that opponents were refusing to accommodate him, not allowing him to settle on the ball, such as when Dejan Lovren nipped in.

Rob Holding was painfully out of his depth, being brutally wrong-footed by Mane for the second goal. Some have lost all their verve since signing a new contract like Hector Bellerin, whose inability to master a simple art, controlling a ball, allowed Mohamed Salah to race through and score.

Some of the players stand accused of focusing on richer pastures, and Alexis Sanchez's body language did not contain much north London dialect.

Klopp's creative players contributed defensively; Wenger's looked on. Arsenal have slumped from the Invincibles to the Indefensibles.

Ozil and Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sanchez, Bellerin and others were rightly condemned in television and radio studios but those with most familiarity to events at the club - the fans - know where the real problems lie: a manager left in the slipstream of smarter peers like Klopp and a majority shareholder in Stan Kroenke, who has naively allowed drift to turn into decline.

The fans know where the real problems lie: a manager left in the slipstream of smarter peers like Klopp and a majority shareholder in Stan Kroenke who has naively allowed drift to turn into decline.

Arsenal are held back by the debilitating culture at the club, the lack of accountability from top to bottom. Kroenke does not call Wenger to account, and the manager, who loathes confrontation, does not call his players to account, so the poor fans are served up surrenders like this.

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 29, 2017, with the headline 'Lack of accountability accounts for decline'. Print Edition | Subscribe