Liverpool v Arsenal
A much more exciting game to watch, full of fast, flowing, attacking football, rather than a turgid borefest forced by the Dutch Roy Hodgson. The result was not what Liverpool wanted, but the game was extremely enjoyable. There were a few things that did take the edge off the enjoyment, mainly the injury to Tsimikas, which has to go down as one of the most bizarre ever. How often has a player been injured by his own manager falling on top of him? Such a shame for the lad as he had been getting better and better by the game. With Robertson still looking to be a fair bit away, Klopp will have to find an answer to the left-back issue. Though maybe it could actually be to the benefit of the inverted full-back system if he plays Gomez there and plays it as a back three in possession? That will be up to Lijnders and Klopp to figure out.
I have to mention the handball, as that is what it was. Odegaard’s arm moved towards the ball and stopped it getting through, I have no idea how VAR does not give that. I fully understand the referee missing it, but what are VAR looking at? Maybe I just no longer understand the handball laws in the game, as I have seen a number of handballs not given this season that looked as clear handballs as I have ever seen. Having seen so many not given this season though, I was not really surprised this one was not.
Putting that aside, the Liverpool performance was decent enough in the first half, but not quite full intensity for long periods, but picked up massively in the second half and really took the game to Arsenal. Despite the non-penalty and the shockingly bad miss by Alexander-Arnold on the break, I would say a draw was probably a fair result on reflection. It was an excellent but close game, with two exceptional sides going toe-to-toe for 90 minutes (plus all the assorted stoppage time). This is what Premier League football should be like – two teams going at each other trying to win the match.
Arsenal are looking a much better side this season for the addition of Rice, who has made a huge difference to them. They still lack in forward areas, Jesus works hard but lacks end product, Martinelli is quick and skillful but lacks end product and Saka, brilliant as he is, spends far too much time throwing himself to the ground looking for free kicks to actually affect games as he should. But they are certainly no longer a team to be discounted, with a good, solid backline and Rice patrolling in front of it. Whether that is enough to beat Man City, or if Arteta is good enough to take this team to the title is a different matter. He does seem to be showing signs of learning from some of his mistakes, in terms of returning to what worked last season, but with Rice in the middle plus no longer putting everyone in defence when taking a lead against rival teams. So maybe there is hope for Gooners there in terms of a title challenge.
Quick notes on the players:
Alisson – there is not a lot to say about him, when needed he comes up with big saves, he is always looking to spring quick attacks and gives the whole team a much more solid feel just by being there.
Alexander-Arnold – started off brilliantly, bombing down the flank causing trouble and putting in quality balls. Then he started to drift inside and created less problems as a result.
Konate – spent most of the game covering at right-back and dealt with Martinelli very well, almost shutting him out of the game completely.
van Dijk – a tougher game than usual for him, but once more he shone, as he has all season.
Tsimikas – was playing really well right up until he was shoved out of play and ended cleaning out Klopp, who then landed on top of him and broke his collarbone. A complete accident, but it was caused by a delberate shove off the pitch – something Wenger had warned about when he was manager of Arsenal. He did say all these snide little shoves on a player travelling by the edge of the pitch were going to result in players picking up serious injuries by colliding with something. Though I do believe he was thinking of the advertising hoardings or crashing into the crowd rather than a German football manager!
Jones – the midfield just looks far more balanced with him alongside Szoboszlai. He needs to stay fit as he was really good in this match and his fitness could make all the difference this season. He brings such control of the ball due to his ability to protect the ball, dribble around players and to pick a pass. It makes it difficult for the opposition to deal with him as he has so many options to use the ball. His workrate makes a big difference as well.
Szoboszlai – the Hungarian is playing with less freedom than he did initially, but overall he is providing much more for the team than he was. It is not as spectacular, but it is no less vital for that.
Endo – he is really looking the part right now. You can see why he was such a cult hero at Stuttgart. He does take chances on the ball, which can be dangerous, but mostly he distributes well.
Salah – once again not at his best but, once again, he popped up with a goal.
Gakpo – while it did work out well last season, I think we are now seeing why he did his best work out wide in the Eredivisie. He is not entirely suited to playing in the centre, it does not suit his game.
Diaz – drifted all over the pitch, working really hard but ultimately fairly ineffective. He seems completely unable to dribble past a player any more.
Gomez – on for the injured Tsimikas in the 34th minute to play left-back. Had an excellent game and looked natural there on the left, which has not always been the case when he plays there.
Nunez – replaced Gakpo in the 67th minute. He just needs a break to go his way right now. His workrate is always exceptional and he pushes the opposition defence back but it is just not quite happening for him.
Gravenberch – came on as part of the 67th minute triple substitution to replace Jones. Not really impressing at the moment, but he is still young so he still has time on his side to come good, but he needs to do more, work harder, fight for the ball.
Elliott – the final piece of the triple sub was Elliott, who took Diaz’s place in the 67th minute. Played really well, as he has done all season when coming off the bench. His game has returned to the level he was at pre-injury and, maybe, even gone beyond it. What is most impressing me is his maturity on the pitch.
Written by Tris Burke December 27 2023 04:13:40