THE man in the away dugout was different, but for Arsenal fans everything else at Anfield was shockingly familiar, as their team was once again torn to shreds by Liverpool.
Unai Emery must have known his first priority after replacing Arsene Wenger was to shore up a defence that had become a laughing stock towards the end of the Frenchman’s reign.
Arsenal’s 4-0 defeat at Anfield last August was toe-curling stuff for diehard Gooners, and that finally spelled the beginning of the end for Wenger.
Yet here we are, twenty games into the season, and Arsenal have conceded 30 goals – five more than this time last year.
Arsenal had never conceded so many goals at this stage of the season in any of Wenger’s 22 years in charge.
So things have actually got worse under the new boss. A lot worse!
The last 14 goals conceded have come in the seven top flight matches Arsenal played in December. Not much holiday cheer there.
Arsenal’s shocking goals against tally also happens to be 22 more than the runaway Premier League leaders.
Is it any wonder Emery’s side are now 16 points adrift of Liverpool – and are optimistically targeting a top four finish, rather than the title bid that was being dreamed about when Emery’s team embarked on their 22 match unbeaten run earlier in the season?
That run came to an end with a woeful defensive display in the 3-2 defeat at Southampton.
And the old frailties were there again as Brighton were allowed to charge the length of the pitch virtually unchallenged for the goal that allowed them to salvage a draw on Boxing Day.
Put these Arsenal defenders against a team with real attacking flair – and Liverpool have an embarrassment of riches in that department – and it becomes a complete mismatch.
Liverpool clearly lick their lips and salivate over how much they will improve their goal difference when they see the Londoners lining up against them.
Since the start of the 2015-16 campaign they have hit the net 22 times against the Gunners. That puts them clear on the Anfield hit list, ahead of Watford, who have conceded twenty times, and Bournemouth on 19.
Former Arsenal defensive great Martin Keown, now a BT Sport pundit, accused his old club of panic defending. He was being kind to them.
It was schoolboy stuff as Arsenal threw away their precious early lead inside three minutes with a couple of farcical ricochets allowing Roberto Firmino to stab home his first goal.
Firmino made Sokratis Papastathopouls and Shkodran Mustafi look silly as he waltzed past their feeble attempts at tackle for his second goal.
And there were more looks of recrimination as a long ball allowed the unmarked Mo Salah to set up No 3 for Sadio Mane.
Sokratis was fooling no-one with his protests after his clumsy challenge for behind handed Salah a penalty, after he committed the cardinal sin of allowing the Liverpool player to squeeze past him on the byline.
For all Liverpool’s clinical marksmanship in front of goal, they were given a big helping hand for each of their four first half goals.
The home team’s second penalty was a bit harsh on Sead Kolasinac, as his challenge on Dejan Lovren looked pretty innocuous. But by then Arsenal had forgotten how to make a decent tackle anyway.
Yes. Emery is still finding his feet in the Premier League, and he has been unfortunate with injuries to key men, such as Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal.
But injuries are a fact of life in football, and Arsenal fans were entitled to expect some signs of progress at the back.
For now, Emery seems to be share the Wenger mindset that attack is not just the best form of defence – it is the ONLY form of defence…