LIVERPOOL – Another defeat, another virtually silent Arsenal dressing room.
If there was ever a time to air some home truths, then Anfield’s away facilities at around 6pm on Sunday was it.
Petr Cech is understood to have had a few choice words to say — but by and large, yet again, it was a morgue. Lifeless. The biggest apology arrived on social media by Mesut Ozil. It’s easier that way.
The players do care. They’ve clashed in the dressing room before, particularly after their humiliating 5-1 loss at Bayern Munich in February.
But their manager’s reluctance to engage in confrontation has seemingly rubbed off on Arsenal’s under-performing stars.
Arsene Wenger was within his rights to unleash hell after the 4-0 defeat by Liverpool. But he didn’t, instead choosing to bottle up his feelings and retreat into the international break.
To his players and staff, however, it was not surprising.
This summer was supposed to be the time for change at the Emirates. But those behind the scenes say nothing has really altered.
Yes, there have been some new appointments. Jens Lehmann has joined the coaching staff, and Darren Burgess has become the head of high performance.
Tony Colbert, a long-term Wenger aide, has joined the technical staff despite having a background in fitness coaching.
But all staff appointments go through Wenger. And despite the change in faces, the club’s training sessions – on the pitch and off it – are largely the same, much to the players’ disapproval.
They have been going through the same old routine for years. No wonder they are producing the same old results.
Lehmann’s training field duties are unclear, and assistant manager Steve Bould’s input in training is understood to be minimal. Wenger remains king, and his crown is not slipping.
Players feared as much when the 67-year-old signed his new two-year deal at the end of last season.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s determination to leave speaks volumes. Arsenal have offered him a contract worth £180 000 a week, yet he is still keen to leave this week, with London rivals Chelsea the likely destination.
The chances of him earning more elsewhere seem remote. What does that tell you?
Alexis Sanchez wants out, too. Sportsmail understands his representatives have now told Arsenal officials that the striker will not sign a new deal under any circumstances.
Arsenal have offered him £300 000 a week.
Even those players who aren’t actively seeking moves fear Arsenal will only rediscover their glory days once Wenger leaves.
That’s not to say those disgruntled players don’t have respect for their manager. They do. But they no longer believe the Frenchman will make the changes necessary to put Arsenal back on track.
The Gunners have three days to strengthen their squad, but the focus is on selling players.
Shkodran Mustafi and Lucas Perez could yet leave for Inter Milan and Deportivo, respectively. How can over £50 million worth of talent be deemed surplus to requirements just a year after they signed?
Similarly, why did Wenger drop £52m record signing Alexandre Lacazette for Sunday’s shambolic effort at Anfield? It’s a decision that left his teammates scratching their heads.
It is conceivable that Arsenal will finish the summer transfer window having recouped more than they have spent.
Blame us, shout at us, criticize us, but I'm also very disappointed about today's game 😠. We wanted to achieve a positive result before the international break but we were simply not good enough during the 90 minutes and Liverpool deserved the win without a doubt. Usually I'm too angry to post on social media after such frustrating days like today, but I don't want to let this match go uncommented before traveling to the DFB Team. Nevertheless. Gunners, I'm sorry - especially for the fans who travelled all the way up to Liverpool to see us fighting. But we will try everything to improve in the next game and bounce back from the disappointment we are all feeling at the moment 👊🏼 #LFCvAFC @arsenal
A post shared by Mesut Özil (@m10_official) on
Perhaps things might improve. The club’s transfer fixer Dick Law is almost certain to leave before next summer, with former Team Sky contract guru Huss Fahmy, who joined the club in June, set to lead player negotiations.
But many at the club believe only one change will finally spark a true switch in direction.
The Arsenal board were split over whether Wenger should have been allowed to sign a new deal over the summer.
But majority shareholder Stan Kroenke holds the cards and he’s pro-Wenger. Very pro-Wenger.
But there’ll be a few ‘I told you so’ faces around him right now.
Kroenke will back his manager for now, but he’ll be taking a keener interest than ever given the restlessness from supporters and those on the board.
Arsenal sacking Wenger remains an unthinkable concept. But another season without Champions League football, and Kroenke could have a question to answer.