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 By Tom Adams

Disgraceful, inept, utterly predictable: Wenger, Arsenal should be ashamed

In the protracted period of decline under Arsene Wenger there have been bigger defeats. The 8-2 reversal against Manchester United at Old Trafford almost six years to the day springs to mind. There have been more symbolic humiliations, such as the 6-0 loss away at Chelsea in Arsene Wenger's 1,000th game in charge. There have even been more emphatic capitulations at Anfield, such as in February 2014 when Arsenal found themselves 4-0 down after just 20 minutes and lost 5-1.

But even in the bulging hall of shame that is Arsenal's collection of abject performances in the past 10 years under Wenger, Sunday's 4-0 loss to Liverpool at Anfield felt unique. Almost special in its ghastliness.

Perhaps it was the spectacle of seeing Arsenal fans call for the manager's head just three games into the new season, with two defeats already making any dreams of a title challenge a ludicrous proposition. Perhaps it was the catastrophic catalogue of individual errors which permeated the performance. Perhaps it was the sight of a team in near total collapse, abandoning any pretence of attempting the basic tasks required of them. Perhaps it was the disassembling of a club's identity, with the putridity of this performance alienating supporters to an alarming extent.

It was left to Gary Neville, of all people, to diagnose the problem on Sky Sports. Calling out Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey by name for their refusal to track back and help out their team-mates, Neville described their display as "absolutely disgraceful. That doesn't represent the Arsenal shirt or what they're about."

But this Arsenal is unrecognisable from the one Neville knew as an enemy to be feared and respected when he played for Man United. A new stadium, new owners, new players; the only constant is the manager, Wenger, a man who has overseen this tragic decline even as he maintains his own grip on power.

But the current Arsenal squad he has assembled is an insult to those which preceded it. Just think what Tony Adams or Patrick Vieira would have made of the lamentable effort shown by players who either didn't care or had no interest in being on the pitch at Anfield.

It is impossible to pick out one mistake which spoke for the entire performance, there were too many to choose from. Ozil being mugged by a gleeful Jordan Henderson, who skipped away from the rueful German after taking the ball from him in the first half; Ramsey turning his back on play and conducting a conversation with Oxlade-Chamberlain as Liverpool sauntered down the pitch and scored their first goal; Xhaka's bizarre attempt to backheel the ball to Petr Cech in his own box, meekly giving up a corner; Hector Bellerin's abysmal attempt to stop Mohamed Salah racing half the length of the pitch to score from an Arsenal corner... an Arsenal corner.

It was a monument to slapstick football, a true comedy of errors. In isolation, each of these incidents -- and there were many more -- were the fault of an individual. Taken together they have to be seen as a symphony of ineptitude, composed by a manager who has either forgotten how to coach his players or has lost the ability to convince them to follow his instructions. Neither bodes well.

On Sunday they weren't playing for the manager. They weren't playing for the club. At times they were barely playing at all.

Something has gone seriously awry, but then we knew this already. One of the most shocking things about the loss to Liverpool was that it was entirely predictable and taught us nothing new. It only highlighted and exaggerated the fatal flaws inherent in Wenger's bloated tenure.

Arsenal's players looked as if they didn't care.

The manner of the FA Cup final win over Chelsea, and the way Arsenal finished the season in such good form, would never be enough to gloss over endemic, systemic failings for long. These are deep faults, extensively reported and analysed, which have not been addressed. There is a serious deficit in expertise, innovation, inspiration and preparation which leaves Arsenal at a big competitive disadvantage. That can only change when the manager changes.

Worst of all, there is the danger of a serious rupture between the fans and the club. This is already a relationship under considerable strain; there were public protests last season and Bellerin was memorably abused by visiting fans when Arsenal lost at Crystal Palace in April. The FA Cup win was a brief release but it has not taken much to risk a poisonous atmosphere once more.

Arsenal legend Thierry Henry was sadly right when he said on Sky: "It was unwatchable, at one point I wanted to leave. I don't relate to the team and I don't think a lot of the fans do. That is a problem."

It touched on the same idea advanced by Neville. When fans travel up and down the country to watch their team -- and even if they don't -- a basic level of commitment can be expected of the players. Track back. Try hard. Look interested. On Sunday that social contract broke down completely. To lose is forgivable. To lose in such circumstances as we saw on Sunday is not.

Individual ineptitude was matched by Wenger's strange team selection and tactical naivety as Liverpool's three-man midfield overran Arsenal's two, and a team which had their record signing, Alexandre Lacazette, on the bench failed to muster a single shot on target.

Wenger at least got one thing right. As well as describing Arsenal's display as "absolutely disastrous," he said in response to fan fury: "If I am the problem, I am sorry."

But it's too little, too late. And the real nightmare for Arsenal fans is that there will be two more years of this. The purgatory continues.

Tom is one of ESPN FC's Arsenal bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter @tomEurosport


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