Danny Murphy says he felt sorry for Arsenal midfielders Albert Sambi Lokonga and Granit Xhaka following the Gunners’ humbling 2-0 defeat to Premier League rivals Chelsea, speaking to talkSPORT (23 August, 10.20am).
It’s not often Arsenal fans have said this during the past 12 months or so but thank the lord for Bernd Leno.
Because if it wasn’t for the much-maligned shot-stopper, a defeat could have descended into a farce, a 2-0 loss becoming a 4-0 drubbing.
The damage was already done by the time Leno made two superb second-half saves from Romelu Lukaku and Kai Havertz but at least the scoreline retained an element of respectability, even if it flattered the beleaguered hosts rather than their composed, commanding visitors.
Chelsea dominated pretty much from minute one to minute 94, Lokonga and Xhaka given the runaround as Arsenal were left exposed and outmanned in the centre of the park.
Arsenal’s Xhaka and Lokonga ‘trying to do the job of four or five men’ vs Chelsea
“My worry is, watching it from a tactical point of view, I was so bemused,” says former Liverpool ace Murphy, who knows a thing or two about life as a Premier League midfielder.
“They started off OK until Chelsea started beating the press (but) they never changed! They got so stretched, the gap between their defence and the midfield unit when they were trying to press.
“I felt for the two midfielders (Lokonga and Xhaka) trying to do the job of four or five men.
“The gaps were so big. It was amateurish, tactically. They were all over the place. Half pressing at one time and getting played through, then dropping off.
“The front lads were trying to do it and the back lads were getting fearful and dropping off. So the gaps were huge between the midfield and defence. It was like the last ten minutes of an FA Cup game!
“You’ve got Steve Round and Mikel Arteta watching this game and not doing anything about it. It’s like having a leak and not putting your fingers in the hole. It could have been four or five.”
Arsenal have now lost 20 games out of a possible 60 under Arteta – and the chasm that exists between him and a proven, elite-level manager like Thomas Tuchel was laid bare for all to see on Sunday.
It was a result and performance that shows how far the Gunners have fallen from the top of the tree.