Well that was a fun game to watch… until we gave our lead away for the third time and had to go to penalties.
Liverpool 5 – 5 Arsenal (lost 5-4 on penalties).
Eight Observations from a pulsating game full of promise:
- The starting line up was relatively strong. Four experienced defenders, a decent goallie, three dynamic and multi-skilled midfielders and a very mobile and technically talented attack. Mustafi had a moment he so wanted to prevent (I feel sorry for him) and we went behind before we could get settled into the game. However, the good thing was that going behind actually spurred further on the team: we won the midfield battle, pushed Pool into their own half and before we knew it were 3-1 up through fine goals by Torreira and Martinelli. Unfortunately, we presented them with a penalty just before the break and our two goal lead was reduced.
- We were leading so nobody had to be punished by Emery during the break and the same 11 turned up at the start of the second half. Mesut Ozil showed everyone that he is super fit and full of tricks and laser vision. It was a joy to watch him for 60+ minutes and he was THE creative midfielders on the pitch. His assist for our fourth goal was exquisite (and so was his pre-assist for Marti’s second), and having established once more a two-goal lead, it looked like the game would be ours. But Pool pulled two goals back in quick succession through our very bad defensive middle, which also was badly protected by our three midfielders, and we were equal again. So we needed more goals to win it and what did Emery do… yes he took Ozil off and put on the curly dribbler. Maybe it was pre-agreed and maybe Emery had plans to play Mesut on Saturday and wanted to keep him fit… Maybe.
- Not much later, Willock scored a superb – goal of the match – screamer that will have made the home crowd think of Stevie Gerrard: a long distance placed shot that was going in from the moment it left Joe’s right boot. So we were leading again and, with less than twenty minutes to go, we really could do with playing tighter in front of the defence and try and score on the counter. What does our coach do… he takes off Torreira and brings on the court jester, Ceballos. I guess the game really did not matter to Emery and that’s why he was happy to take off the man who could organise the protection of the defence better than anybody in the team. We conceded very late on and had to take penalties. We lost those and I think I will jump through the ceiling if an Arsenal goalkeeper ever saves a penalty again.
- The boys worked their socks off and did not deserve to lose that game on penalties. The game may not have mattered to Emery and many of us, but for the hard working boys we should have won that game and never have given away three(!) leads at Anfield. Top clubs dont do that.
- The defence, were we had the most experienced players of all areas, was very poor. Kola is not a defender and I found him also mediocre in attack; Bellerin really looks rusty and lacking of confidence in his own body/legs; Mustafi I love the guy but he is a chancer in defence and hard work alone will not cut it; and Robbo Holding really needs to play in the RCB role and get his match fitness back. As a unit… well they were not a unit but more Unai if you get my drift.
- In midfield we started off very well and won the battle against Pool. Torreira and Willock bossed proceedings and AMN got involved in a number of goals before scoring one himself. They supported our attack very well and all three got on the scoresheet so well done. But defensively it was a mess, especially in the second half. Our ‘D’ was left unprotected and Pool’s third and fourth goal were utterly avoidable by better defensive-midfield play. Why did they not sit back a bit more, especially when we scored our fourth goal: players or Emery’s tactics to blame? Guendouzi and Ceballos did not bring calm and organisation when we needed it from them.
- The attack was awesome. Imagine not using Pepe, Auba and Laca at all and still banging in 5 peaches of goals at Anfield! There was just so much movement in the team, and so much ability to keep the ball, pass it quickly and find space where there did not seem any. Ozil dazzled again, Saka is such a mature and clever player who has the directness and sharpness of Marc Overmars, and Martinelli…. what can I say about Martinelli? The man (of the Match) has it all: great speed and tenacity, great technical ability, great physicality, and such a GREAT eye for a goal. Being at the right place at the right time is what all great attackers somehow do. Martinelli is blessed with that gift. The club bought an absolute gem.
- Although I am critical about the way the final part of the game was managed, I must finish by saying that this was a fabulous game to watch, and we must compliment Pool for putting up a similar strength team and making it such an open and high-quality attacking game between us. Football won really and what a pleasant break it was from the PL torture games!