Liverpool vs. Arsenal: 10 Things We Learned at Anfield
A fine strike that deserved to win any game on its own, Robin van Persie’s goal came arguably against the run of play and certainly left Liverpool with nothing to show for their dominance of the match.
Having opened the scoring with a Laurent Koscielny own goal, Liverpool won in all the statistical battles. But, unfortunately for Kenny Dalglish, they lost the most important one of all, the final score; because of that man Robin van Persie (who else?).
The pre-match hype of an intriguing Anfield encounter suffered a slight blow with Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard’s injury, but injury doubts van Persie and Thomas Vermaelen were passed fit to take part in a frustrating evening for all Liverpool fans.
Here are 10 things we learned at Anfield—and, as always, feel free to have your say in the comments below.
Liverpool’s Woes Are of Their Own Doing
For Liverpool, it was the same old Anfield, just without a point this time.
Perhaps, with two posts hit, a penalty missed and a few fine stops from Arsenal’s Wojciech Szczesny, Liverpool were unlucky to win.
But with a total goal tally of 30 (van Persie has 25 himself), Liverpool are just not doing the business in front of goal.
To a certain extent, that means their unimpressive home record this season is a deserved result from such a profligate attack.
It certainly didn’t help that Craig Bellamy, arguably Liverpool’s most effective player this season, and Andy Carroll, who would have enjoyed a field day against Arsenal’s porous and ponderous backline, weren’t thrown on until it was too late for them to have any sort of significant impact.
Daniel Agger Will Be a Big Miss
What of the defence?
To say that the two goals conceded were not a result of a defence falling asleep would just be a false statement.
Liverpool proved that Daniel Agger will be a massive loss over the next few weeks.
Without his cultured style, Liverpool resorted to Jamie Carragher’s long-ball-first strategy that was as unfruitful as it was unpretty.
Carragher's performance today showed exactly why he has been out of the first-team picture this season. His poor positioning granted van Persie the opening goal, and he was not convincing in his overall defensive duties at the heart of the Liverpool defence.
Surely it must be time for Sebastian Coates to get some playing time?
Charlie Adam Is Not Good Enough
Did Sir Alex Ferguson once say that Charlie Adam’s corners were worth £10 million alone?
Not on this evidence.
And not just this particular game, but for this season as a whole.
With a plethora of Liverpool corners, not only did Adam fail to create any set piece threat for Liverpool, but he didn’t manage to trouble the Arsenal defence at all. And the same can be said for his poor free kick deliveries all afternoon.
Outside of the tasks he was brought in to do, he showed a lack of inexperience at the top level and a serious deficiency in decision-making as he broke down Liverpool’s attacks time and again, choosing the wrong pass option and going for a Hollywood pass instead of a more constructive one.
It seems that once a player has overturned his poor form, it’s another’s turn.
Working Hard Is Not Enough
Credit where it’s due: The Liverpool players played their heart out today.
Jay Spearing and Dirk Kuyt summed up Liverpool’s desire to get something out of the game with a typically wholehearted and never-say-die performance. Their constant tracking back to win the ball back was a delight to watch, and certainly endeared themselves to the home fans.
Alas, work ethic is just not enough at the top level.
With two goals from his only two shots on goal, Robin van Persie provided that touch of class for Arsenal to separate the two sides on the day.
Working hard all over the pitch is all well and good, but Liverpool are in dire need of players with that kind of game-changing ability if they are to live up to their ambitions of consistently challenging at the top.
Luis Suarez Needs to Focus on Football, Not the Ref
Luis Suarez is exactly that Liverpool player with that kind of game-changing ability, but it certainly isn’t as effective as it should, and can be.
This is not a discussion about whether Luis Suarez dived or not in the build-up to Liverpool’s ultimately missed penalty kick. (Personally, Szczesny did catch him on the shin, but it was certainly contentious.)
Rather, this is an observation on Suarez’s priorities during the game.
For all of his ingenuity and individual skill, Suarez spends an inordinate amount of time during each match trying to win fouls, protest decisions and generally not being constructive to the flow of the game.
With such ability at his feet, Suarez should be looking towards creating as much positivity for Liverpool’s attack, but it seems as if his priorities have been a bit misplaced.
He needs to get up and just get on with it.
Robin Van Persie: Best Striker in the World?
By contrast, in Robin van Persie, Arsenal have one of the in-form strikers in the game. And he’s certainly matured into one of the world’s deadliest strikers this season.
The best forwards don’t need to constantly be involved in the game. They just lurk around, looking for that perfect opportunity to tuck in a goal when his teams needs it the most.
Sometimes this means only getting that one touch, getting into that one pocket of space in that one second of a match, and putting it away.
With two shots all afternoon, van Persie scored two and brought home three points for Arsenal.
Who needs Batman when you have Robin?
Arsenal Are Doomed Without Van Persie
The problem that this brings about is, of course, that Arsenal are too much of a one-man team at the moment.
Every single Arsenal forward, bar Van Persie, did not show up at Anfield. Yossi Benayoun was quiet, Thomas Rosicky belied his recent good form, Theo Walcott was anonymous and Gervinho didn’t do anything when he came on.
Van Persie has escaped major injuries this season, but what will happen to the toothless Arsenal team if he does have to spend time on the sidelines?
For that matter, what will happen if, as rumored, Van Persie is on his way this summer?
Theo Walcott Is Not Good Enough
Much was made of Theo Walcott’s performance against Tottenham last weekend.
After turning in an inept performance in the first half, and having had howls of derision hurled at his direction, Walcott came back with a thrilling two-goal salvo in the second half. A show of pure pace and finishing to shut up the detractors.
Or so they said.
Walcott continued his hit-or-miss reputation against Liverpool, except it was a miss of grand proportions.
Liverpool’s Jose Enrique had Walcott in his back pocket all afternoon, muscling him off the ball time and again in a generally fantastic display at left-back.
With a tendency to be so inconsistent—and with his highs so high, and his lows so low—Walcott must be looking nervously over his shoulder at Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who certainly has shown big-game temperament and a willingness to get stuck in.
Arsenal Might Just Secure Fourth Spot After All
As things stand, Arsenal are only four points behind Spurs, who face Manchester United tomorrow.
As much as they are a one-man team, they have fought their way towards a top-four place and don’t look like they will go down without a fight.
The race for fourth spot looks to be a competition to see which of the contenders—Arsenal, Chelsea, Newcastle and Liverpool—are the least inconsistent.
With a trump card like van Persie and with confidence flowing high in their veins, Arsenal might just do it.
That’d be some turnaround from a disastrous start to the season, and some vindication for Arsene Wenger.
Liverpool Might Just Have to Settle for Europa League Next Season
If Arsenal do make fourth spot in the league by the end of the season, Liverpool will have to make do with Europa League football next season.
And not by courtesy of their league position either.
Having qualified for a Europa League position with their Carling Cup win, Liverpool might have to settle for Europa League football achieved this way, if they remain in their current spot in the league table.
Would that be a success for the Liverpool owners who stated earlier this season that top four was a minimum requirement?
One thing’s for sure: Kenny Dalglish will have to make sure Liverpool go far in the FA Cup as solace.
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