Updated: Nov 11, 2018
Arsenal 1-1 Liverpool
It was a case of watching behind the sofa as Liverpool arrived at The Emirates for the late K.O on Saturday evening . As most of the country got ready for firework displays and parties the Arsenal backline got ready to face the fireworks that Liverpool bring to the show with all that attacking power, if Mane won’t get you Salah will etc..!!
Is that a lack of confidence in me of this Arsenal side? Or just the harsh reality that despite this long run going unbeaten the Gunners have failed to inspire in most first halves so far this season and have contrived to give away countless chances to the opposition, surely Liverpool wouldn’t be so wasteful.
The team news was positive as Bellerin made the startling line up along with Kolasinac meaning Arsenal had two full-backs that were actual full-backs, vital for this ‘Emery-ball’ system to work. Mykitaryan came in for Iwobi with Ozil given the licence to roam as a number 10, whilst Torriera and Xhaka were tasked to act as the pivot in midfield. Unfortunately Sokratis wasn’t deemed fit enough to start so Mustafi contiuned alongside Holding, Leno keeping Cech out of the side in goal.
Arsenal: Leno, Bellerin, Holding, Mustafi, Kolasinac, Torriera, Xhaka, Mykitaryan, Ozil, Aubameyang & Lacazette
Despite the potential horror show that this game was billed by fans and quite frankly, me, I was quite pleasantly surprised by the Arsenal start. Gone was the ponderous slow build up and half hearted pressing of previous matches, this Arsenal team had clearly been sent out to eliminate the Liverpool launch pad that sees them over power teams in the first 20 mins. Arsenal looked to press and keep possession with direct passing and movement and that seemed to shock Liverpool.
The scousers started the match wearing some sort of nasty kit that Dino Flintstone might have been proud of and the thought of the matching shell suit in the club shop sent a shudder down my spine...
The early exchanges were very open, both sides looking threatening. Ozil was up for it playing in his favourite role and space was being found by Arsenal, particularly down the Liverpool right with Kolasinac and Aubameyang looking dangerous despite getting called offside a few times, (better timing and both would have been in on goal twice). Lacazette went close and there was a really cool 'training ground corner' which nearly came off involving Xhaka followed by an Ozil dummy leading to an Aubameyang chance. Then on 16 minutes Arsenal's first clear cut chance, Mkhitaryan wide open in the box, flicking his header just wide, cleared out by Allison. All very positive, Arsenal creating real chances against a supposed 'title contender'! ..
At the other end Liverpool had a goal chalked off, which seemed quite clear to me until seeing replays later, second phase and all that, meaning to the letter of the law Mane tapping in after Firmino had hit the post was not offside. Got away with one there. Liverpool continued to look dangerous and only smart saves from Leno kept the score 0-0 and Arsenal could have taken the lead if it weren't for poor positioning and timing of runs particularly from Mykhitaryan, a player that has never quite lived up to expectation. The guy just reminds me of a Meerkat! He might not score goals but he can definitely save us money on our home insurance.
Fabinho for Liverpool was breaking up play (just fouling constantly), something Man City like to do to stop oppositions momentum, it's a ploy creeping into the English game as teams try and work out how to mimic Pep G. Is it cheating? well yes in my book, but the refs can easily snuff it out if they produce yellow cards earlier!
As halftime approached Leno had a 'moment, trying to come for a cross and missing, Van Dijk heading on to the post, agonising for the Dutchman, "phewy" for the German, and a sweaty emoji for the fans. It wouldn't be the last time our new number one would fall foul of the goalkeeping dilemma of 'when to punch' v when to 'try and catch!'.
Half-time 0-0 - just about fair.
Arsenal so far this season have come out in the second halves of games and treated fans to some dominant displays, and they continued in that vein, only being thwarted by constant fouling, Fabinho finely seeing a yellow. So it came as no surprise to me after playing so well that Arsenal would concede first. (Sorry, I'm just built like that).
On 61 minutes Leno went for one of those crosses he used to punch earlier in the season, but this time elected to try and catch it. Failing to do so, the result was 'a palm' off Holding and into the path of Milner. It seemed to take an age for Liverpool veteran to get to the ball but in those brief seconds of breath holding the feeling was one of accepting the inevitable - 0-1 Liverpool. What followed was ten minutes of shaky play, Liverpool enthused with their lead and dominant, Arsenal trying not to go 2-0 down.
Unai looked to changes things and seize some momentum back - Iwobi coming on for Mkhitaryan and Ramsey on for Aubameyang. What this did was give Liverpool something else to think about, Iwobi tricks, Ramsey playing where he wants could crop anywhere. With confidence that any danger from counters could be snuffed out by Lucas (gold star for this lad BTW), the team pressed hard for an equaliser. Welbeck came on for Kolasinac then just as the game was ebbing away, on 83 mins Lacazette fashioned the goal most Arsenal fans thought might never come. Assisted by a good pass from Iwobi, the Frenchman twisted away from goal then turned back on himself to curl a shot into the far corner - a real piece of class from Lacazette. 1-1
Could Arsenal get a winner?
Well nearly, a bit of composure from Bellerin late on might have seen a better outcome, however when presented with the chance our marauding Spaniard chose to swipe with his left rather than try use the time available to be more measured with his right.
And that was that!. 1-1, and I have to say what a great advert for the Premiership it was too. Heavy weight attacking sides really going for it, showing that at this stage of the season only a few points separate these sides. As an Arsenal fan that's a great place to be. #Arsenewho?
Positives: The fast start and Torreira in midfield, Holding in defence.
Negatives: If I'm being harsh, not converting good early chances.
Leno: Got caught out a couple of times; to punch or to catch, that is the question. 7/10
Bellerin: Great going forward and at the back, a threat all day. 8/10
Holding: Calm and composed. 8/10
Mustafi: One of his less traumatic matches. 6/10
Kolasinac: Did ok down the left. 6/10
Torriera: Was just everywhere. MOM 9/10
Xhaka: Beginning to see signs of improvement now the little guy is playing with him. 7/10
Mykitaryan: Marmite player. Not doing enough for me. 5/10
Ozil: Best I've seen him play against a top side for a while. 7/10
Aubameyang: Huffed and puffed but blew nothing down. 6/10
Lacazette: Worked tirelessly and got his reward with a great finish. 8/10
Iwobi: Caused problems with that 'chaotic feet' stylee and got an assist. 8/10
Welbeck: Ran around al lot. 6/10
Ramsey: Tried to be Roy of the Rovers, didn't quite do it. 6/10
Next up Sporting Lisbon and a chance to go through to the next stages of the Europa League. Yes please Unai!