The early September international break is typically a drag for English Premier League fans. But this year, Arsenal fans will find the upcoming break a happy reprieve from the Gunner's early season ugliness.
On Sunday, Arsenal suffered its second loss in as many matches in embarrassing fashion, losing to Liverpool 4-0 at Anfield. Arsenal fans will look for places where they can heap the blame, and they won't be short on options. The players were careless, and Arsene Wenger made personnel decisions that could be described as naive, feckless, or just plain dumb, depending on how generous you are.
Worse yet for Arsenal, there is no solution in sight. Wenger signed a new contract early in the summer, so he's not going anywhere. The club's best player, Alexis Sanchez, could be on his way out, so they aren't about to get more talented. The team lacks the talent and balance of their counterparts in the Premier League elite, so more matches like this one against other teams near the top of the league are imminent.
Liverpool tore Arsenal to shreds in attack all match long. The first goal came via Robert Firmino in the 17th minute, when the Brazilian squeezed between Arsenal defenders and headed home for the 1-0 lead. The Reds doubled that with five minutes to go in the half thanks to Sadio Mane. Mane made mincemeat of Rob Holding -- Arsenal's worst defender on the day -- and curled in a brilliant goal from the left side of the box. It was his third goal in as many matches to open the Premier League season.
2-0 is often described as the most dangerous lead in soccer because it makes the winning team feel comfortable even though two goals can be scored in a flash erase the advantage. That wasn't the case on Saturday, as Arsenal players dragged their feet from the first minute. One goal for the Gunners seemed like a stretch; two an impossibility.
The goal most emblematic of Arsenal's problems was the one scored by Mohamed Salah to put Liverpool up 3-0. Far too often this season, careless play in the midfield or back third has led to a chance or goal by Arsenal's opponents. That's because Arsenal's wingbacks pour forward, but don't get back to defend, leaving a makeshift back three undermanned against the attack. Indeed, too many men forward and a lazy touch in the midfield were still all that was needed for Liverpool to get its third goal, as Salah robbed Hector Bellerin and screamed down the pitch before a simple finish past Petr Cech.
Daniel Sturrdige added a fourth later in the match just to rub some salt in the wounds.
While the Arsenal players were far from good -- hell, far from average -- a healthy dose of the blame does fall on Wenger. The decisions he makes simply do not make sense.
Arsenal signed two players in positions of need this summer, a left back and a striker. Neither started. Instead of playing his new left back at left back, he played his right back there. And in the right back's stead, he played a midfielder. And when Arsenal fans were begging for some sign of life, some inspiration, when play resumed after halftime, he brought on Francis Coquelin, the most uninspiring Arsenal player on the roster. It was managerial malpractice.
This is the match that will set the tone for the rest of the season. The FA Cup title at the end of last season gave Arsenal fans something to smile about after a disastrous spring, and it gave Wenger new life at the club, leading to his new contract. Now the "Wenger out" protests will resume only months after they subsided.
In truth, with all the problems at the club from the manager down, Arsenal needs a fresh start. It needs a new manager and many new players, in addition to getting rid of many of its current players. But considering we're not even a month into this Premier League season, none of that will happen. Instead, there will be more matches like this and more moments when it is blindingly obvious that there are very real structural problems at the club that won't be fixed anytime soon.
Cy Brown writes about soccer and other stuff for Sports on Earth. Follow him on Twitter @CEPBrown.