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League leaders Arsenal played a superb game, controlled the midfield and took their chances when presented to them. Wojciech Szczesny had an immense game in goal. Liverpool, on the other hand, looked weak in possession, and the current SAS could not do the job.
Luis Suarez, in particular, had a bad night. Admittedly, he hit a great shot from outside the 6-yard box that took a slight deflection on the way to hitting the post; but his greatest sin was missing that sitter close to the end, when Liverpool would still have had a good 4 or 5 minutes to get an equaliser. Philippe Coutinho’s through pass sent him away, but instead of either finding the bottom corner or Daniel Sturridge in space for a tap-in, he sent his curling effect wide. Sturridge, out of frustration with the lack of chances during the whole game, was also poor throughout. SAS did not deliver tonight, of all nights, when what was at stake was a hold on the top spot.
When the team-sheet was released, the sight of Jon Flanagan and Aly Cissokho on the flanks was really worrying, and it showed. Flanagan did get forward a couple of times to good effect, but was weak at the back and did not cover his centre-backs well for the Santi Cazorla’s first goal. And about that goal first, if it was Liverpool instead, the initial header would have struck the bar on its way out. Anyway, Cissokho was appalling at left-back. His one dimensional attacking play showed as he could not get past Bacary Sagna, while he was burned by Sagna’s pace for Arsenal’s first. If Rodgers does not have either Glen Johnson or Jose Enrique fit, he should not play this 3-5-2 formation, which in essence, is heavily reliant on wing-backs.
Steven Gerrard had such a poor game, Lucas Leiva not far behind. This game was always going to be about the midfield battle. How Mikel Arteta and Aaron Ramsey would cope with the deep-lying SAS, or how Gerrard and Lucas (along with Jordan Henderson) would deal with Mesut Ozil and Cazorla. As Arteta and Ramsey successfully marshalled the space Suarez and Sturrdige would work to their best in, Ozil and Cazorla (along with Tomas Rosicky) got the better of Liverpool’s duo in midfield. Time and time again the trio of Arsenal attacking midfielders got behind the midfield and face on with Liverpool’s backtracking defence. Ramsey’s sensational goal was due to the lack of proper cover in midfield. Gerrard really picked the wrong time to have such a poor game.
Positives & Fulham Lookahead
The return of Coutinho to the side at half-time was there to see. His touch on the ball, his vision to find Sturridge and Suarez in the channels, his presence was missed from the start. His return to the side will prove to be a big boost for Liverpool in their attempts to bounce back from this defeat. Henderson continued his fine form, even though he missed a couple of good chances, with his harassing of Arsenal’s midfielders the only good thing to come out of the midfield battle for the Reds.
Liverpool and Brendan Rodgers really need…
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