The feeling around the fans prior to kickoff wasn’t exactly laden with optimism, but none could have foreseen the crazy second half which proved our undoing.
Much of the consternation was located at our defence – and who would play with the absences of Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker and Gabriel.
Wenger, after making several points about experience being required in the back line – then went with 20-year-old Rob Holding and 21-year-old Calum Chambers.
Left-back Nacho Monreal was expected to slot inside to lend a hand, but was named in his usual position.
It was to prove decisive.
The first half went according to plan for the Gunners. Klopp’s men were shackled well by the youthful exuberance of Holding and Chambers, and when chances were created – they were ours.
Theo Walcott, the man facing a big fight to win over his doubters, started well. Tracking back, fighting for every ball – and making his marker Alberto Moreno look a fool repeatedly.
It was this mismatch that granted us a penalty, as Moreno lunged at the ball which had changed direction suddenly thanks to Theo’s first touch.
It was Theo who dusted himself off to take the penalty. Simon Mignolet was his equal though, but in truth the penalty was at an optimal height for the Belgian.
Only two minutes later though, Walcott wasn’t to be denied. It speaks volumes for his spirit that he took Alex Iwobi’s pass with a great touch, and finished so well into the far corner.
The rest of the half played out with the Gunners in control, right up until Philippe Coutinho was granted a free kick 25yds out and curled an unstoppable effort into the top corner.
Justice? Hardly, but what was to come in the second half would be far worse….
Four minutes after the restart, Adam Lallana chested a pass down and finished into the far corner. He took it well, but after a strong first half, Calum Chambers was pulled out of position too easily.
Seven minutes later, Coutinho had his second. Nineteen passes were involved in the buildup to the goal, with the Brazilian slotting home.
The ire from the fans started to build, and soon enough, reached a crescendo.
Sadio Mane drove at Arsenal’s defence, cutting in and leaving Monreal for dead. A thunderous finish left Cech no chance, and droves of the crowd left the stadium in disgust. Boos rang out from the crowd.
Within twenty minutes, our inexperience had cost us dearly. Blitzed. They had coped admirably but they couldn’t cope with the one spell of dominance Liverpool had.
A minute later, after Rambo and Iwobi had come off injured to add to Wenger’s woes, one of the substitutes, Oxlade-Chamberlain, finally showed what he is capable of, with a good run and finish to pull a goal back.
On the seventy-fifth minute, another goal was pulled back. Santi Cazorla whizzed a free kick into the danger zone and Chambers glanced past Mignolet.
Despite the twenty minute horror show, the spirit to come back and make a fist of it was good to see. The comeback was not to be completed, but there were performances to raise levels of hope a little.
There needs to be a cold, hard look at our lack of investment. There needs to be inspection upon our tactics after we concede.
Our season isn’t over though, and players shouldn’t be consigned to the exit for the portion of play that lost us the game.
What is clear is that these mistakes cannot continue if we are to push on.
What is clear is that conceding four goals at home is hardly the mark of belief and talent that our Manager purports we possess.
One centre back was making his debut in the Premier League. The other has a severe lack of experience – but neither can be earmarked as not good enough. Not yet.
The blame for this lies at Wenger’s feet. He has the power to rectify.
Wenger, it’s all on you.