What Wenger and Benitez Can Take Away From The Mid-Week Madness

Khalid SiddiquiCorrespondent IIApril 22, 2009

LIVERPOOL, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 21:  Andrey Arshavin of Arsenal  celebrates scoring his team's and his fourth goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Arsenal at Anfield on April 21, 2009 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

The photograph says it all, doesn't it?

"Four goals in one game? Four out of four shots on goal converted? I believe even less than you do that this is happening!"

Perhaps for the neutral viewer (and I don't think Michel Platini qualifies as that), this match was some of the best of what the Premier League has to offer. For both sets of fans, however, it was a bittersweet cornucopia of euphoria and frustration.

I believe the frantic pace of the game yesterday was extremely pleasing for the eye, especially what we saw in the last half hour of the game. However, being an Arsenal fan, I wasn't comfortable until the last second of injury time, and even then it looked as if Liverpool might eke out a fifth goal to spoil Arshavin's maiden Anfield appearance.

There are some very important things for the managers of both the clubs (Arsene Wenger and Rafa Benitez) to take away from the 4-4 tie in mid-week.


Points for Wenger to Consider

  • Arsene Wenger, despite his obstinance in offensive beliefs, needs to realize the need for at least two more centre backs in the summer now more than ever. You can't have only one back-up CB in your squad below the age of 30 (that's Djourou).

Gallas is not likely to be the same come next year, and Silvestre is too slow to handle the speedy strikers. At least one acquisition is needed, and if Senderos doesn't plan on coming back, then two purchases definitely need to be made.

Who could it be? Maybe someone like Per Mertesacker, the German international, or maybe Matthew Upson could return.

How many aerial balls did Torres and Drogba win in the last two games against Arsenal? Too many for the comfort of Arsenal's nail-biting fans.

  • You don't need to introduce a match-practice-lacking Bacary Sagna to the team right after he's had a bout with a virus. Emmanuel Eboue is a more than able player at right-back. It was Sagna's lack of match practice and lack of confidence for the big occasion in his first match back that resulted in a wayward clearance which led to Liverpool's first goal.
  • Cesc Fabregas is ineffective in the hole behind the striker because he doens't have the speed. Samir Nasri is much more effective in that role, given his ball control and ability to dodge defenders.
  • Arshavin is deadly on the counter. Playing him in tandem with Walcott could result in the desired end-product (i.e., getting a goal) more often on the counter-attack.

I understand that there were defensive concerns yesterday, hence no Walcott to start with. But this is something to keep in mind for future reference.

  • From next season on, if (God-forbid) Fabregas gets injured, make Arshavin captain. He is the spirit of this team right now, and probably the most influential player on the pitch for Arsenal when he plays. 
  • Have Kieran Gibbs bulk up a bit. He has the speed, but is too susceptible to even the faintest of tackles from onrushing forwards.
  • Fabianski is very good at anticipating strikers' movements, though he has foolish rushes of blood at times due to his young age. Keep him; he is a more than able deputy with great reflexes.


Points for Benitez to Consider

  • It's good that Benitez's team has learned to play well offensively without Steven Gerrard. Benayoun is perfect in the hole behind the striker with his pace and ability to make swift cuts across defenders.
  • Jamie Carragher needs some serious support at the back, as the rest of Liverpool's defense is in shambles. Thinking of attack, not trying to control the possession, is in the nature of the RB and LB.
  • Benitez needs to learn to give respect and praise to the opposing team when it is due. His current attitude has resulted in the media and fan pressure building up on his team to deliver.

As they say, perception is more real than reality, so even though he may not be mean-spirited or arrogant by nature, he needs to develop some more humility.

  • Liverpool are likely to end this season trophy-less despite being in pole position for much of the season. Benitez might need to look at the depth of his squad, because the quality is not there if one or two key players get injured.

Arsenal had four first-teamers missing and still put four goals past his team. Benitez only had Gerrard missing.


Overall, I believe that even Arsene Wenger will not be satisfied with the point earned because this was a game his team would have won if not for the defensive frailties. It's been a mixed season for Arsenal, with a dull goal-less patch for the offense sandwiched between two phases of struggles at defending. 

His defenders have shown that they are not mentally strong enough if they are hurried by the strikers into releasing the ball.

A draw, however, seems like a fair result in hindsight. The season may yet take many unexpected twists and turns.  


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