Match review: Arsenal 1- 1 Liverpool

Posted by lachesis on December 22, 2008, 06:07:58 PM


I prepared this piece in response to reading a few things from Barney in the feedback forum, saying that he wanted to get a few match reviews to rival the success of the Spyin' Kops. I thought I'd give it a go and see what came of it. The specific quotes were:

Again, if we had a proper level-headed match-review thread after each game, within a day or two, suitable for the Opinion Forum, a la Spyin' Kop, we could lock those post-game reaction threads there and then, same as the pre-game and in-game threads.

If any users feel the urge to spend a little time on some proper match reviews...

Be good to get a collection of decent match reviews, to rival the success of the Spyin' Kop's.

I've been asked to post it in here and start a bit of discussion, so here it is:

We managed to stretch our lead over Chelsea (however short lived it may be), to two points after a 1-1 draw at the Emirates yesterday.

Coming up to Chirstmas day, that means a worse case scenario of a point behind the league leaders, and a best case of remaining where we are.

Apart from the champions league game at Anfield last season, that now means four of the last five games we have met Arsenal have ended in 1-1 draws.

The game started off with both teams labouring to create real chances. After an early ball up to Keane, he managed to control and lay into the path of Gerrard who tested Almunia with a rasping drive from 25 yards. The Arsenal keeper smartly got down and held onto it well.

We kept our shape well in the first half and Arsenal started to resort to longer passes to try and force something. Likewise we took a tactical long diaganol ball out to Kuyt as an outlet. Clichys status as a top full back took a battering in this game. Time and again, he was found wanting in a defensive sense, and was lucky he has pace enough to recover from most of his errors.

Indeed it was Clichys poor positioning which led to Gerrards chance, as he was playing Keane onside.

A ball out to Sagna led to Arsenals first chance. A decent ball from the right found the flicked header of Adebayor and Reina had to gather quickly.

Lucas, making a start alongside Alonso, after his impressive display with Plessis last season at this ground, took a bit of time to get into his stride. He grew in stature as the match went on.

A long ball from Nasri found Van Persie who was played onside by Carragher, and in one fluid moment, brought the ball down on his chest and moved it to the right side before unleashing a fierce drive past Pepe Reina.

Carragher, so often to many people, that high pitched voice with the shout of 'Get out' that can be heard by dogs in the L4 area seemed to misjudge this one. Not that anyone can really hold it against him after the service and dedication he has shown to our cause. After Agger stepped up to play Adebayor offside, Van Persie began to make a run between the two centre backs.

However, I take into consideration the lack of playing time this season of Carragher/Agger and also think Jamie may have been a bit wary of being caught by Van Persies pace and well timed run. He was only fractions away from actually getting  a boot on it to deflect it away anyway.

It was a sense of deja vu for most of us, feeling that although we had played well, we hadn't had any sort of penetration, neither had Arsenal to be fair which is why chances were at a premium in the first half.

In the first half, we had looked again for the long diaganol ball for Kuyt to win the physical battle with the Arsenal left back. This had worked to some effect, and the wayward clearances seemed to cause trouble for Gallas and Djourou.

Agger punted the ball up, and Keane made clinical use of the hectare of space between Djourou and Gallas, and for a guy who can't be high on confidence took the ball on the rising half volley and lashed it past Almunia from twelve yards.

It was real schoolboy stuff from Arsenal, and given their patchy home form, we began to sense blood. Kuyt, on the right hand side fired over a low cross, which Gerrard couldn't quite divert goalwards. It was unlucky and one criticism is the pace at which Kuyt sent it over; having said this Gerrard got enough of his foot on the ball to have scored. And then Kuyt trying to take matters into his own hands, found himself free again twenty five yards from goal and sent a raking drive across Almunia who managed to turn it round his post.

Many of us take great satisfaction that the goal silenced the repititive and boring 'hoof' chants. At the Emirates these days, unless you've had a good booing session, you haven't been to an Arsenal game. They started as soon as Keane became involved in the play, and then was unfairly booked for a challenge which saw him get the ball and then sweep Clichy off his feet.

These then morphed into idiotic 'hoof' chants, even after their goal came from a long 40 yard Nasri ball, and culminated back into boos after Adebayor received his first yellow of the afternoon on 38 minutes. Of course, we only have to look at the treatment of Lucas or vocal thought on the subs at Anfield to keep a sense of perspective about these things, but this was a whole new era of booing, ushered in by a choir of 50 odd thousand.

The half ended with an injury to Fabregas after a challenge with Alonso. Both teams in the first half had possession and seemed content to let the other have the ball and not play through them. Both teams let one long ball into their centres cause more damage than they probably should have. From our perspective, I thought some of our movement and passing was great, some of the quick one touch football was in stark contrast to the ball that led to Keanes goal. One stat Rafa would have probably been working on was the offside one. From memory it stood at 1 in our favour which suggested we needed to look to get in behind Arsenal more.

Arsenal needed a reshuffle after the break due to the injury, and brought Diaby on. This also meant a slight change in the positioning of certain players. Denilson moved inside to form a central pairing with Song, and Diaby and Nasri operated on the flanks.

Without their captain, Arsenal seemed to wilt and we enjoyed most of the play up util the 60th minute. Arsenal were unable to get anywhere near us for this period of the game and we really should have made more of our domination at this point. Within a few minutes of the restart the pressure was all around the Arsenal box and Lucas had a snapshot saved by Almunia.

In the 62nd minute Adebayor was dismissed for a second bookable offence. He went into a challenge with Arbeloa with a high foot and studs outstretched and as he spun, used his elbow to leverage Arbeloa away and to the floor. Howard Webb had no doubts and issued the second yellow card to a wry smile from Adebyaor and purple rage from Wenger on the touchline.

As red cards do, this galvanised the Arsenal team and they rallied to press and hassle us, and to their credit did it very well. After this we were unable to take any sort of signifcant grip on the game. We took off Riera on the seventy minute mark who had a low key game by the standards and expectations earlier performances had set. On came Babel, the hero in last years Champions League game.

His introduction didn't have the required effect however and he really struggled to make any sort of impact in the game at all. In the 81st minute, Keane after having a decent game in the one striker role was withdrew for Nabil El Zhar.

We reshaped with El Zhar going on the right and Kuyt playing up front on his own for about ten minutes. The last throw of the dice was bringing young frenchman N'Gog on for the impressive Lucas at the 88 minute mark, and then playing a more traditional 4-4-2.

As time ebbed away, Wenger brought on Eboue for Nasri in the 91st minute to eat up a few more seconds for ten man arsenal, and as the final whistle went Liverpool fans were left again with a draw that earlier in the seaosn had been converted to a win.

Insua had a very good game defensively and after settling down and gaining some confidence even took the fight to Sagna and supported the attack himself. It makes the outlay on Dossena seem even more baffling. Lucas, after a nervy start moved the ball well and quickly and kept things ticking over. If he is to move on though, he needs to show he can be a driving force in these type of games, and push a little harder offensively. Keane, with question marks still over him, pulled a great performance out of the hat, got a goal and really was a thorn in the side for Arsenal all day.

Arsenal will be happy with the draw after going down to ten men, and losing their captain but further questions will be asked of this squad and although this grants them a reprieve of effectively being out of the title race, the writing looks on the wall already.

Games like this, against teams like Arsenal are deemed acceptable results in 90% of cases; however, on a recent run of draws (most at home), there is frustration in knowing that we are putting more and more pressure on ourselves which we are not used to.

However, if a bad Christmas for Liverpol these days is being a point off the top of the league, then it is indeed massive progress. We, as fans must be careful not to move the goalposts, United have games in hand and our overall objective of this season was to again close the gap between United and ourselves and Chelsea and if possible mount a serious contest for the league title.

Midpoint of the season, we can safely say we are on course to do this, but we cannot change the aim of this season to now winning the thing. Chelsea and United have stronger squads and have dealt with this pressure already. Rafa's plans and aims may not be moving as swiftly as a season on football manager or Fifa but the progress is there, we cannot make him the fall guy if we miss out on the title by a couple of points, but instead applaud the massive steps Liverpool football club has taken in becoming a domestic force in the title race again.

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