Last night I had a chat with my friend who happens to be a Liverpool fan. Unfortunately, I had a hunch that we won’t be able to do the double over Liverpool this season and the predicted 2:2 draw came to fruition due to inconsistency from both sides.
This match had shown that our defending is horrible. We might have very decent defenders (as long as they are healthy, that is) but good individuals don’t necessarily mean a team will work properly. Liverpool were very dangerous while they were pressing our defenders. We couldn’t cope with their aggression and this game could have easily been lost in the opening 10 minutes.
As usual, we gave an opening goal away to our opponents. This time, the whole defense (with the exception of Gibbs) wrapped a gift for Suarez. Sagna slipped and allowed Johnson to cross which Vermaelen failed to clear as he missed the ball in an embarrassing way. Sturridge collected the ball and took a shot but Szczesny saved it. The ball fell to Ramsey who failed to clear it properly so Henderson managed to push it forward to Suarez. The Uruguayan striker took a shot which deflected in by Mertesacker as the German failed to block the shot. As you can see, the word “fail” best described our defensive reactions.
We could still create things, such as in the next attack but Theo Walcott’s great run didn’t end with a goal as Reina managed to save his shot. Liverpool nearly doubled their lead after Suarez produced a perfect through ball to Sturridge but the former Chelsea striker missed the target with his weaker foot. The next opportunity to fall to Sturridge was created by Szczesny. The Pole tried to do a Cruyff-turn in his own six-yard-area and was nearly punished for that by Sturridge. Luckily, Szczesny managed to make up for his mistake but it’s not something he should do ever again. We responded quickly with Podolski making a wonderful low cross to Giroud who tried with his right foot but it went wide. Walcott attempted a curling shot outside the area a few minutes later but Reina again made a wonderful save. At those moments the Spaniard reminded us why he was wanted by Wenger so desperately. We kept going in order to find an equalizer but another cross from Podolski to Giroud was cut out by Gerrard. Liverpool nearly punished our misses with Agger’s header after more horrible defending (Szczesny , Gibbs and Sagna were preventing each other from clearing the ball) but Podolski managed to clear the ball off the line. Suarez then nearly scored another but his shot went wide. For the first time in the match Walcott managed a proper cross to Giroud but the Frenchman couldn’t put enough power in the header. Henderson was in a dangerous position on the other side of the pitch but his lob went over the crossbar with Szczesny all over the show and well beaten.
We all expected the second half to spark a more convincing Arsenal. However, the first situation started badly with Vermaelen accused of two hand-balls but the referee Kevin Friend didn’t point to the spot (luckily). We also had a penalty appeal of our own but Podolski hit Wisdom more than the other way round. The first chance in the second half was created again by the excellent Podolski. The German made another darting run and crossed the ball to the far post where the ball was met with Walcott’s header. It went over the bar…once again. And, after Podolski showed the strength of his shot at Carragher’s belly, Liverpool scored their second goal. Henderson made a run on our left side. He unsurprisingly beat Santos and surprisingly out-muscled Mertesacker to run into the box. Ramsey made a decent tackle but the ball hit Santos and returned to Henderson’s feet. The expensive youngster didn’t miss his opportunity to make it 0:2.
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We needed a quick response to get back in the game and we did just that. After Walcott was fouled on the right side of our attack, Wilshere produced a brilliant cross from the free kick and Giroud rewarded Arsenal with an excellent header. Game on! Only three minutes later, Cazorla and Giroud combined on the right side of Liverpool’s penalty box with the latter laying-off to Walcott. The English forward hammered the ball from a tight angle to make it 2:2. Reina’s reaction wasn’t the best though, but still Walcott’s finish was top class. It seemed at that moment that we would repeat the thrashing of West Ham. Walcott tried to score with his left foot not long after but his shot from outside the area ended wide. We were all over Liverpool but we couldn’t find the third goal. Cazorla’s free-kick was met by Mertesacker’s header but it was a weak one. The Spaniard nearly created a goal for Giroud but the Frenchman was one step behind the ball. That didn’t stop him from taking another shot after Walcott and Cazorla combined but Reina saved yet again. However, the best chance for the victory was missed a few minutes later. Podolski made a wonderful cross from the left for the umpteenth time but Giroud failed to take a proper shot and it went wide. Andre Santos’ mistake then created a chance for Suarez deep into injury time but the Uruguayan’s shot was saved by Szczesny.
It’s not the end of the world that we didn’t beat Liverpool. However, this match showed our defense is not good enough for great achievements and Gibbs’ injury doesn’t help. We need reinforcements and we need them today. Literally.
on a positive response to going 2-0 down…
I believe that first of all, it was a great football game where both teams really went for it and you could see that it was top level entertainment overall. We could have lost the game or won the game by three or four goals difference. That shows that we have created many chances going forward, but we were nervous defensively. The two goals we have conceded today have shown that we were nervous from the start at the back, but overall we have shown great quality and tremendous spirit.
on the defensive performance…
I think first of all, we were caught on the counter attack and we didn’t adjust very well. Liverpool are good going forward as well. We didn’t give out big security tonight defensively but on the other hand, when you see what the spirit is in the team, and what the quality [is] going forward, you smell that something can always happen at any moment when you combine like we do. In the second half, we have put a fantastic effort in. We know what we can improve, and we want to keep the positives that we have shown tonight in the game.
on starting slowly…
I believe that recent history has an impact on the way we started the game tonight. We have to get that out of our minds and just focus on what we do well – playing football, and focus on what you want to do in your position. I believe that the quality is there, so we have to trust our quality and just forget what happened in the past because you could see that what happened in the past played in our heads at the start of the game.
on why his defenders are nervous…
Because they want to do well and they want to win games. The games have massive importance for them and that’s why – because they want to do so well.
He’s absolutely moving forward. You can see he’s a man now when he plays football. He takes responsibility, always creates danger and he played against a top full back today and that’s where you see the quality in the big games like that.
on Walcott proving himself at international level…
I think he’s ready [to do that].
on Gibbs’ injury…
It is a thigh strain and that rules him out for the next three weeks. It’s a blow for us.
on playing well in the second half of games…
There is not always a rational explanation. Sometimes you have wait until the other teams drop a little bit to get complete domination of the game. If you look at us against Manchester City we had a lot of the ball even with 10 men. Sometimes you think it is not bad for us to go into half-time at 0-0.
on his group of players…
The squad is top, top level for me and I think we have to learn to trust these players and keep faith in them. We have signed a bunch of top English players who have committed to the club for the next five years. We have to keep faith in them
on doing business on deadline day…
I cannot promise that but we will work on it.
on the atmosphere in the dressing room…
They are frustrated because we have not won the game. But we came back and there is a certain feeling that they did their job and have given everything. But at the same time you want to win football games so they are frustrated.
Sagna Mertesacker Vermaelen (c) Gibbs
Wojciech Szczesny | 5.5: He is 22, I know, but he should have learnt by now that he should not dribble against strikers. If Liverpool had better a striker than Sturridge, we would’ve been two goals down before the 10th minute. Then, his poor reaction after corner nearly led to a second Liverpool goal but Podolski saved us. The Pole, however, did earn higher marks for his late save.
Bacary Sagna | 5.0: His slip started a streak of defensive errors that led to the first Liverpool goal. His performance was getting better and better as time went by. It was odd to see Suarez defending Sagna rather than vice versa. He didn’t hit the mark with his crosses again.
Per Mertesacker | 5.0: The ball hit him and went into the net for the first goal but his biggest mistake came later when he gave away the ball in a dangerous area but fortunately Suarez didn’t make a goal out of it. Was out-muscled by Jordan Henderson for the second. I just hope Wenger will hijack the Chris Samba deal.
Thomas Vermaelen | 5.0: He repeated what he did against FAnchester United – he missed a clearance before the first Liverpool goal, maybe because he went for it with his weaker foot, and couldn’t stop Suarez’ pass to Sturridge that nearly led to a second goal. Not the best performance from our captain who was lucky not to concede penalty for handball.
Kieran Gibbs | 6.0: One of rare players that wasn’t accomplice of the first Liverpool goal. Unfortunately, he got injured again, he will be out for three weeks and let’s hope that Wenger will sign a proper cover for him.
Aaron Ramsey | 5.5: He failed to clear the ball before both Liverpool goals which should say a lot about his ability to play the shield. Couldn’t give a proper final pass but did make a few successful challenges.
Jack Wilshere | 7.5: Assisted Giroud for the goal that gave us a life-line. Much better in the second half when he was leading us out of trouble.
Santi Cazorla | 7.0: Combined with Giroud before our second goal. Tried to create chances for his team-mates.
Theo Walcott | 8.0: A menace to opponents. Scored an equalizer with his powerful shot, was fouled for the free-kick before the first goal, created space for himself and could have scored a complete hat-trick (he missed a header after Podolski’s cross and his left-footed shot went just wide). If he had scored an instant reply in the first half, it would have been a totally different match.
Lukas Podolski | 7.5: He didn’t wear his shooting boots tonight but he was excellent and more into creating chances. Produced a few brilliant crosses and it is not right that he didn’t get a proper response from his team-mates. If he did, he would be much closer to a certain Dutch striker in list of assists. It is interesting to notice he didn’t combine with Santos even when the Brazilian was completely alone on the left flank. Podolski also made an important clearance in the first half after Agger sent a header to empty net.
Olivier Giroud | 8.0: A goal and an assist for the big Frenchman who never gives up. Unfortunately, he missed a clear-cut chance to score the winner as well as a couple more chances. Deserved booking for diving.
Andre Santos | 4.5: He didn’t seem to look that bad in the first half but it is mostly due to the fact he wasn’t targeted by the Liverpool attack which is a reason to question Rodgers’ abilities. In the second half we had seen the usual Santos – he was out-muscled by Henderson and hit by Ramsey’s clearance which allowed another chance for Henderson to score the second goal for Liverpool. He was ignored by Podolski and that suggests how much confidence team-mates have in him. His bad reaction nearly cost us defeat. He shouldn’t get boos from our fans – he should be sold. For God sake, he was dribbled by Downing!
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