03 November 2018

Liverpool 1-1 Arsenal

Milner 61'
Lacazette 82'

Two ways to look at this one.

A fair result between evenly matched teams, second place at fourth place. Both with clear-cut chances and spells of dominance. Arsenal were on top early and late in the first half, early and late in the second half, Liverpool had counter-punching spells between. Both sides scored well-taken goals that also were aided by how the keeper dealt with the ball into the box. Liverpool remain unbeaten in the league, Arsenal remain unbeaten in the league since the first two matches. It's the same result, if not the same score line or same type of match, as in this fixture last season. If anything, Arsenal were the "better" side for longer in the match, for what little that's too often worth. Arsenal dominated possession, Arsenal – even with that defense – kept Salah, Firmino, Mané surprisingly quiet.

On the other hand, Liverpool had a goal wrongly ruled out for offside in the 18th minute, long before either side actually scored, right as Liverpool started their first-half spell of control. Alexander-Arnold chips into the box, Mané's offside but doesn't go for the ball, Firmino's onside and chips it over the keeper. The flag stays down, the shot hits the woodwork. Mané's now onside, behind the ball as Firmino shoots, but the flag goes up as soon as he taps into the empty net. Only the lord and linesman know why. It's probably a different match had that counted, with Arsenal necessarily pushing harder and harder earlier on and Liverpool reasonably positioned to counter and add more.

And Liverpool twice hit the post, first by Firmino, then van Dijk from Milner's deep free kick, with Leno also bushwhacking the defender after the ball was gone, an almost certain penalty if it'd been done by an outfield player but somehow forgivable when it's the goalkeeper.

And Liverpool had adjusted to and coped with Arsenal after the home side's more-than-decent first half. Arsenal ran Alexander-Arnold ragged for long stretches in the opening 45 minutes, and were starting to carve Liverpool open through the middle as Wijnaldum pushed wider and wider to compensate that flank. Liverpool were back in the 4-3-3 and it was not working, with Fabinho unsure where to go or where to pass out, with Liverpool's right shredded time and time again. The second half started with Liverpool back in a 4-2-3-1 formation, Fabinho and Wijnaldum as a double pivot, Milner wide right, Firmino as the #10, Salah up top. Arsenal had nine shots in the first half. They had one between the 46th and 81st minutes.

And Liverpool took the lead just after the hour mark, with Milner on hand to mop up after Robertson found Mané careening down the left, Leno punching Mané's byline cross off his own defender, falling perfectly for the captain to charge on to and arrow into the half-guarded net.

It had been 14 matches since Liverpool last dropped points after taking a lead in the Premier League, 2-0 at West Brom turning into 2-2 in the final 11 minutes. They'd held on in tight matches against Palace, Brighton, Leicester, Tottenham, and Huddersfield, even if those sides aren't Arsenal or – in the case of Tottenham – weren't playing anywhere near as well as Arsenal played today.

But then Arsenal scored in the 82nd minute. Iwobi, on as a substitute 15 minutes earlier, is now at left-back as Emery throws caution to the wind, is in space midway through Liverpool's half as Liverpool's defensive line retreats deeper and deeper. Milner and Wijnaldum can't get out to close down in time, and he threads a through ball between two Liverpool lines for Lacazette's perfectly timed run. Alisson charges out – maybe rightly, maybe wrongly. He cuts off Lacazette's sight of goal, he doesn't bring the player down. But Lacazette retains possession, turns, and somehow finds the postage stamp window between Alisson's left hand and van Dijk's clearing header.

Maybe the keeper could've done more. Maybe Liverpool's line should've been higher, should have been more resilient. But we've also got to give credit to both the build-up and finish.

We've also got to give credit to the opposition. It ain't always Liverpool's fault when Liverpool drop points. Liverpool at least kept Arsenal out in the first half, with the attack only firing intermittently. Liverpool coped, adjusted, regrouped, and took the lead. Liverpool did good things against a side that's been hard to do good things against so far this season, at least after their first two matches.

Which is why, as hard as it is in the moment, I'm trying to focus more on the supposedly fair result than what could and maybe should have been.


Lf4er said...

It WAS annoying seeing the linesman flag. Amateur hour. I saw he couldn’t keep up with the play that was progressing beyond his limited game intelligence. I can see why lacazette’s run wasn’t flagged. Referees like marriener makes me think they are there to make up the bombers.

Does it mean Klopp lets them play on and doesn’t make tactical subs? Or that it wasn’t a game to utilise players like shaq on our bench earlier?

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