Arsenal 3-3 Liverpool - Premier League review
What the hell was that?
This game was a tale of two good attacks, and two woefully flat defences.
Liverpool dominated the first half. Firmino looked primed, as Cech saved well at the near post, and he curled a shot from their left-hand side just over the bar. Salah also came close, though he managed to assist Coutinho, who made it 1-0.
Kos didn’t manage to close down Salah, and the other defenders were not tracking Coutinho. The ball did take a slight deflection, though overall the defending was abominable.
In the first half, we looked muted, stunted, and our attacking players were not sharp enough.
The beginning of the second half was more of the same, though Salah got a second after our defenders were not willing to close him down.
At this point, I genuinely thought we’d get a licking. We were not inspired up front, and well, it would have been a bad Christmas present from Arsenal had this persisted.
However, Alexis scored from a good Bellerin delivery almost immediately, itself a result of bad Liverpool defending. We were back in it.
Mignolet let Xhaka score from long-range, since he should have held the ball, or at least saved it.
And Ozil’s goal to put us 3-2 up was sublime. It was a telling finish, from one of our most improved players this season.
But we let Liverpool back in it in turn, since we didn’t have the skill at the back to limit them. Cech’s handling of Firmino’s shot was weak, and in some ways akin to Mignolet’s of Xhaka’s.
From then on the game went flat, but it was a lesson as to why we’re similar. Neither we nor they will win the league any time soon. And it’s not just down to City’s or United’s money or “unfair” financial advantages….
We did well to come back from 2-0 down.
However, it’s like the Twilight Zone.
Our defending overall was poor. Our ball retention was equally rubbish. And in the first half, we just didn’t possess the attacking impetus to cause Liverpool serious issues. If anything, it was the direct opposite. They could readily have been 4-0 up at half-time.
Well, well, well…….as poor as always. Petr Cech, in his Premier League career, is up there with Schmeichel and our own Seaman as the greatest. However, he is surely at the end time of his overall career, which has of course been optimal. He essentially aped Mignolet, and should have contained Firmino’s shot. He has done well in games this season, though has committed errors that a top keeper, and top team, should not tolerate. I sincerely hope he gets his 200th PL clean sheet very soon. However, it’s a shame, but we’re seeing the end of a great keeper.
Kos? Akin to Cech, a great servant for us, and a top player overall. But his error-committing is cascading tremendously. It’s a shame, since I hold great respect for him, especially considering he was an unknown when he arrived, and bounced back well after the Brum incident. That said, it’s time we looked at alternatives. Johnny Evans is perfect, and yes some will laugh. Let them, I don’t care. But should we laugh? Northern Ireland missed the World Cup, but only did so narrowly (to Xhaka et al no less), and Evans has been a critical part of the best NI team in decades. He would fit in well with our style, and in many ways his style resembles Kos’s.
Mustafi was OK when he replaced Monreal, but Monreal was poor also.
However, Maitland-Niles looks a player. Salah scored of course but was quiet for most of the game. Maitland-Niles looks assured on the ball, and I believe can be a star in years to come.
Bellerin did well to get an assist, and I feel overall had a reasonable game. Our issues defensively, as ever, were individual and collective.
Cech 5, Kos 4, Monreal 5, Mustafi 6, Maitland-Niles 7, Bellerin 6.
Xhaka scored a great effort, and Jack looked to get involved. Though positionally we were poor, as they ran through us in the first half. For both to excel, they need a top defensive mid to play behind them. It’s been said that Nzonzi was at the ground. If so, and he will join, then fine. He would be a welcome addition. This would perhaps end the fallacy that Xhaka is a battling DM.
Xhaka 6, Jack 5
Ozil shone amongst our forward line, and not just for his goal. I feel physically he has improved also. He looks sharper, more willing to track back, and get engaged in tackles. Alexis I feel was OK today, and yes he also scored. I felt he was attempting to influence play, though our team’s collective ball retention was poor. Lacazette didn’t feature much today, though I feel he didn’t get much delivery from our other attackers.
As for Iwobi…I like him a lot. He clearly possesses talent. Nonetheless, he is all tricks, and no end product. And I feel his ball retention was the worst of our players here. He needs a rest, and a re-focus, and possibly a serious consideration of what he wants from his career. He can be as great as his uncle (Jay-Jay Okocha) was, or even greater. However, the tricks need to be more balanced with critical delivery.
Iwobi 4, Ozil 7, Alexis 6, Lacazette 5.
Welbeck came on, and tried to influence things, but he has not excelled lately. I’ll give him 5/10. Walcott also warrants the same.
In summation, this game was a portrait of contemporary Arsenal. And modern Liverpool in fairness. We showed great attacking drive, and woefully inept defending. Many of us Gooners bemoan ESPNFC, but for me their critiques are spot on. This will not change until Wenger goes, as we are still in The Twilight Zone. For those who saw their analysis, Nicol, Moreno, and Burley, typified the state of play. Only with radical changes in our defensive structure and attacking play will we depart “the zone”. Carragher and Neville on Sky, and Keys and Gray on Bein, all were on point too. We show the same frailties, which cannot be glossed over by saying we did well to come back from 2-0 down.
We have Palace and West Brom next up, which last season were graveyards for us. We can two wins there, and hope Spurs don’t do what they’re best at and “put the pressure” on us for top four.
Finally, the booing of the Ox was reprehensible. What did he do wrong? Move to better his career? Is it all his fault that he didn’t shine to his potential with us? Or can Wenger share some of the blame? Has he dissed the club, like van Persie/Nasri did when they left? No. He has said he respects us and Wenger. So let him move on, and that is that.