Arsenal vs. Liverpool: 6 Things We Learned in 2-2 Draw
Arsenal and Liverpool played out a thoroughly absorbing 2-2 draw at the Emirates Stadium in a game from which several conclusions can be drawn—some perhaps new insights, some merely confirming what most already knew.
Despite the home side having far more of the ball, it was Liverpool who created—or in some cases were gifted—the better chances to score.
Luis Suarez opened the scoring early on and Jordan Henderson's fine solo run made it 2-0, but Arsenal were quickly back on level terms after Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott scored within minutes of each other.
Both teams ran out of energy and ideas a little toward the end of the game, before Suarez almost won it with a low effort at the death.
The result means Liverpool stay three points behind Arsenal in the league table, while the Gunners miss out on another chance to accumulate points in the chase for a top four finish.
Press Arsenal, They Make Mistakes
Despite having the lion's share of the possession in the first 45 minutes, Arsenal could have found themselves two or even three goals down at half time instead of just the one.
Time and time again, Liverpool pressed Arsenal backward into their own half with the ball, harassing and worrying the home defenders into conceding possession.
Per Mertesacker was one of the most guilty culprits in giving the ball away but goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny almost gifted Daniel Sturridge a tap-in and Bacary Sagna was similarly profligate in possession.
For Brendan Rodgers, why his Liverpool side stopped doing this in the second half is as worrying as it is incredulous; be in no doubt that this led in no small part to Arsenal's prolonged spell of danger after the break which enable them to score two quick goals.
Jordan Henderson Proving His Worth Again
Once the scapegoat of certain fans and on the very fringes of the first team for Liverpool, Jordan Henderson continues his well-deserved turn around in fortunes with another good performance and a second goal of the month to boot.
Barely two months back, Henderson would likely not have had the confidence to even start the dribble between two defenders which led to this eventual goal, let alone occupy the attentions of five Arsenal players and still end up with the ball in the net.
Sure, Henderson saw a measure of luck fall his way when the ball ricocheted back to him off Andre Santos, but his determination and perseverance ensured he stuck at the task with very little support close by.
Henderson put in another terrific shift for Liverpool in the advanced midfield position, having to get through an awful lot of work because his side did not have the ball for long spells.
His form is keeping Joe Allen out of the team for now, and the former Sunderland man is in the side on merit.
Arsenal Resilience a Key Positive for Arsene Wenger
Arsenal might not have taken all three points at the Emirates—they have only won half of their home matches this season—but Arsene Wenger can take some solace from the ability his team have to bounce back from disappointments within matches recently.
Coming from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 salvaged a point against Liverpool, but in both their previous two games, they also had to dig deep to secure a result.
In the FA Cup Fourth Round, they led twice but were pegged back on each occasion by Brighton and Hove Albion, before securing a late winner through Theo Walcott.
Their last Premier League game saw them fall behind at home again, this time to West Ham United, before a barnstorming second half saw the Gunners hit four goals in seven minutes to seal a 5-1 win.
The Gunners aren't hitting the heights in terms of consistency just now, but they are proving hard to beat and that is always an important starting point.
Why No Changes?
Having spent much of the game on the back foot, trying to remain organised and tight defensively, several of Brendan Rodgers' charges looked shorn of energy after the 70-minute mark.
No doubt conceding two goals in a short time had an impact, after the Reds had worked hard to raise a two-goal lead, but it was evident for some time before those strikes that Liverpool needed to alter their game plan.
Arsenal were dominating possession and territory, and Liverpool were unable to break out of their own third for fear of losing their shape.
It is puzzling, then, that Brendan Rodgers did not opt to make any substitutions to stem the tide of Arsenal's attacks.
Daniel Sturridge was replaced by Jose Enrique, who went left of midfield with Suarez moving up front, but much of the damage had already been done with the Gunners' attacks coming from that channel.
Why no earlier move from Rodgers? Fabio Borini and Joe Allen both would have allowed Liverpool to bring more energy to the centre of the park, pressing Arsenal higher up the pitch once again to try and regain a measure of control over the match or else push them into mistakes, as in the first half.
Liverpool took a point from the Emirates; not a bad result on the face of it but it could certainly have been better, considering they took a 2-0 lead.
Earlier changes might well have been the key to securing the win.
Champions League Dream Not Yet Over?
The Premier League's holy ground is the top four places; they provide safe passage to Europe's elite competition in the shape of the Champions League.
Defeat for the Reds might have made it highly improbable that they would even catch Arsenal, but the gap between the teams remains set at three points after this draw.
If either side are to reach fourth place, then they need to put a more consistent run of form together than either has managed to date, but it is still not out of the reach of either with barely more than a dozen games to go.
Luis Suarez and Theo Walcott: Forwards Who Score but Don't Play Centrally
Liverpool's top scorer Luis Suarez hit an early goal at the Emirates to give his team the lead, his 22nd goal of the season in all competitions and the 17th he has scored in the league.
Theo Walcott, Arsenal's top scorer, nailed the equaliser in the second half with a fine low finish—his 11th league goal and 18th in all competitions.
Two good players, two reliable names on the scoresheet—and two players playing outside of their preferred position in the centre.
Suarez has been relocated out to the left flank since the arrival of Daniel Sturridge, albeit with a very free and roaming role when the Reds have the ball, while Theo Walcott has been shunted back out to the right wing since signing his new contract with Arsenal.
In terms of contribution to the team, neither fans nor managers should be particularly perturbed if they continue to add goals at their present rate—but perhaps both players will be wishing they continued to get opportunities to add to their tallies through the centre of the pitch.
Then again, they seem to be doing just fine from their current positions too.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!