Liverpool vs Arsenal
Barclays Premier League
Kick off: February 08, 2014 12.45 PM BST
Going into today’s game, we knew what we were up against. It was the start of a difficult run of games for Arsenal, and Anfield is always a difficult place to go to, especially the way Liverpool (and Suarez) have been playing this season.
But I don’t think anyone expected such an abject performance from Arsenal. From the word go it was clear that Arsenal just hadn’t turned up, and there was barely an Arsenal man on the pitch who looked in any way interested in today’s game.
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After less than a minute, Mertesacker (who is usually so switched on and alert) was caught completely unaware by Suarez in behind him. In trying to rescue the situation he fouled the in form striker, giving Liverpool an early free kick.
Gerrard whipped the ball into the box, and Arsenal seemed to have no idea what to do with it. Arteta swung a boot at it but barely got a touch, the ball found it’s way through to Skrtel, hit the Liverpool man on the thigh, and deflected off Szczesny and into the net. 1-0 Liverpool. Replays showed that the goal shouldn’t have stood as it was offside, but the margins were minimal, and it was Arsenal’s defending that was really brought into question.
With the likes of Giroud and Mertesacker in the side, Arsenal have lost their reputation for conceding from set pieces somewhat, but were looking really poor defensively today. A Liverpool corner came in, and Koscielny completely lost his man Skrtel. The Slovak defender got his head on it in acres of space, headed it over the Ox on the far post, and into the net for Liverpool’s second.
Arsenal looked totally rattled, and incapable of getting a foothold in the game. Liverpool were pressing aggressively and high up the pitch, and Arsenal were doing themselves no favours, giving the ball away needlessly on several occasions.
Özil was certainly guilty of this, attempting a clever turn in a dangerous area when his fullback was well up the pitch, and starting a Liverpool counter. He appealed for a foul but it would have been very soft. Suarez drove down the left side completely unchallenged, and had plenty of time and space to pick out Sterling at the far post. The youngster had an easy tap in, and didn’t miss, making it 3-0.
Özil was at fault for the next goal too, a sloppy pass to Wilshere starting yet another Liverpool attack. There was no pressure on the Liverpool midfield, allowing plenty of time to pick out the perfect forward pass for Sturridge. The England man beat Koscielny and Mertesacker for pace, and passed it coolly past Szczesny to give the home side a 4-0 lead after less than twenty minutes. A shocking performance from Arsenal.
Despite putting four past Szczesny, Liverpool could be accused of being somewhat wasteful. Sturridge had another one on one opportunity against Szczesny, but put a relatively simple chip wide. And Suarez virtually breaking the post in two with a vicious strike from outside the area; Toure unable to direct the rebound goalwards.
The whistle went for half time, and you really couldn’t see any way back for Arsenal with the scoreline as it was.
Arsenal were arguably a lot better in the second half, despite conceding in the first five minutes. Sterling’s pace was causing Arsenal all sorts of problems, and when he beat the offside trap, Mertesacker just had to give up. Koscielny raced back, but the Liverpool man was one on one against Szczesny. The big Pole stood up well and saved the first effort, but the ball unluckily bounced straight back to Sterling who calmly passed it in at the second time of asking. 5-0 Liverpool.
Arsenal then rang in the changes, Monreal, Özil and Giroud all coming off, Gibbs, Rosicky and Podolski coming on. This was a massive improvement for the most part, but it was clearly too little too late, the game far out of Arsenal’s grasp a long time ago.
Wilshere and Chamberlain were the only shining lights for Arsenal, both players really trying hard to make things happen. The Ox had a couple of shots from distance, and was making forward runs into the box, both with and without the ball. Arsenal got the chance to grab a consolation goal from the spot, when Gerrard brought him down during one of these runs. Captain Mikel Arteta stepped up, and very calmly slotted it past Mignolet, despite his overall poor performance throughout the game.
This win arguably puts Liverpool back in contention for a top three place. And while a loss today isn’t the end of the world for Arsenal, a battering of this nature is likely to put a dent in their confidence, which could be extremely detrimental coming into an extremely difficult run of games.
on whether he was shocked by that result…
What is important is that we respond to the result, especially that we respond with a different performance because our performance overall was poor today – on the concentration level and on the pace. Our defensive stability was very poor, we looked always vulnerable defensively. Congratulations to Liverpool, they were the better team today and we were very poor today. Only our fans were good for 90 minutes, that’s all.
on explaining the first 20 minutes…
We conceded two early goals on set pieces and then we are always in a position where you have to come out but we knew that you need to be better focused in that kind of level. Overall our performance was just not good enough. Maybe it’s better if I don’t talk too much, go home and respond well on Wednesday night because I include myself in that performance. It raises the questions that we have to answer on Wednesday night.
on the run of games coming up testing the teams credentials…
Yes I understand with you completely but it’s not about what people say, it’s how we respond that matters. I can completely understand that people will raise questions. We only have one way to respond answer that – which is on Wednesday night.
on whether Arsenal can still win the title…
Of course because, no matter what happens, it will be mathematically possible. It’s always what you make of the defeats that decides your future and tonight we have a lot to answer for and a lot of answers to find.
on taking positives from the response after the City defeat…
It was a similar situation against City, Saturday morning, 12.45 and early goals. We have to analyse well what happened, why it happened but we didn’t look sharp physically as well.
on taking 20 points from 24 after the City game…
If we do that in the next games it’s OK but let’s respond well on Wednesday night. We are of course very disappointed today but [we must not] lose our confidence and our belief that we can still do it.
on Wilshere’s fitness…
He didn’t look more short than any other player on the pitch. At half-time I could have taken a lot of people off. I just think the whole team failed to turn up with the right performance.
on whether they missed Flamini…
Flamini played at Man City. I think overall it’s just our team performance on the day was poor.
Here are some of the top tweets from today’s game:
“Nearly 10 minutes without conceding! We’re back in this!”
“I take it from the silence on Twitter that we have all accepted defeat and started drinking hard alcohol a few hours earlier than planned?”
“First time a team is top of the table and fans are asking for the manager to be sacked?”
“If you are screaming “Wenger out” after the season we’ve had so far and because of today, no apologies, but you are a recalcitrant nincompoop.”
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Sagna Mertesacker Koscielny Monreal
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