Written by Mean Lean on Thursday, 31 January 2013 11:40
The neutrals would have switched off content last night but both Arsenal and Liverpool will have slapped their thighs in frustration at not coming away from an entertaining clash at the Emirates with all three points.
I suppose the result is a perfect reflection of the two teams, both capable of matching the top sides when it clicks but both have the propensity to shoot themselves in the foot at any given moment.
First halves have become somewhat of a problem for Arsene Wenger's team this season, needing to keep games tight early on has deserted us one too many times. The incline button was pressed once again in the first 5 minutes of the game. A ball searching out Glen Johnson down the left should have been Sagna's all day long so much so that Johnson had started applying the breaks until Sagna's feet gave way beneath him and Johnson pounced his left foot cross into the Arsenal penalty box was heading straight to Vermaelen for what should have been a simple clearance but as at Old Trafford, he miss hit his clearance to the edge of the penalty area, Aaron Ramsey trying to break against Liverpool tried to flick the ball into his path on the turn but it was too heavy which then gifted Liverpool another chance to get the ball into the danger area, the ball finally found it's way to Suarez who hit a shot which (obviously) took a deflection on it's way past Szczesny.
It is difficult to understand why goals like this come about and how they can be stopped or indeed why they happen to Arsenal so often. Individual mistakes have been a thorn in our side for far too long now. The finger will most likely be pointed at our manager and coaching staff but the fact is that both Sagna and Vermaelen were in the right positions to deal with the situation, we had at least two layers of errors covered. It is a real head scratcher.
Theo Walcott had a chance to almost instantly cancel out the opener but his low driven shot was too close to Reina. The game was pretty open and both teams had chances to hit the back of the net. Vermaelen, Giroud, and Walcott for us and Agger, Henderson, Sturridge and Suarez for Liverpool.
I thought we didn't trust in our football enough at times during the first half and it reminded me of our early season form. Numbers behind the ball but instead of trying to break them down by combination football, we looked to the flank positions to cross the ball into mainly one man and that was fruitless.
At times I get the impression that Sagna doesn't pick players out, he just tries to get it out of his feet and hit the ball into the box. It is the only way I can explain how so many of his attempted crosses end up on an opposition head often nowhere near Oliver Giroud.
There are not many Arsenal players that I feel a genuine sense of anticipation when the ball is at their feet from wide areas. One is Lukas Podolski and perhaps Santi Cazorla. The other players like Tomas Rosicky and Andrey Arshavin are not in the first team.
I think we are far more dangerous when we are playing combination football around the penalty area. Jack Wilshere is great at picking up the ball and driving at the heart of the opposition, Oliver Giroud is great at playing 1-2s with players as showed later in the game and we could really benefit from that. Similarly as Barcelona do with Messi when he drives forward and pops the ball into a player and spins off for the return. You have more control of what you are doing and opens up the opposition rather than feeding a defender a header to clear.
Kieran Gibbs did his hamstring in and that is awful news at this time. He has possibly been our most consistent player this season, certainly our most improved. Andre Santos is not a bad player, go back and read blog's and comments when Santos was stretchered off at Olympiacos last season to prove that point, the difference this time is that we have a player bereft of fitness, sharpness and indeed confidence.
Henderson put Liverpool 2-0 up and I don't think individuals were to blame but more the system and style of play that we play. We play an extremely risky defensive strategy where we don't have players behind the ball. Our defence is usually a foot race with the last man and we get away with it by fractions on so many occasions but the law of averages suggest that we will be caught eventually and the bounce of the ball went Liverpool's way, allowing Henderson to tap in past Szczesny. With last ditch defending always on the Arsenal menu, I would always have Laurent Koscielny as our first choice defender but that is just me.
I thought that was very much that, but Arsenal had other ideas. Jack Wilshere floated in a free kick from the right and Oliver Giroud showed what he can do when the service is good. The Frenchman glancing in from close range,
Three minutes later it was all square. Cazorla played a ball into Giroud and his first time cushioned touch into the path of Walcott was Bergkamp-esque. I know, I know blasphemy right? It was that good. Walcott lashed the ball past the helpless Reina.
While the team should rightly take the criticism for the poor defensive mistakes, credit is due for the mental strength to turn the score around. Heads did not go down and the players forced the issue. The biggest regret to Arsene will be Giroud not being able to sort out his feet and turn in Lukas Podolski's cross in the final minutes,
We missed one of those going mental moments which is a shame but our opponents also had chances to win the game towards the end so the draw was a fair result if not a wanted result.
While we do not move any closer to the top four at least we are not further back with both Tottenham, Chelsea and of course Liverpool also managing the one point.
However these individual errors have to be stopped, I hope something is done about it as soon as possible because games and time us running out. Stoke City next up, fingers crossed with an addition or two.