Arsenal v Liverpool: A big old Mailbox of fun

Date published: Sunday 4th November 2018 10:57 - Sarah Winterburn

A proper good game of football prompted a proper good Mailbox. Happy with that. Now mail us at theeditor@football365.com

 

Arsenal v Liverpool conclusions aplenty
What a match. As a Liverpool fan, it was the biggest challenge that we have faced this season, didn’t expect it at all. Napoli trampled us but we were honestly dreadful that game. Prior to this game I was scoffing to my dad about how Arsenal’s unbeaten record meant nothing – they had lost to Chelsea & Man City before – and how their team has no world-class players bar Aubemayang and Ozil (no hate, I admit I don’t watch them enough). Biggest reason was that the Arsenal that I remember are big game chokers – memories of last few seasons of shambolic defending coupled with our flowing front three bring tears to the eye.

Wow was I in a for a (un)pleasant surprise. Xhaka especially, who I regularly criticize as the DM that can’t defend (he does score the occasional worldie), was dissecting our midfield AND defense with splitting long range passes and some really good defending. Watching TAA get targeted on that right side defense made me quiver in fear, and every time Arsenal attacked I felt it would end in a decent chance; they simply hadn’t been scoring. Liverpool had the better chances but considering all things, nil nil at half time was a very fair result. Scoring against the run of play, had the Mane goal counted, and ceding possession to a dominant home side invites pressure that Klopp and Liverpool never seem to cope well with, albeit slightly better this season.

Cue Milner’s goal in the second half, which made Arsenal all the more hungry. I knew we were in for a long 30 mins. Unai Emery was seemingly rara-ing the stadium at every camera close-up, and we were being bombarded non stop. (Side note: seeing Emery repeatedly waving his arms to psych the fans made me understand why rival fans can hate Klopp’s touchline theatrics. I understand that it is genuine but seems a bit much.)

When Lacazette’s goal came, and what a goal it was, I was just hoping for a draw. Blew a huge sigh of relief with the full time whistle, great game. Arsenal are a team, hope they take some points off the other big uns too. The manager is special, with a clear blueprint on how to attack and it was scarily effective against us.

P.S. Van dijk is a player. That man can do no wrong. TAA is a hot defensive mess but will be given time. Fabinho showed us why Hendo is still needed (for now) – crisp sound passing and an overall safer option. Love me a Wijnaldum and Milner and Robbo, those guys give everything to the cause.
Jingwei, Singapore (please publish this I took a whole 15 mins to write this)


…1) A well fought hard earned point. I think F365 are being a little too harsh on Liverpool and this was an away game at one of the in-form teams in the league. While the comparison between City-Spurs is valid to an extent, City did drop points at Wolves while Spurs just won there last night. Like Klopp wants, Liverpool should not be looking at the results of every other team in the league and instead focus on their own.

2) That said, I am concerned about our form in the games against the Big Six. Klopp owned these types of fixtures in the past mainly due to the gegenpressing and attacking intent. This season, Klopp has been much more reserved. The midfield three offers solidity and little else and it is in games like these that we really miss AOC. His dynamism and link up play would have surely been more useful while retaining the defensive shape, something we do not get with Shaq.

3) VVD was immense and is surely the best center-back in the league. He was magnificent throughout and a goal would have been the icing on the cake.

4) While F365 did correctly mention the change in moving Milner out wide to support TAA, the main reason for that was to actually help Fabinho who was off pace throughout. By shifting to a 4-2-3-1 in the second half, Klopp was able to provide support to TAA while allowing Fabinho to play in his best position. Unfortunately, the Brazilian did not have his best game and will surely drop to the bench in midweek.

5) The knock on effect of moving to a 4-2-3-1 was that it moved Firmino deeper which makes him even less effective. While all eyes are on Salah and his form, our ‘engine’ is struggling to replicate his form of last year. Maybe its fatigue or maybe its the change in position, but Bobby needs to up his game if we are to have any chance of progressing this season.

6) Our best ever start in the Premier League and top of the table for at least 24 hours. But yet, this does not feel like that this team has clicked as yet. It does feel like we are one level behind City, but remember that it took us till November last year to really find form.

Kloppo has some sort of long-term strategy in mind which would explain our reserved pressing and frequent squad rotations. While the development of a new formation in the 4-2-3-1 could be extremely suited to most of our attacking players bar Bobby. and offers another dimension against the lower teams.

A genuine title challenge, FA Cup run and knockout stages of Champions League would constitute progress for this squad.
Sid, LFC

 

…I do get where Matt Stead is coming from with his 16 Conclusions but also think the Man City result needs context relative to this one. Man City beat Spurs and it was followed by an article declaring the end of an era for Tottenham. All the talk with respect to Arsenal is about their resurgence. I’m not sure holding up these two results as the difference between the teams is right. I suspect Man City will win the league, but it won’t be because they turned up to play Spurs and were marginally less awful than their hosts on the day and scraped a win. Obviously if they win the league by two points then perhaps I’ll stand corrected.

The game was brilliant though and very good to watch. Emery has played us twice and both times he targeted one of our full backs to great effect. Thankfully TAA is no Moreno but nevertheless he didn’t have his finest day. I sympathised in the first half because I doubt any full back in the league would cope well handling Auba and Kolasinac single handedly.

Fabinho looked awful today. He put on a bad impression of Emre Can without the distracting shiny head of hair. I understand now why he’s played so little this season. His problems didn’t look systematic; he just couldn’t handle the press and didn’t seem to have a lot of sense of where his team was. I think after we scored he should have been replaced with Shaqiri. Firmino could have dropped deeper and we could have had a solid four in the middle which retained the ball better.

The disallowed Mane goal was frustrating. In general I was annoyed that Michael Oliver was the fourth official. He’s the best English referee at the moment, why waste him on the side? Marriner seemed unable to blow the whistle for quite a few fouls made by Arsenal players and I honestly can’t remember the last time I felt a referee was so inconsistent on small fouls that it merited mention.

John Terry made a lot of goal line clearances because when it all went wrong he stuck himself there to try and stop a goal. It often worked. I really wish someone had done that when Alisson got himself into a pickle.

Our away kit is so sexy. Is there a better away strip in the league this season?
Minty, LFC

 

…1. Although the overall sentiment that City pulled ahead of Liverpool this week is entirely valid (and I personally agree), it is odd to express the concept as in 16 Conclusions, without acknowledging that Liverpool matched City’s result away at Spurs. It was City’s earlier win away at Arsenal that marks the difference.

2. I’m not sure Conclusion #2 – that this result proves a real difference has been proven between Emery’s Arsenal vs Wenger’s Arsenal – is as valid, given that score draws between Arsenal and Liverpool at the Emirates were an entirely typical occurrence under Wenger. Again, I personally think they have probably evolved and improved, but this result (via a late equalizer) did not prove it.

3. By the book, both instances of goalkeepers clattering into attackers after their shots were off would be penalties, as mentioned in Conclusion #5, but in practice, isn’t Marriner’s view of giving the goalkeepers the benefit of the doubt entirely consistent with modern refereeing in the Premier League? We often see keepers essentially punch players in the head when missing/grazing the ball. That said, in fairness, our group’s consensus that both would have been given as penalties in the Champions/Europa League.
Oliver Dziggel, Geneva Switzerland

 

…- That was a great match of football, first and foremost. Perhaps not the most expansive match that we’re used to from these two teams in the past but the improvements in both team’s defenses are obvious (despite what you may hear about Arsenal’s defense this season, they’ve definitely improved).

– In fact, it feels really good as an Arsenal fan approaching games with other big five teams knowing we have a game plan. No longer does it feel that the players have just been sent out to play without instruction. The team looked like they had obviously been coached how to attack, how to defend and how to manage transitions between phases. Pundits can make whatever conclusions they want about Arsenal being lucky so far but the evidence of the eyes doesn’t lie. Yes players still make mistakes and plans are not really being executed fully. But the underlying of a plan is always obvious.

– It was good to see Arsenal start the first half well for once. Other than a couple of Liverpool moments, Arsenal were well on top. With a bit of better finishing, they may well have been ahead at the break.

– Part of that was due to how unconvincing Allison looked. Not for the first time this season, his decision-making has looked dodgy. Lucky not to concede when spilling a straightforward cross right in the middle of the box. Mkhitaryan should also have punished his shocker in coming out for a cross and getting nowhere the ball.

– The commentary team could not stop hyping up VVD throughout the match but for me the standout defender of the match was Holding. Really kept Firmino and Salah in his pocket, both didn’t get a single sniff of the goal all game. A consistent run in the team is doing him wonders and he’s coming on leaps and bounds this season.

– Another player continuing his good start to the season is Iwobi. Took out all of Liverpool’s midfield and defenders with one splitting pass. He’s just so positive with the ball. Good to see him showing his talent again after stagnating last season.

– As an Arsenal fan, its great to see how brave Emery is with his subs when chasing the game. To take Kolasinac off and put Xhaka at left back against Salah certainly required some balls. Its good to see him not settling for draws for home and going for it. If this team has to compete for titles in coming seasons, they have to have the belief to go for the win against these teams.

– Downsides for Arsenal include Mkhitaryan, who was disappointing yet again. He didn’t necessarily have a bad game but he’s such a frustrating player to watch. His understanding looks completely off with the rest of the team. Time and again, this results in him either giving the ball away too cheaply or dawdling on the ball too long and letting the chance die.

– As for Liverpool, it was obvious they were happy with the point and that was most their play deserved. They have an amazing front three but this was the first time I saw them close up this season and their lack of creativity from the midfield is shocking. That front three will ensure they always remain a threat on the counter (as their goal showed) but they genuinely do not know how to create chances for that team once teams are sitting deep. Their best chances were all either on the counter or on mistakes by Arsenal on set pieces.

– Fabinho was a lucky boy not to see red. Another day, another ref and he would have seen red before the game was out for his cynical foul at the end there.

– One Liverpool player who would be glad to see the back of the game was TAA. I know he’s a young kid but he was genuinely abysmal. Both Aubameyang and Iwobi ran rings around him and he was constantly out of position the entire game. It was obvious Emery had instructed his team to target him as a weakness and all the chances Liverpool conceded came down their right side.

– Finally, my MOTM was none other than Torreira. Completely snuffed out Liverpool’s attacks and is eager to pass the ball forward early to initiate attacks. Outshone every single Liverpool and Arsenal midfielder. What a fantastic buy and has to be a contender for signing of the season surely.

All in all, a good point at home against Liverpool, especially as both teams had their chances to win at various points. Feels good not to be embarrassed against big teams for once. Let the Emery evolution continue!
Falooda in NY

 

Arsenal fans happy with Emery
Not bad ey, Paul Merson!?

It seems Arsenal aren’t as fragile as people claim. There’s a certain fragility to their defence, sure. Maybe Liverpool were unlucky to not get “that” goal. However, Arsenal created plenty of chances and it mimicked the typical Arsenal vs Liverpool games of recent years but showcased two improved defences that are definitely improving (Liverpool are far more improved I will admit) but for the majority of the game it was squeaky bum time for both sets of supporters.

I for one have relish this fixture each year, despite being on the losing side more often than not, because it’s a bloody brilliant showcase of attacking and majestic football. Today didn’t disappoint and I think a share of the spoils is a good result all round.
Mike AFC

 

…When Emery was appointed as Arsenal manager I was fairly underwhelmed and wrote in at length about why he was the wrong choice. After a few short weeks he has won me over and I am willing to admit I was completely wrong.

I know absolutely love the guy. How could you not when he is patrolling the sidelines kicking every ball and willing every player to be in the position he expects them to be.

I know we didn’t win today, and like all Arsenal fans I know we won’t be challenging for the title this season, but this isn’t what we after. We may scrape into the top 4 but even that is not what we were after. All we wanted was signs of improvement, and with Emery you are seeing that almost every game.

Add to that the meritocracy he has brought in (no more coasting from some of the players), the desire, the fight, the pressing, the fact we are no longer a soft touch, and the clear improvements made by all players (even Xhaka looked good today!) then what’s not to like.

On top of that, what a match. Liverpool played their part and I left left breathless at the end. Liverpool can feel hard-done-by with the disallowed goal for sure, but on the balance of play I think most people would agree that a draw was a fair result.

I wrote in earlier in the week about how staying off social media has made football almost fun again and Unai Emery seems to be doing the rest to bring me back into the light.
Adonis Stevenson, AFC

 

…Great game and I did something I haven’t done in years this evening. I spent the last 20 minutes kicking every ball, edge of my seat, dry mouth.

I thought we deserved the win but Liverpool also looked dangerous on the break.

Props to Holding and Mustafi who played well and to the Liverpool defense (especially Van Dijk who looks impassable at times).

Lovely way to spend a Saturday afternoon and after being held ransom by Wenger for years, it finally feels like we have our club back.
Stu (CL football looks promising) AFC Wrexham (double bracket because Wrexham are also TOTL)

 

Mails on the offside
What a great advert for Premier League football the Arsenal vs Liverpool game was.

One slight blip was the call for Sadio Mane’s goal, which was apparently wrongly disallowed. If the referee and linesman made the wrong call then Liverpool fans have every right to be frustrated.

However, what a ridiculous rule it is. When the ball is initially played over the top, Mustafi steps forward to play Mane offside. The onside Firmino beats the offside trap and plays the ball, and in the space of one second Mane is all of a sudden onside again. What is Mustafi, or any defender, meant to do? There’s no way he can justify playing Liverpool onside before the initial ball is played, and there’s no way he has the time to readjust when the ball bounces back off the bar and falls to Mane.

It’s an absurd rule, the ‘second phase’ of play in an offside scenario. The Premier League should scrap the complications; if you’re offside when the initial ball is played then you’re offside for the remainder of the move. Simple.
Carl, London

 

…Just a quick one on your note on the offside, I don’t think the issue was confusion over the phases of play; the linesman leaves his flag down for the first instance. I think the problem is that when Firmino takes the shot, the linesman is 10 yards behind the play.

Understandable given he’s trying to keep pace with high level athletes. How disruptive would VAR really be in that instance? Flag goes up, VAR refs check and confirm onside, goal is allowed. Took about 15 seconds to play it back and realise that the decision was wrong.

And if you were stopping the clock when the ball was out of play as well….
Dave, MUFC, Leeds

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