Having been torn to pieces in their humiliating 4-0 defeat at Liverpool, a similar fate befell Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal in the post-match post-mortems.
Wenger’s players were variously described as “lazy”, “pathetic”, “arrogant” and “disgraceful”, while the manager himself is under scrutiny once again just three months after signing a new two-year contract.
“Last season, I called them ‘cowards’,” former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher said on Sky Sports after Sunday’s match.
“And afterwards maybe I got a little bit of criticism. Maybe that’s a bit too strong and you can’t say that on live TV, but I’ll say it again — cowards.”
Arsenal’s defeat, their second in succession after a 1-0 loss at Stoke City, exhibited failings that have become endemic under Wenger.
Defensive disorganisation allowed Liverpool to take control of the game and Arsenal’s over-eagerness to get back into the match left them hopelessly exposed on the counter-attack.
Liverpool’s third goal, scored by Mohamed Salah in the 57th minute, summed up the Arsenal malaise.
Liverpool cleared a corner, Salah beat Hector Bellerin to a bouncing ball midway inside the hosts’ half and then had a clear run on goal before beating goalkeeper Petr Cech.
Furious Arsenal fans on Twitter pointed out that in the build-up to Roberto Firmino’s first-half opener, Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were not even looking at the ball.
“How can you play like this in a big game for so many of Arsenal’s players?” asked former Manchester United captain Gary Neville.
“Forget not turning up, forget not playing well, but just the general attitude or lack of respect for the shirt from three or four of them in not running back and not bothering is disgraceful.”
Arsenal great Thierry Henry, analysing the game for Sky Sports, confessed: “At one point I wanted to leave. I didn’t want to watch the game any more. It’s too much to take.”
While it was Arsenal’s defensive shortcomings that were exhibited at Anfield, the player who featured on almost all the British newspapers’ sports pages was star forward Alexis Sanchez.
Making his return to action against Liverpool after an abdominal injury, the Chile international was despondency personified as he traipsed to the dug-out following his 62nd-minute substitution.
After the game, he took to Instagram to post a caption-free picture of himself sitting on his haunches on the Anfield pitch and dejectedly gazing at the ground.
Sanchez has been repeatedly linked with a move to Manchester City and Henry said none of Arsenal’s players could be blamed for casting glances elsewhere.
“Everything that you see on the day has been happening for the past 10 years,” said the Frenchman.
“We talk about Sanchez and is he staying, but they are not going to want to be part of this team. That is why players are not renewing their contracts. They can see something is wrong.
“The word I have used for a long time — comfort. Everyone is comfortable at Arsenal. It’s not the same pressure you have at a big club. Everything is… nice.”
The newspapers were singularly stinging in their criticism.
The Daily Mirror branded Arsenal “a lazy, arrogant, broken team with no ideas and no hope” and directly blamed Wenger, who last led Arsenal to the title in 2004.
The Sun called Arsenal “lazy” and “pathetic” and said their torment at the hands of Firmino, Salah and Sadio Mane represented “a new low”.
The Times called it “unacceptable, unwatchable, unforgivable”.
Wenger generally chooses his words carefully, but he conceded that Arsenal’s display had been “absolutely disastrous” and “unacceptable”.
Cech echoed his manager’s verdict, while Ramsey admitted: “We’re going to have to change something if we’re to compete this year.”
Arsenal’s supporters hope Wenger uses the last four days of the transfer window to strengthen his squad, but they know, as does everyone else, that the club’s problems run much deeper.
Mane continued his goal-a-game streak in the English Premier League at the weekend.