A Straight Shootin' View on Liverpool 4-0 Arsenal - 27-08-2017
What a game, as a Liverpool fan especially, but even the neutrals had to enjoy this one. I said to a friend of mine as the match started, that 'this should be fun' and that we (Liverpool) need a fast start, but also that there should be goals in it, glad I was right on the goals note!
Here are my thoughts on the match and a couple of other issues around the match & result.
In the first 20 minutes Arsenal were getting sliced open at will and could easily have been 2 or 3 but we still needed to be aware as Welbeck was troubling Lovren a bit, resulting in a yellow card which was a bit of a warning. At one point I did think to myself (and asked a couple of friends), 'How many times did Gary Neville use the word 'pathetic' in description of Arsenal's defending in the 1st 15 minutes on Sky Sports commentary?' Another thing I noticed, was that the referee seemed oddly willing to hand out cards for nothing though, especially Welbeck on Moreno which wasn't worth a yellow card at all, but that ended up as a mere footnote in this game, rather than a main talking point. The goal from Firmino that Arsenal conceded from open play, was like us (Liverpool) and the goals we concede from set pieces so often, a free header from a player ghosting in with a late run.
At this moment i'll quote a good friend of mine who said about his beloved Arsenal, 'We have been p*ss poor. Defensively we are a disgrace. No balance in midfield, Ozil, Ramsey and Xhaka are not up to it, We get exposed far too often and now it's 2-0, Wenger hasn't got a clue what he is doing' – Fair points as Arsenal started with a back 3 against a Liverpool side known for not only a fluid attack, but a lightning quick counter attack, which was shown in spades as this match played out. The other 2 points i'll reference again later about players not being up for it and Wenger not knowing what he's doing as this feeds back into a bigger issue, so stay locked for that.
When we (Liverpool) went 2-0 up, I don't think anyone could argue not only that it was coming, but that it was throughly deserved and even though people know about us on the counter attack, stopping it is a different matter altogether. In my view as a centre back for Southern Amateur League side Ibis Eagles AFC, Bellerin should have cleaned Salah's clock and did everything in his power to stop the counter, take the punishment (whether yellow or red card), but stop the goal.
Once again a friend of mine hit the nail on the head by saying about our counter attack 'Well it can be stopped if you tactically adapt to the opposition' and I definitely believe this is true as a statement. If you're playing against a side with a lightning quick counter attack, the 2nd goal Arsenal conceded showed exactly how you DON'T defend against it. Bellerin being the last man back was bad enough, but the fact he was inside the Liverpool half was legalized insanity, especially as he got left 1 on 1 with a man like Mo Salah, who to quote legendary WWE commentator Jim Ross 'Isn't quick, he's sudden', you could tell what was about to happen & Salah took a chance after fluffing his lines earlier in the match.
One thing that filled me with optimism for the season as a Liverpool supporter is that as irresistible as we're at that point going forward, we had really worked hard coming back, defending in packs and crowding guys out, especially Sanchez & Welbeck who basically had their supply lines cut and as I've said on Pitch Talk shows and videos 'starve a striker of service and he can't hurt you'.
Once again my Arsenal supporting friend was critical of Wenger, but of the players too as he said at this point, 'Wenger once again making the same old mistakes, nothing has changed at Arsenal, poor defensively, same old tippy tappy passes' and probably the most telling quote at 2-0 down was 'We look out of our depth. Personally in regards to Arsenal & their woeful first half, I think it's the players and Gary Neville was spot on in terms of laziness of players, not tracking runs etc, Xhaka trying to play back heels to Cech under pressure with a Liverpool player breathing down his neck, that isn't Wenger's fault, that's just lazy players. My friend did reply by saying 'But all of this happened last season, nothing has been done to address these flaws, this is beyond shocking from Arsenal but we have about 10-15 games like this a season'.
As much as I do agree with the sentiments expressed above, I feel that the Arsenal board extended Wenger's contract, so that for me is where the vitriol needs to be aimed. The Arsenal board (who've had a bit of bad press recently via Stan Kroenke) seem to just sign one big money player a year, just to temporarily satiate a fickle area of their clubs fan base (Ozil, Sanchez & Lacazette to name 3 examples), when just like us, Arsenal have defensive issues that are screwing them over more often than not and to coin another phrase, every great team is built on a solid defense.
'Utter naivety & being caught over and over again on the counter' was a problem my friend kept seeing during this match and I agreed, but felt that leaving no one else back against a counter attack as rapid as ours is insanity, bur again, that isn't Wenger's fault, those players on the pitch should be aware and should have learned from the first half.
An interesting roll of the dice came from Arsene Wenger in the form of taking Alexis Sanchez & Oxlade-Chamberlain off (my Arsenal supporting friend wasn't happy about Sanchez coming off) and I was similarly perplexed. I could understand Lacazette & Giroud coming on & Oxlade-Chamberlain off, but Sanchez coming off too was odd when chasing a game, as Sanchez had nothing to feed on at all. I thought Arsenal would offer more threat with Sanchez on if he gets service, and Ozil is a supply line, so could see why he wasn't taken off, plus he's another big money player, it was a shame (if you support Arsenal) that his performance was abysmal...
Martin Tyler at one point said on commentary what I said to my friend half an hour before, about players taking individual responsibility and somewhat ironically, Holding did to Henderson, what Bellerin should have done on Liverpool's third goal, cynical challenge, but stop the attack, but in terms of decision making during the match overall, it was too little too late.
Our 4th goal, to quote legendary wrestling manager Jim Cornette was 'slicker than whale sh*t in an ice flow' & Salah's ball was begging for Sturridge to bury it (which he did as he's deadly when he's fit) and also at that point I made mention of the fact that Roberto Firmino was putting in a lot of defensive work
Final thoughts on the match - Big game, big win for us today, all around brilliant punishing a woeful Arsenal side, there are the obvious standout attacking performances, but Firmino tracking back all game, Moreno doing well and Emre Can running things was tremendous, all helped shut Arsenal out. Sanchez got no service and Welbeck looked lively initially, but again, the lack of service as the game went on stifled him too. Post match thoughts - I said to my friend that the media will make a lot of the Sanchez reactions, (after the goals and after he came off), Ozil will get it in the neck again, Cech was the only one who can say he really did anything, but the 10 in front of him let Arsene Wenger and him down with an utterly limp, lifeless performance. Thierry Henry for me, in the post match analysis on Sky Sports tried to give the players an easy excuse, by basically saying no wonder players want to leave after a match like that, but for me, players are the ones who go on the pitch and make the impact, so that's a moot point. You can't say; oh, things are going wrong, but I'm not going to give any effort to help change things' and still complain that you want to leave because things aren't moving forward. Jamie Carragher (who yes, is a hero of mine) was spot on (in my view) with his comments on a lack of ruthlessness at Arsenal, spreading from the board right down to the playing squad and Henry did have a good point piggy backing on that about everyone at that club, from the players, to Wenger, to the board, being in a comfort zone and everything being 'nice' at the club. To me, In regards to Arsenal if you look further than the repetitive (and in all honesty, utterly boring) Wenger out rhetoric that certain 'media outlets like to perpetuate, it's not hard to see what is really going on, but like in general life, most people are focused on the wrong thing, not saying Wenger isn't at least partially responsible, but there are bigger forces at work. The stagnation and/or decline of a club is never down to just one person, it's always a combination of factors & people. In regards to my beloved Redmen Liverpool, we looked impressive against an abject and abysmal Arsenal and our only real worry throughout the match was Lloris Karius on the ball, but fortunately, he literally had nothing else to do, but going into the international break after 3 games, things are good, but we need to tighten up at the back as better sides could really expose us at the back, especially on set pieces.
I'm Straight Shootin' LJA...And that's my opinion!!!