Arsenal dropped yet more points in what is proving to be pretty average December so far. The game was crazy. I’m quite used to being depressed sitting in the stands, but I’m not normally that flatlined by a performance, only to witness us turn it around so quickly.
The first half really was utterly drab. The team had no real shape and they struggled to contain a Liverpool I felt were playing in 3rd gear. Their pressing was strategic, but it wasn’t as intense as I’ve seen them go before. Perhaps wary of expending too much energy early on.
Arsenal did manage to scrape past 20 minutes without conceding, which was impressive considering how we’ve faired on that front this season, however, you could see the chinks in our armour being opened up. Maitland-Niles was being actively targeted down the left. Liverpool testing his positioning, nerve and aerial ability. He certainly wasn’t winning, and down the left is where the first goal came from.
Salah was played in on the counter, MN was nowhere, Koscielny jockeyed well, but the cross ricocheted off his leg allowing Coutinho to follow up and nod the ball over Petr Cech for his first ever headed goal. The extra frustrating thing about that move was that Coutinho started his run from behind MN. If you’re out of position, you should be working harder than that to make it back.
Moving forward, Arsenal had nothing. I’m not sure we registered a single shot on target, we didn’t look a threat and Lacazette was being eaten by Liverpool’s defence. The crowd aggressively booed off the home side and it was fully deserved.
The second half was a bit more interesting. Firstly, look at the absolute state of our defence for what is essentially a 2 vs 4 situation.
For starters, Salah started the move himself, speeding past 5 Arsenal players (across the field). Firmino somehow managed to pull 3 Arsenal defenders out of play finding Salah, who passes into the bottom corner, albeit with a deflection. Absolutely atrocious, and what many had thought was game over.
Cue the Liverpool collapse. Our first goal came from a rare gem of a cross from Bellerin who found Sanchez on the back post with a simple header. I’ve no idea why Joe Gomez tried to clear with a half-arsed bicycle kick, but I’ll be honest, I was glad he did it.
Our second goal came from two rare moments, the first was an Iwobi assist, the second was from a Xhaka 35 yard screamer on target. What a strike! Again, thankful for the customary shoddy keeping from Mignolet.
At that point the wind was in our sales and you could feel something coming, and it did. Mesut Ozil made a surging run, he found Lacazette, the Frenchman backheeled the ball into his path with the German gently chipping the ball over the keeper. What a turnaround. Liverpool had gifted a 2 goal lead in 16 minutes.
Could we hold onto our lead? Don’t be ridiculous. Alexis Sanchez, a player who was atrocious all game, gave the ball away when he slipped on a counter attack, Salah picked up play, ending in Firmino rifling a shot at Cech who palmed the ball into his own net. A really flat way to end the game.
So, what did we learn?
Not a lot. Arsenal are still having a rough time against the top teams in the table, we’ve only beaten Spurs so far this season. When it comes down to big thinking, Wenger struggles. Aside from it being hilarious that Liverpool can throwaway games like that, you have to remember that the result was gifted through individual errors. I’m not sure we were worth the point out there. Liverpool look a few shrewd signings away from being a menace in the league.
Arsenal lacked shape and purpose. It’s like the players hadn’t been coached on what Liverpool were about. They had no answer to their press, we had no purpose moving forward and we really lacked any sort of aggression or bite.
Petr Cech is over. It’s not that he’s a bad keeper. It’s that keeping has passed him by. Hoofing it to the little man who is being dominated isn’t smart. How can a keeper so experienced not pick up on the fact his kicks aren’t meeting their target? We need one of the new breed who can play with their feet and break a press, like Navas or Ederson. They exist as well, Lazio’s Greek keeper Strakosha is tall, athletic and great on the ball.
We also have to be honest with our defence, it’s not good enough. I’m not just talking about the players, I’m talking about the system. We had no pace in our midfield yesterday and we struggled. Look at how pedestrian Jack and Xhaka are for that last goal. Look at the same two for the second goal. For the first goal even. They’re nowhere. You need to be mobile in the Premier League and those two aren’t, and we suffer.
Even at the back, Laurent Koscielny appears to be fading. He was lucky not to give a goal away with a mistake in the second half. If we’re dropping Kolasinac for a kid, you’d have to say that maybe my thoughts about him not being the full ticket had some credence. Being big doesn’t mean you’re good. Then you look at the age and quality we have elsewhere. Per is retiring, Monreal is no spring chicken and Mustafi still has the jury out on him. Chambers and Holding are probably not going to cut it.
Even up top, we all love Lacazette, but his lack of pace and physicality hurts us. You’re only getting away with being small if you’re faster than everyone else. He’s a good finisher, I’m not quite sure he’s the game changer we hoped for. Alexis needs to go, it’s like he’s being paid to give the ball away. He doesn’t want to be here and he gifted the points to Liverpool. Iwobi also needs to be taken out of the action, he was so, so poor. Get WELBZ in there.
The club needs a rethink this summer. They also need to have a long think about whether Arsene is the architect of the makeover because it’s clear to the world he shouldn’t be. Why not cut our losses early and move him on? Give the baton to the next man and start a new chapter.
Right, that’s me done, see you on the other side!