The Gunners were dominated for large periods of Sunday’s 2-2 draw over Liverpool and despite taking their chances when they came – something we haven’t been able to say for awhile – a lack of defensive cohesion cost us vital points once more.
Arsenal have now failed to beat the Spuds, Man City, United, Chelsea, Everton and Liverpool this season as Arsene Wenger’s men struggled with another set piece – conceding deep into stoppage time – and continually gave away possession in worrying situations.
The draw certainly felt like a deflated loss rather than a point gained. Despite being played off the park in the first half Arsenal responded immediately to Courtinho’s opener with a well taken Debuchy header. If only his fellow defenders managed to battle Skrtel with as much enthusiasm in injury time, the Gunners would be leaving with three points.
Wenger put the lackluster first half performance down to nerves and psychological reasons. It was their first return to Anfield after being battered 5-1 in February this year and the Gunners boss felt his players played with the ol’ metaphorical handbrake on.
He said after the draw:
We had problems today getting our flow going and we didn’t have enough possession in the game. In the first half, it was down to tactical reasons and psychological reasons, whereas in the second half we blocked them much better.
After we went 2-1 up, we just let them come at us and didn’t come out enough to score a third goal. As long as you don’t score a third goal, you are under threat to concede a second goal.
Yes we may well have been under threat to concede an equalizer, but we had enough in us to secure the win by retaining possession and keeping the ball upfield away from danger. Unfortunately 36.5% possession is abysmal and shows in one simple stat how much Arsenal struggled to get a grip of the game.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain managed just 28 passes, a shocking statistic for a central midfielder. While Mathieu Flamini had a 73.7% passing accuracy. The Gunners engine room is missing the control of players such as Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey, Mikel Arteta and Jack Wilshere bring to the side. It was the glaringly obvious missing ingredient.
Another big mistake was withdrawing Olivier Giroud who contributes a lot to Arsenal’s defensive game on set pieces. That was a big error on Wenger’s part and something he must surely know by now.
All in all Arsenal were lucky to escape a similar scoreline to last season. With all of Courtinho and Raheem Stirling’s magic, the Reds were incredibly wasteful and had more than enough chances to win the game. Wojciech Szczesny was exceptional for the Gunners and will be frustrated with the lack of support ahead of him.
Wenger was also questioned on whether his side ‘had done enough’ to secure the win.
No because they came back. Overall I think once they were down to 10 men we were not dangerous anymore. We conceded a corner that was a bit unlucky and where we were guilty was that we didn’t jump at all with Martin Skrtel. Of course from then on we conceded so it became 2-2.
Overall it’s a fair result over the whole 90 minutes, but it’s a frustrating result for us, because they came back at a moment in the game where we had plenty of defenders on the pitch and could defend the set piece much better.
Players such as Francis Coquelin and Nacho Monreal are hardly useful players to defend set pieces. Wenger’s substitutions backfired but, as said earlier, we had enough in us to hold onto the win especially after Borini’s dismissal. Our passing and ball retention was woeful for most of the game and we were punished for it.
There was a moment in the dying stages of the game where Coquelin raided forward and lost the ball high up the pitch. All he needed to do was sit on it (not literally…) and knock it around with Welbeck and Campbell. Perhaps try and win a foul, slow the momentum down. But such is the lack of maturity and knowledge to hold onto a lead.
Last season’s loss was no excuse and now we have to get back to winning ways against QPR on Boxing Day.