Feel like sharing some thoughts on the Arsenal game. Coming into the game I was hoping for a big game performance, one that could prove our credentials as a potential title contender, but had my reservations to that as we were going up against an Arsenal side that seems to be have everything going right for them at the moment. They are a very confident team which has managed to tear apart opponents with ease (in the league ;)).
We lost the game as you are probably aware. Arsenal scored a couple of very well-taken strikes. We had some half chances which we should have capitalized on, but it wasn’t meant to be our game. It’s not that we were horrible or anything, we simply did not deserve to win this because Arsenal were that damn good. This Arsenal team is talented and plays intelligently with and without the ball. They proved in the game time and time again how good they are at making themselves available by creating spaces. They also pushed our midfield players well and forced them to make some errors.
We scored a goal, which was not given to us because the referee decided to have a brain fart, that could have changed the game, but having said that, we should not blame the ref for his cock up. We lost the midfield battle by an overpowering, yet elegant quartet who used the ball well.
Coutinho came on as a second half substitute, but he could not do much as he seemed to be a bit rusty and short on match sharpnessss (and fitness IMHO), it was definitely not the easiest game to make a comeback, but he huffed and puffed and tried hard to create something, but alas. Victor Moses was another second half substitute who also tried, but couldn’t impose himself on the game.
We were unlucky with injuries to our key full-backs/wing-backs Glen Johnson and Luis Enrique, which deprived us of two decent attacking options (Especially Johnson). Both are players who link up well with our strikers, and looking at Arsenal’s defending at various stages in the game, we might have been able to cause them more trouble. Having Flannagan and Cissokho as our wing-backs limited our chances going forward. They are young and promising players who have potential, but they are not the best going forward. Still, can’t fault them. Defensively Flannagan was okay I thought. Cissokho (and Toure) were poor (Especially the latter, who is usually more reliable and solid at the back).
Judging on some comments I’ve read on social media after the game, people are criticizing the 5-3-2 / 3-5-2 tactics (depending on how you interpret the squad, I personally see it as a 3-5-2) and the midfield trio of Gerrard, Lucas for not doing much. The reason why I believe Brendan Rodgers has opted to play with this squad is because of our squad situation, it suited the players we have best. Keeping things tight in the middle while having two attacking outlets via the wing-backs, who of course go back to support the defence when we don’t have possession (Didn’t happen much today, thanks to Cissokho’s impotence). This formation served us well since BR introduced it several weeks ago, so perhaps his rationale was to maintain consistency and not try to chop things up and change things for one game. However, in such a system, I think the midfield triangle should have done more to push the opposition and to retain the ball. We were not chasing shadows today, the problem is that we were not actually chasing. Blame it on Henderson’s lack of experience as a player, Lucas’ being slowish in comparison to Arsenal’s pacey attacking midfielders or Gerrard’s aging and tired legs, whatever the reasons may be, it did not work today. Credit to Arsenal for pushing us enough.
Now, something I’ve noticed from Liverpool fans is the sense of frustration and anger at the game, the tactics, the result and the individual performance of some players, but I think it is easy to forget that a couple of months ago we would have been more than happy if we were told that come November we would be going into this game with Arsenal with a realistic chance of going top of the league with a win. Let’s enjoy this season with its ups and downs, and hope that we finish in the top four (I’d personally be ecstatic with a top four finish :))