Our opening of The Helleven Days-period was a horror-show. We were appauling in every possible way. Our defending was disoriented like our back four have never played together before, our midfield had more holes than every golf-pitch in Great Britain combined and our attack was less dangerous than a toothless kitty after a glass of warm milk.
If one searches for positives, he can find only two: today’s match lasted only 90 minutes and it was only worth 3 points. Here are some pointers from today’s match.
1.Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny…and Gibbs.
It would be harsh to blame just one player for today’s fiasco. Each one that had started the match should be embarrassed of themselves. However, something is wrong with Nacho Monreal’s self-confidence and form.
The Spaniard is a solid full-back but he hasn’t shown that too many times this season. It might be just an example of extraordinary bad luck but he was selected next to Sagna, Mertesacker and Koscielny in the starting eleven against Manchester City as well. We conceded six at the Etihad. Now, he got the nod ahead of Gibbs at Anfield and we conceded five. Something doesn’t work well with Monreal in the starting eleven in big matches. If Gibbs is 100 percent fit, he should start against United.
2.Arteta is past his peak.
If there is a player that Arsene Wenger will be after this summer, it should be Ilkay Gündogan. The German would give us something that Mikel Arteta hasn’t been able to offer this season and it is well-known that Wenger is a keen admirer of the Borussia Dortmund midfielder.
Arteta has had a lot of problems against more mobile midfielders this season, especially if they have good technique as well. He didn’t offer any kind of protection to our back four, not to mention that as a captain he should have been the one that encouraged his team-mates when things went bad. Today, things went from bad to worse during Arteta’s shift.
3.Mesut Özil hasn’t stepped up in a big match this season.
Now, one might point at the German’s performances against Napoli and Everton respectively to prove my point wrong but he hasn’t been the best against the toughest opponents.
Against Manchester City, he created one goal for us and the Citizens each. Today, his mistakes led to two Liverpool goals.
Of course, the German genius has a lot of chances to prove he is a player for the big matches as well. His first chance will come on Wednesday against Manchester United. If he fails to impose himself again, Wenger should drop him to bench in the forthcoming matches.
4.We can’t rely on our attack to bail us out.
It’s something I’ve already mentioned. It would be interesting to check in the history books if any team has managed to win the title despite failing to score five goals in one game throughout whole season. We have scored four goals against Norwich (Premiership) and Coventry (FA Cup) while our worst defending performances have resulted with more than four conceded goals (Manchester City 6, Liverpool 5). We don’t have a world-class striker and no matter how much I like Olivier Giroud, the fact he is our main striker says a lot about our quality.
5.Tomas Rosicky should be the first name on the squad sheet.
In the absence of Aaron Ramsey our midfield as well as our game in general suffers a lot. Tomas Rosicky is the only measure of the damage control that works – he injects energy into our midfield and add directness to our passing game. It’s interesting to notice that he was an unused substitute against City at Etihad and was only introduced after an hour.
6.We must bounce back against Manchester United.
Today’s defeat was terrible but we can still fix things a bit if we beat United on Wednesday. A victory in that match leaves us in the battle for the title. If we lose, we might have another battle for the “fourth-place-trophy” on the cards. Players must restore their self-confidence and show that they can the reigning champions. In order to do that…
7.Wenger must prepare our team for our opponents…
Arsene Wenger knows that wheels might fall off if he doesn’t prepare his team for Manchester United properly. He must find the right way to deal with United’s attacking talent – Rooney, van Persie, Januzaj and Mata – and how to exploit the weaknesses of United’s defence and midfield. He has shown that he can pull a rabbit out of his hat just when nobody would put a single penny on him. Now, he must do it again.
8….and learn a lesson ahead of the FA Cup clash.
Liverpool have scored 5 against Spuds, 4 against Everton (with Sturridge’s missed penalty at 4:0) and 5 against us. We will play against them next Sunday and if we don’t want to repeat our poor performance from today’s game, Wenger must find the way to cope with pace and aggression that Liverpool have shown this season.
So, that was a painful start of The Helleven Days-period but our luck might change in our next match. Manchester United at the Emirates – not an easy fixture, not even now when they are far from their best. If we give our best shot, it should be enough to win the game.