• Manager condemns 5-1 defeat to Liverpool as feeble
• Arsenal need quick response against Manchester United
Arsène Wenger condemned Arsenal as feeble and naive in their 5-1 mauling by Liverpool, and admitted their title prospects rest on the reaction to what the captain, Mikel Arteta, labelled "a car crash" of a performance.
Arsenal surrendered the Premier League leadership in humiliating style at Anfield as Brendan Rodgers' team surged into a four-goal lead after only 19 minutes before recording their biggest win in the fixture since 1964.
Wenger refused to criticise Mesut Özil for a lamentable display from the £42.1m record signing on the basis that "it is difficult to criticise an individual on this performance … that would be unfair because nobody really played well".
And a shocked Arsenal manager went further in an interview with French media. "We were feeble in every important aspect of playing at the highest level: concentration, strength in the challenge and naivety. So from that moment on it's impossible to win a game when you're playing at that level," he said.
"We've been well beaten twice now, and twice with an early kick-off away from home [having lost 6-3 at Manchester City in December]. But we have to ask questions of ourselves about this. Because when you're playing in a big game and the first two free-kicks go in it becomes very hard, because you have to open the game up and you've got more chance of letting in eight or 10 than you have of getting back in the game."
Arsenal host Manchester United in the Premier League on Wednesday, Liverpool again in the FA Cup on Sunday and then Bayern Munich in the Champions League. Wenger conceded the manner of Saturday's defeat could have an impact.
"A successful team responds to disappointment and we will see on Wednesday night," he said. "If our confidence isn't affected too much, I think it will come back and we'll see a different Arsenal side on Wednesday night."
Arteta revealed he had never seen Wenger angrier than at half-time at Anfield with Arsenal trailing 4-0 and challenged the former league leaders to respond similarly to the City setback, when they collected 20 points from the next 24 available.
"We have had two big crises already," Arsenal's captain said. "I think the Manchester United defeat was a different game to this, but City and this one are really hard to take. We have to react because there is nothing we can do about this now. We know we need to improve and face those games in a different manner because after 19 minutes we were 4-0 down and it was like a car crash. The manager was really upset at half-time, that's normal because it wasn't good enough for this football club. It was the angriest I have seen him."