From a purely neutral perspective, you have to salute the fact that Arsenal and Liverpool put on an outrageously exciting game of football. It was an absolute spectable, 10 goals in 90 minutes followed by a 9 pretty electric penalties that sadly finished the Sky Sports Gold classic on the side of Liverpool.
If you’re looking at it from a football purist perspective, we shipped 5 goals away from home in a game that Jurgen Klopp wasn’t taking too seriously (it clashes with the World Club Cup). That’s 7 goals in a week. That’s losing two leads from 2 goals up. That’s another loss however you look at it.
Unai Emery added some credit points to his flagging total with the fans. I thought that despite Mustafi trying to down his manager with an early own goal, we looked like we had a much better shape. The players for the most part looked like they knew what to do.
This is a common theme with Unai teams, we turn up for the big games, like the players know people are going to be paying attention. Everyone ran hard, we controlled the pace of the game for large parts and Liverpool didn’t really look like they had answers.
Mesut Ozil, as someone said in the comments, was the full package exgirlfriend experience of your nightmares. You dumped her because she’s boring and spent too much time playing computer games in curry stained tracksuit bottoms… then, after 3 months in life rehab, she shows up to the ball dressed up looking like the end scene of a teen film about transformation. Teen film? That sounded gross. But to be honest, I felt gross last night purring over a player I know will let me down. The sequel to this film is Requiem for a Dream.
Unai Emery tried to have a strategy last night, it seemed to revolve around the idea that sending Mesut up north for a tough game would show the fans that he’s a meek little bitch. How wrong was he? The German was on fire. He was at the heart of everything. We had 11 shots on goal with him on the pitch. It went further than that.
‘Mesut dispossesses’ was heard at least twice. Imagine, Mesut mucking in? He really must have been mad.
He has an edge over everyone in our squad. He thinks differently. He is decisive in the final third at a speed no one else can match. His assist for AMN was nothing short of ELITE ELITE ELITE. He just a very smart player that can open opposition in a moment.
So what happened? We were 4-3 up and Emery decided to hook him off on 65 minutes for Guendouzi. Say what you will Frenchman’s performance, Arsenal went from being a threat and creating 11 chances, to doing our usual, just 2 shots in 30 minutes with a heavily defensive midfield. Emery claimed this was preagreed, but for me, read the damn game. Read statistics that consistently show defensive subs are not the way to see out a game.
We all knew what would happen. Emery is world-class at snatching a loss from the jaws of victory, and so it was to be. Origi leveled, Willock put Arsenal ahead with and deeply sexy lash from 25 yards, then Origi leveled late on.
We lost the shoot out. AMN took the sauciest penalty of the night that deserved to be a winner, but sadly Ceballos blew his likes. Not a poor strike, but a great save.
So what did we learn?
We are very bad at defending. It’s not an individual issue, it’s a core structural problem. Bellerin and Tierney aren’t making a difference, nor is Lucas Torreira as a DM. We just don’t have the right sort of mindset to defend. The structure is open, built for individual errors, and Emery can’t fix it.
There should be no scenario where 5 goals away at Liverpool ends in a loss.
On the positive side of things, looking to the future, it’s clear that we have the raw ingredients for spectacular football. Emery tried to show the world that the way they see the squad is wrong last night. I genuinely believe he thought a Xhaka-less midfield with Ozil and Torreira was a throwaway game that’d show the fans what he’s persisting with in the league is correct.
Woooah was he wrong. Moving forward, we looked spectacular at points. Saka and Gabriel is a partnership for the ages. Mesut pulled strings. Torreira looked great. Willock was a force. We looked special, albeit against a second-string Liverpool side.
If we can find someone to manage us that can balance solidity and with exciting attacking football, we’re a 100 goal a season team. The future is there for a manager that wants to play with Arsenal’s post-1996 DNA. The Liverpool game was fun and vital because it showcased that Emery is tanking this squad with a conservatism that doesn’t need to be. He’s a Sevilla coach at heart, not an Arsenal manager.
So the story last night was a revival of glorious failure. A fun game, but ultimately, you’re judged on results, and that was not a good one for Emery. Nor was the subplot of trying to show up players he doesn’t like. Mesut has his flaws, but ostracising him in a moment in which we don’t create now has concrete evidence. We need to bring him in from the cold, hopefully he can warm the first team and kickstart a movement towards top 4.