21 December 2008

Liverpool 1-1 Arsenal

Arbeloa Carragher Agger Insua
Lucas Alonso
Kuyt Gerrard Riera

Van Persie 24’
Keane 42’

Well, after Arsenal went up 1-0 within 24 minutes at the Emirates in a cagey, back-and-forth match, a comeback draw doesn’t look the worst result. Especially with Torres still absent, Mascherano missing out with flu, and Benitez remaining on Merseyside thanks to kidney stones earlier in the week. And especially considering the team’s never won at the Emirates, not to mention that three out of the four games against the Gunners ended 1-1 last year.

But when Liverpool has a man advantage for 30 minutes, and dominates possession for the majority of the second half after getting the equalizer before the break, it again feels like two points dropped.

Chances were few and far between early on, with Gerrard pretty much playing as a second striker. And it was the captain and Keane linking up in the 10th minute when the striker laid the ball off nicely, but Gerrard’s strike was straight at Almunia.

Arsenal’s passing game improved as the game went on, but it was a Nasri long ball over the top that van Persie controlled with his chest past Carragher which opened the scoring. And the goal, which was brilliantly taken, clearly emboldened the home side, who were controlling the game and the ball, but chances remained at a premium.

Liverpool never looked like being overrun, with Lucas and Alonso strong in midfield, and in the 42nd minute, an Agger long ball over the top led to an equalizer as stunning as the opener. Keane outpaced Djourou to beautifully half volley on the second bounce, giving Almunia no chance.

That goal completely changed the game, and Liverpool were unlucky not to get a second before the whistle. In the 45th, Kuyt took the ball off Clichy and centered for Gerrard, but the skipper was a step behind, and could only put a diving left-footed shot high and wide. A minute later, Kuyt forced Almunia into a low fingertips save with an on-target effort from the right corner of the box.

And it continued after the restart, although Arsenal certainly weren’t helped by Fabregas’ injury, which brought Diaby on for the second half. Lucas’s shot after Insua did well to get a cross in was well-saved by Almunia in the 47th, and Liverpool settled into their possession game. But when Adebayor was sent off in the 62nd minute for two soft yellows (yellows nonetheless, mind you), Arsenal was more content to sit back and absorb the pressure.

And Liverpool responded by playing worse. They were more reliant on long balls forward, more hesitant, and looked less likely to get the winning goal. Arsenal created more opportunities on the break than Liverpool did with an extra man, although Reina was never really tested.

Babel (for Riera in the 71st), El Zhar (for Keane in the 81st) and Ngog (for Lucas in the 88th) again came on, and once again we’re wondering why it took so long to make the changes, especially adding the second striker for a midfield player with a man advantage. Don’t get me wrong – Lucas had an excellent game, and was probably man of the match – but it seemed like Liverpool should have added more attackers and take advantage of the edge. And it was always going to be Lucas replaced instead of Alonso. El Zhar had an excellent opportunity with a header (from Insua’s cross) just wide in the 90th, but again, too little, too late.

Again, I thought Lucas, bustling and busy in midfield (and lucky not to see yellow until the 81st), was outstanding, and he looks a far better player next to Alonso in midfield, who, as usual, spread the play well when Liverpool were on top. Insua never looked out of place against a top team, and supported the attack well. And Keane had an excellent game up top, diligently running throughout, and took his goal masterfully well.

Despite getting forward well early on, Gerrard was a passenger too often, went deeper as the game went on (especially after the subs), and didn’t take a couple of good opportunities, which you don’t get many of in a game like this one. Unfortunately, Babel again did nothing off the bench, and didn’t really looked too bothered, which isn’t a good sign. And again, I’m not happy that Liverpool, with Arsenal putting two lines of defenders behind the ball, looked a step slower after going up a man.

But, honestly, I would have taken a point before the game. Yes, Liverpool’s gotten far too many draws of late, but this isn’t one of the painful ones. Going to Arsenal is never an easy match, and Arsenal’s found a way to step it up against the big sides. It’s just disappointing that Liverpool couldn’t take advantage of the edges handed to them.

It goes without saying that I hope for better on Friday.


Mike Georger said...

Hm I thought Lucas played poorly, and definitely should have been sent off; but what pissed me off was he pulled a Pennant and kept making dumb challenges after the Ref made it clear he was going to be handing out bookings for everything.

Insua to me earned his spot in the XI today, looked confident and can cross the ball incredibly well. And think, had Rafa not bombed with Paletta we wouldn't have Insua!

I will take the result for sure.

Mike Georger said...

Oh yeah another thing about Insua that is great. He will count as a how grown player eventually, because he will have been at the club for three years before he was 21.

iskoppa said...

Sorry MG, but I thought Lucas had a good game until about the 70th min, then for some reason he kept pulling back from tackles until his booking and then replaced not long after that! Maybe picked up an injury or bad knock!
Good post Nate!

vinnie said...

damn, missed this match due to work commitment. never realise how bad mondays are till i started working

Mike Georger said...

Maybe I was too drunk to assess how he was playing? Just thought I kept seeing him get outmuscled by little frenchies. But I'd rather be wrong and have him play well!

Anonymous said...

Mmmm mmm we sure do love ties! Delicious nutritious ties.

Disappointing we were up a man for 1/3 of the game and we played worse. A chronic case of hypo-intestinal fortitude. I blame the kidney stones.


nate said...

The reason I was so impressed with Lucas' performance was because he didn't shirk those tackles, and was everywhere in midfield. Some ended up being fouls, but he still set the tone in the middle. At the same time, he wasn't afraid to push forward, evidenced by the good shot in the 47th, among others.

But yeah, I was happiest about Insua. Been waiting for him to blossom like this since he debuted at the end of 06/07. And he hasn't disappointed in any appearance so far this season.

Mike Georger said...

Check out this goal Leto scored this weekend. Pretty run and finish. He looks about twenty pounds trimmer than last year. Still hope for him I believe.

iskoppa said...

Spot on about Insua, I was well chuffed with the lad!

Abhiram said...

Can someone tell me what's happening?
Chelsea drew another game against our little neighbors. All the things in the world are conspiring to keep us at the top.

And to say that we are not even remotely playing to our full potential, is out of this world right? Hope we start doing that ASAP. Get well soon Torres. I really want to see us play the 3-5-2 formation.

Keane Torres

nate said...

jonathan wilson, in his awesome, awesome book, "inverting the pyramid" (seriously, go buy it now, it's it most US bookstores - and i may do a book review in the near future), does an excellent job explaining why the 3-5-2 only works against a flat back 4-4-2. and a lot of teams are happy to set up 4-5-1 against liverpool, especially at anfield.

this post, by the same author on the guardian's website, does a decent job explaining why the 3-5-2's gone the way of the dodo as well.

Abhiram said...

Hey thanks for that info Nate. Very good article. Will surely get a hand on that book.

But, i did not see the article implying that 3-5-2 is going extinct. It clearly mentioned that this formation required custom players for this system to work. The wing backs needed to be good and strong as they had to do a lot of running. This formation could work wonders provided it was used effectively with proper players. This, as is mentioned in the article, is a very attacking or a very defensive formation.

I feel this formation can work wonders for Liverpool against weaker opposition. Let me explain.


In this formation, we can make ultra attacking plays and this will surely be able to open up any opposition that comes to park its bus at Anfield. When we go 2-0 up, we can substitute Keane for Arbeloa or Aurelio so that we can play the 4-2-3-1 with Torres up front. Agger or Carra will have to play LB or RB respectively.

No other formation gives us this variety. For us, i feel, this is a very good formation against weaker opposition.