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On anniversary of 8-2 loss to Man United, nothing has changed at Arsenal

August 28, 2017 11:13 AM
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The ESPN FC panel rip into Arsenal after their disastrous defeat at Liverpool, keying in on Arsene Wenger.

Six years ago today, Arsenal suffered perhaps the worst humiliation of Arsene Wenger's time in charge, an 8-2 defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford that still scars plenty of supporters.

Those scars were ripped wide open on Sunday with the dismal 4-0 drubbing at Anfield as Arsenal let Liverpool run riot against them -- highlighting how Wenger's team still have a horrible habit of being at their worst in big games.

Arsenal's record against their main Premier League rivals since that harrowing day at Old Trafford in 2011 goes a long way toward explaining why they have not mounted a serious title challenge in the last six years.

In those 61 head-to-head matches, they have amassed a total of 65 points out of a possible 183 -- more than 20 points fewer than Chelsea, Manchester City and Man United. It's even one less than Tottenham, despite finishing above Spurs in the table every year except last.

One of the most notable aspects of that record is the number of big blow-out losses they've suffered in that span. The 2013-14 season alone saw them lose 6-3 at Man City, 5-1 at Liverpool and 6-0 at Chelsea.

Since then they had found a way to mix bad performances with great ones, beating both Man United and Chelsea 3-0 at home in the league and earning a 4-1 home victory over Liverpool. But all of their old weaknesses were back with a vengeance at Anfield, and by the end of the game both the Arsenal players and fans looked like they were experiencing a recurring nightmare all over again.

In many ways, they were. Here's a closer look at those low-points for Wenger in big away games, and why Sunday's may go down as the most damning of them all.

Arsenal were widely expected to lose this match, but no one had predicted this kind of humiliation. Arsenal totally collapsed as Wayne Rooney netted a hat trick from set pieces and Ashley Young added two beautiful curling strikes into the far corner.

It was the heaviest defeat of Wenger's reign but could be partially explained by a summer of turmoil -- including the sale of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri -- a back four that included a 19-year-old Carl Jenkinson, academy product Armand Traore (who now plays for Nottingham Forest) and Johan Djourou. In midfield, a 20-year-old Francis Coquelin made his league debut. Not exactly the strongest team that Wenger has ever put out.

To be fair, this scoreline was rather harsh on the Gunners as City "only" led 4-2 after 88 minutes of a pulsating game with end-to-end football and plenty of chances for both sides, including two Arsenal goals harshly ruled out for offside.

But the Gunners' defence crumbled repeatedly against City's high-powered attack and the day descended into more humiliation as the hosts ran up the score. It was, unfortunately, a sign of things to come that season.

Arsenal conceded after just one minute in this game, and it only got worse from there. It was 4-0 by the 20th minute and the Gunners were lucky that Brendan Rodgers' side took their foot off the gas after that.

Wenger's team actually came to Anfield as league leaders, but suffered a thrashing that seemed to derail their title challenge for good. They only won two of their next eight league games, which included.

Aside from the 8-2 defeat, this is probably the game that Wenger would most like to forget. The Frenchman was celebrating his 1,000th game in charge of Arsenal, but his arch nemesis Jose Mourinho was all too happy to spoil the party.

Typically poor defending from the Gunners handed Chelsea a 2-0 lead after just seven minutes and the game then descended into farce when Kieran Gibbs was sent off for a handball committed by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Eden Hazard converted the ensuing penalty and the floodgates were well and truly opened. How distraught was Wenger about this result? It's one of the few times in his career when he didn't show up for the obligatory postmatch news conference.

Six years later, we're back where we started. The fact that Arsenal's latest fiasco came so close to the anniversary of the Old Trafford loss only highlighted how the team's old failings still remain. And unlike 2011, Wenger had no excuses to point to this time.

This was not a weak Arsenal side, but one that Wenger had insisted was good enough to compete for the title. And yet they lacked spirit, fight, aggression and desire on a day that not only had them back to square one but even moving backwards.

The scoreline was not as big as the losses to United and Chelsea but for many fans this may have been the worst defeat of them all, as it showed that nothing has really changed.

Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.


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