Liverpool away is never easy, and last night’s encounter with the Reds proved this once more. Arsenal did not start badly, as we so often do against our main competitors, but the boys were 1-0 behind in no time and after that it was an uphill battle all day long. We lacked intelligence and patience in midfield and there was no link up with our isolated attackers. Some will say we played the wrong attackers, but it does not matter who we play upfront if we do not have the ingenuity and skillset of Ozil and/or Santi on the pitch. The first half we did not look any better than Swansea or Bournemouth playing at Anfield, which of course is not good enough for Arsenal. They scored a second, very well-worked goal and the game seemed over.
The second half saw us not only take the initiative again but play with more structure and intelligence too. The main reason for this is dropping the Ox deep to be the B2B, Xhaka playing deeper than all midfielders and Iwobi – our best youngster by a mile – to play in the hole. What a difference that made. Alexis added energy on the left and produced the assist from which Welbeck scored a Bergkampesque-superb, goal. We had some good chances in the second half for a deserved second goal, but it was not to be. A few months ago we WOULD have scored the equaliser and possibly more, but our belief has suffered some major blows since then. Pool broke up play and then played a quick and well-worked counter-attack to score their third in extra time. Wenger needs to build further on our second half ‘draw’ performance for our next games.
- Danny is Well-back. He lasted well into the second half and scored a very fine goal. Fingers crossed he can get fitter and fitter going forward.
- Coq and Xhaka combo does not work. One of them is the deeper midfielder and they both need to play with a box to box player next to them. The Xhaka-Ox combo in the second half was promising.
- Ox is no Ozil but Iwobi could become one. The difference is that, at the highest level, Iwobi keeps his head up and the Ox doesn’t.
- We need a new left back. I love Nacho and Gibbs, but we need to improve on both of them this summer. Our left side of the defence is time and again the area that gets penetrated and goals are produced from. Nacho’s awareness of the danger around him seemed non-existent yesterday, with devastating consequences.
- Bellerin is going through a rough patch. As always he got himself in dangerous positions from which we could and should have hurt Pool. But his first touch and final ball often let him down badly, and it cost us. He is also not at his best defensively at the moment.
- Theo is not a super-sub. His impact on the game when he came on was once again unimpressive, to say the least. Can we really carry a player who can only be launched into space but has very limited capability to make space for himself and others? No.
- Set-piece delivery and crosses into the box are a shambles at the moment. When we finally saw a perfect cross into the box, it was small Perez at the end of it rather than Giroud, so it went begging. Need to improve on this pronto.
- Despite the negativity in most of the above mentioned observations, I still saw enough in the second half to believe we WILL give Bayern a decent game on Tuesday. The deficit we need to overcome is of course too big, but we can still take the game to them and show what we are made of. With Ozil, Alexis, Welbeck/Giroud and Perez in attack, we can hurt them. Key is to have more power and ingenuity in midfield, so a return of Ozil and hopefully Rambo is required (with Xhaka our deep DM).