It was supposed to be a game in which we would exploit all the flaws of this season’s Liverpool. Remember, they failed to find the net against Sunderland and Hull at home while Aston Villa went one step ahead of the aforementioned teams and won. Instead of beating Liverpool by at least a two goal margin, we managed to spill two more points despite playing against the 10-men opponents.
Here are the pointers from the game:
1.We don’t have a midfield at the moment.
Perhaps it’s due to the fact we pissed Madam Karma with too many jokes about Abou Diaby but here is a shocking fact: we had two natural central midfielders available for the match against Liverpool. Mathieu Flamini is hardly a world-class midfielder and Francis Coquelin is a back-up option at best. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, as I pointed out in my preview, doesn’t feel comfortable (yet?) in a deeper role. He is a natural attacking midfielder who can be unplayable in the final third. His bursts and direct passes – when he manages to make them – are wonderful to watch but he doesn’t offer us ball retention and represents a liability in terms of opponents’ counter-attacks.
Then again, it’s hardly Wenger’s fault that he opted for the youngster on Sunday. Mikel Arteta, Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Tomas Rosicky and Abou Diaby are all out due to injuries while Mesut Özil, who is an attacking midfielder would also help in retaining possession. Losing five central midfielders is something no team in the world can afford.
Take a look at Manchester United’s line-up against Aston Villa – they were more or less without first-string central midfielders at Villa Park and they didn’t get the result they wanted either.
2.Our defending is terrible.
We leave too much space in our defensive third of the pitch and the opponents can always hope for a goal or two from set-pieces. With all their domination Liverpool scored goals after two collective blunders from our defence – first Welbeck and Giroud had some weird ideas about what to do with the ball just outside of our box as the end of the first half approached and our whole defence wanted to defend the last corner with nothing else but the power of positive thinking.
We have conceded eleven goals in six matches against the rest of the top seven (Everton, City, Chelsea, Spuds, United, Liverpool) and have kept a clean sheet on just four occasions – shocking. Add matches against Hull, Swansea and Stoke in which we also conceded two goals or more. It’s time for Wenger to do something regarding our defending or to let someone who knows to tighten up our defence.
3.We can’t beat other Top 7 clubs.
Manchester City 2:2
Manchester United 1:2
So, we have played six games, won NONE of them, lost two and drawn four. Not good enough. The fact only the Spuds have failed to score two goals against us (and yet we failed to beat them at the Emirates) is disturbing.
4.We are still five points ahead of Liverpool.
One might have thought that Liverpool won the game yesterday and made at least six-point-gap ahead of us. Actually, we are five points clear of them.
5.We lost two points yesterday.
Yes, Liverpool were dominating the game from beginning to end but it was Martin Škrtel who scored an equalizer in the 97th minute. The Slovakian central defender – who has scored three goals in the last two league matches against us – scored when we were ahead and had an extra player on the pitch. Given that, we had to keep the lead and take all three points to London.
6.Wojciech Szczesny, Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud are in form.
The Pole gave another fine performance at Anfield (remember how he kept our head above the water at Anfield in 2011-12?) and it wasn’t his fault his defenders were not doing their job properly. Szczesny also made a couple of important saves against Newcastle when the score-line was 1:0 to us. That’s a positive sign for the rest of the season.
Santi Cazorla is bang in form. He created a goal for Giroud and almost scored a winner in our last counter-attack. Had he opted for a pass for Monreal on the left, it could have ended much better for us. Nevertheless, the Spaniard has been impressive lately and our main creative force.
Olivier Giroud scored his third goal in two matches. It was his first goal at Anfield and it seems he has broken his big opponents hoodoo – he has already scored goals against Manchester City (Community Shield), Everton, Manchester United and Liverpool (league). It was his fifth goal in the league which is not bad given how much time he spent on the sidelines.
7. Alexis needs a rest against QPR.
If there is a player that needs a rest, it’s Alexis. The Chilean has been our best player this term but his pale performance against Liverpool suggests he should get a rest for the game against the R’s. If the comment I’ve read once about him is right, he likes to spend Christmas at his home-town, sit on a truck and give presents to the poor. He is a loveable lad but I think we have enough attacking resources to beat QPR without him. He will be needed against the high-flying West Ham though.
Next stop: QPR at home. We must win. No excuses left.