Arsenal 2 (Giroud 64, Walcott 67) – Liverpool 2 (Suarez 5, Henderson 60)
Man of the Match - Olivier Giroud (Arsenal)
It was a really strange night. The manner in which I watched the second half would sound bizarre to many, and you will be forgiven to think I had gone bonkers. In an attempt to hide the fact that I was watching football, so late in the night, rather than studying, I was forced to watch the second half, with the laptop completely concealed by a blanket. It sounds more simpler than it actually was.
The game, was exciting, without doubt, but Arsenal can consider it as another vital 2 points dropped. Thomas Vermaelen returned to the starting lineup, alongside Per Mertesacker, while in the midfield, the trio of Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla started. Free scoring pair Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott joined forces with Lukas Podolski up front.
There were a host of changes for Liverpool however, possibly a result of their humbling at Oldham. Martin Skrtel started on the bench, as veteran Jamie Carragher started alongside Daniel Agger. Sebastien Coates didn’t even make the subs. Jose Enrique returned from injury, but was named on the bench as well, with Andre Wisdom starting at right-back and Glen Johnson at left-back.
Joe Allen and Raheem Sterling were both benched, as Liverpool started with Lucas, Steven Gerrard, Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing in midfield, Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge leading the line for the Reds.
Arsenal quickly got into their stride, with some brisk passing and movement early on, but it was Liverpool who had the lead, with just 5 minutes gone, banking on some calamitous Arsenal defending.
Glen Johnson made most of a slip from Bacary Sagna, and a miscued clearance from Thomas Vermaelen, ended at the feet of Daniel Sturridge. The England international, however, was not able to score, as Szczesny blocked his shot. It fell right into the path of Jordan Henderson, who set up Luis Suarez. The Uruguyan deftly struck the ball home, to score his 17th goal of the season.
Arsenal, however, familiar with this situation, stuck to their task of attacking Liverpool, and they appeared bright throughout. Walcott immediately equalized for the Gunners, but Pepe Reina managed a diving save.
Liverpool, however, were being presented with open chances to double their lead, by some shambolic Arsenal defending. The zonal marking system was utterly exposed again, as Lukas Podolski had to make a clearance off the line, off an Agger header.
Walcott and Giroud came close in the second half, but Arsenal were dealt a blow, when Kieran Gibbs hobbled off, his replacement being the much criticized Andre Santos. Steven Gerrard was at hand to prevent Arsenal from scoring, after a quick attack, before Henderson missed when his chipped shot beat Szczesny and the net as well.
Arsenal started the second half, from where they had left the first, dominating proceedings, through some fine play between Wilshere, Cazorla, Walcott, Giroud and Podolski, but had little to break Liverpool’s disciplined rearguard.
But, it was Liverpool who scored again, as Jordan Henderson made mincemeat of Arsenal’s defenders to slot the second goal of the evening. This bought about some spark to the home side, as within minutes, matters were level.
First, Olivier Giroud headed in a Jack Wilshere in-swinging free kick from the right, after escaping the attentions of his marker, Daniel Agger. Moments later, it was 2-2, as Theo Walcott, received the ball from a deft Giroud touch, to shoot past a stranded Reina.
Arsenal upped the ante in the closing moments, with some wonderful attacking play, but were left frustrated. The biggest chance fell to Giroud, who failed to tap home the ball from close range, off a Lukas Podolski.
He was almost made to rue that miss, though. Andre Santos gifted the ball to Liverpool, and it took a reflex stop from Szczesny to deny Suarez from scoring the winner.
All in all, a treat for the neutrals, in what was a thoroughly absorbing encounter. There are plenty of positives, but the negatives go first. And, it is quite plain and simple. The defence needs some major restructuring, be it with personnel, or positioning, or training, or whatever.
Andre Santos is a big liability, and the quicker we manage to get a deputy left back, the better for the club. Kieran Gibbs is expected to be out for 3 weeks, and that is a major blow. The thought of Andre Santos having to face an Arjen Robben or Frank Ribery is quite shuddering.
Thomas Vermaelen seemed to be getting back to his aggressive best, but he was poor last night. He made a complete hash of clearing the ball, in the buildup to the first goal. Per Mertesacker made too many mistakes yesterday, lacked pace, and displayed some clear signs of mental fatigue. Bacary Sagna too had an average outing, and was partly responsible for the first goal.
Szczesny had a good game, making several stops, but yet managed to display some moments of madness. What on earth was he thinking, when he tried to hoodwink Sturridge, right in front of the goal. He could have been slaughtered for that!
Aaron Ramsey had a good game, and is now able to show his full range of qualities, playing in a less intense role, where he is ably supported by an ultra talented duo of Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere. The latter was again immense, and you have to wonder, if it is taking its toll on a player who has returned after a long term injury.
Giroud caused a lot of problems for Liverpool’s defence yesterday, and seems to be in good nick. He seems to be scoring the goals, that look harder to get, but he really needs some brushing up on his finishing skills. He should have won the game in the end.
Walcott just can’t seem to stop scoring right now, and seemed a potent threat to Liverpool all night. Podolski too gave Wisdom a lot of problems, and surely now seems to be getting a better hang of Arsenal’s style.
To sum it up, based on our attacking, it was a game, we really should have picked up 3 points from. Our defence has let us down time and time again this season, conceding sloppy goals, eventually ending up in the side losing valuable points. It is about time they get their act together, if Arsenal are to finish in the top 4.
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