Liverpool vs. Arsenal: Rating the Players in the Gunners' Crucial 2-1 Win
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The problem that plagued them in their recent losses—too much space between the three divisions of the team—defense, midfield and attack—returned with a vengeance.
Arsene Wenger opted to go with the same lineup that routed Tottenham Hotspur at the Emirates last week, but while it was the same players on the pitch, it wasn't the same team.
Possessing players often found themselves with a problem at hand, as there was no movement from players off the ball to receive a pass. This was the major reason behind the team's poor performance in the first half.
Moreover, Theo Walcott and Yossi Benayoun played as part of a front three, including Robin van Persie. This left a huge space in the midfield, contributing to the problem of possession and misplaced passes.
Of the three, only van Persie made consistent movement infield to receive balls. It meant that Rosicky was isolated at the tip of the midfield and rendered redundant. It left Alex Song and Mikel Arteta huffing and puffing with little to show for it. It was a big problem.
An own goal in the 23rd minute by Laurent Koscielny should have ended the story for the scrappy match from the two teams, but it wasn't to be.
In what was their first real foray forward down the right flank, Arsenal got their equalizer through the unstoppable Robin van Persie, when Bacary Sagna swung in a magnificent ball after his run down the flank.
It appears Liverpool's back two were asleep when the ball arrived in the penalty box. Robin van Persie wasn't. He buried it in the Liverpool goal.
It had taken Arsenal just eight minutes to equalize.
The goal appeared to be a signal for Arsenal to become poorer. It seemed only the break would rescue them from the clutches of the Liverpool, who themselves were just a little better.
At resumption though, Arsenal got poorer, and their task got harder when Mikel Arteta sustained what at first looked like an innocuous injury. He however had to be stretchered off wearing an oxygen mask.
Abou Diaby, returning from injury, came on for Arteta, but had to come off at about the 79th minute with what appeared to be another injury.
On came Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Everything was going downhill for Arsenal. It was one of the poorest performance one can ever see from Arsenal. They were only rescued by the mediocrity of Liverpool.
Arsenal appeared to have forgotten how to string together two passes at a time, deciding instead to camp in their own half to bat away Liverpool's long balls, content to hang on for a draw.
The story changed in the 91 minute (eight additional minutes were being played to make up for the extended time it took to treat Mikel Arteta), when Alex Song delivered one of his recent delicious passes over the top, a pass Van Persie met with a wonderful volley, reminiscent of his "Flying Dutchman" goal against Everton in December.
Pepe Reina, the Liverpool goalkeeper, didn't know what hit him at his near side.
The Dutchman had delivered again and put Arsenal up 2-1.
Arsenal had seven minutes of defending to do for the rest of match. That they did well.
Here's a quick rating of the players performance.
Szczęsny gave away a penalty that turned out to be no penalty. TV replays showed that he made no contact with Luis Suarez.
So Arsenal conceded yet again from a dive. But one can't blame the referee. In real time it appeared to be a solid penalty.
Fortune intervened and the resultant kick from Dirk Kuyt was saved twice by Szczęsny, the second save from Kuyt's rebound.
Szczęsny single-handedly kept Arsenal in the match, especially in the first half. Arsenal have him to thank for this victory.
I give him a 9.5.
Gibbs was there and he wasn't. It means he didn't do anything particularly wrong or right. He was content to hide like most of the players. But he must have done his job well, since no serious breach of defense came from the left flank.
I give him 6.
Koscielny scored a striker's goal—the type they score from a cross, only it was at the wrong end. More perplexing though is that he was under no pressure at all. I think lack of awareness caused him to panic.
The goal aside, Koscielny was poor today, getting turned time after time by Luis Suarez, although I think this was because he received little help in this regard from Bacary Sagna.
In all, it was the poor Koscielny of the past that showed up today. Thank heavens Arsenal escaped in one piece.
Vermaelen didn't score an own goal, but I don't know that he had a good game either. He, of course, was at the heart of defense, batting away Liverpool's long balls like everyone else. So we must commend him for that.
Aside from leaving Koscielny dry from time to time, Sagna was one of the better performers today. His well-measured cross gave Arsenal the equalizer.
Alex Song was the better of the midfielders today. Plus, his magnificent pass gave Arsenal their second goal. He mopped up well, and was, as usual, good in his overlapping runs, even though they led nowhere, since Arsenal were as toothless as a...(supply your metaphor).
Arteta was as poor as the entire team was in the first half. However, he went about doing his usual business quietly. One hopes that his injury is not as serious as it looked.
I can't seem to remember Rosicky making a single accurate pass in the second half. There were occasional flashes forward, but they petered away like...well, a flash.
He finally decided to fall deep and defend.
Benayoun huffed and puffed but there was nothing to it. His game suffered from the collective lethargy.
Just one word for Theo Walcott: Poor.
Robin van Persie
I give him 10, because he did what was important in a match like this: Score. Plus, he constantly dropped deep to help with defending. He, therefore, deserves a perfect score.
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