I don’t know what to say. On the one hand, it was such a disappointing performance that you want to scream. Not to mention giving up six goals at Anfield is completely unacceptable. But on the other, it was such an odd game, with questionable decisions, awful decisions, little defense, a penalty save out of nowhere, and two potentially bad injuries, you just put it out of your mind and move on.
Let’s go down the list.
First goal was pushed in by Dudek’s arm after a blown offside trap.
Two poor decisions then led to Arsenal set plays from which they scored. One left Dudek absolutely flat-footed in no-man land (granted, quality strike), the second bounced off of Alex Song’s arm after Dudek completely flapped at it.
Baptista played a one-two with a clearly offside Aliadere for the fourth. Not even questionable.
And that was only the first half.
Baptista and Aliadere absolutely embarrassed the defense today. Both looked great, and I don’t really know if they both had the games of their lives or the shaky backline made them look better than they are. Too often, the offside trap was beaten or Paletta or Peltier was out of position or misplayed the ball. The two Arsenal reserves pranced through Liverpool’s final third as if they were out for a quick stroll in the park.
Liverpool attempted a comeback in the second half, although it’s right difficult to call it an attempt when they were two or three goals back the entire time. But the introduction of Alonso and Gerrard single-handedly trying to conjure something from nothing (his consolation screamer was a goal that deserved to be more meaningful, absolutely stunning) wasn’t enough. As the game opened up, Liverpool pulled two back, but Arsenal added two more in the second half. Julio Baptista, who can’t even get a game in the league, scored four. Four. At Anfield. Unacceptable.
But in all honesty, that can happen when the backline has so many changes, especially with how much Liverpool relies on the offside trap. Similar missteps and lack of concentration almost cost Liverpool the game against Reading in the 3rd round. It’s disappointing as a fan and disappointing as it cost Liverpool their best chance at silverware for the season (not counting the Community Shield, naturally). But, unfortunately, not completely surprising.
Which leads us to the inevitable moaning about team selection. I’m literally frightened of reading what the pundits will say simply from hearing Andy Gray et al prattle about Benitez’s team selection throughout the match. But I wasn’t that surprised at the team that went out. Disappointed that Dudek started, and that Kuyt didn’t play with Bellamy to try and use pace to unhinge Arsenal’s young defense. The line-up didn’t work, but it’s not as if Rafa pulled the team out of nowhere, and yet, I still think we’re going to hear unfounded questioning of the gaffer.
Arsenal’s reserves (plus Fabregas) beat Liverpool’s reserves (plus Gerrard). We’ve learned Arsenal’s reserves are better than Liverpool’s and the young defenders cannot pull off the trap against a team with the speed of Arsenal. That’s all. The only way this can and will affect the rest of the season is if the players let it affect their confidence. They worked so hard to put the early season difficulties behind them to build up a decent run of form, and given that they are professionals, I would hope that it wouldn’t.
I’d also like to think Watford are in for a bashing Saturday. Roll on Hornets.