Monday, April 02, 2007

Where do Arsenal go from Anfield?

It's hard to know what to write after a match like the one on Saturday. To be so convincingly outplayed and humiliated is always hard to take, especially after the wonderful performances we'd pulled out earlier in the season at Anfield; those, as I wrote earlier, of the 'false idols'.

The only comparable defeats in recent years that I can think of were the 6-1 in Manchester, and the 3-1 in Munich. Both performances showed that a crop of players were no longer good enough to win trophies for the club. In the wake of the defeat in Manchester we went on to win two titles and a handful of FA cups; the jury is still out whether Wenger has really improved the team post-Munich.

Because it seems clear that a lot of players have, or should have, question marks over their place in the team.

Normally it's the midfield which is the source of our ire, but on Saturday it was clearly the defence that must take the bulk of the blame. Is Eboue really good enough defensively, despite his crosses? Can Kolo and Gallas play together, or do we have a Gerrard/Lampard/overly-similar player situation occurring? I would suggest that given Kolo's current form, a partnership of Senderos and Gallas or Djouorou and Gallas might be preferable. Certainly, Kolo at centre-back is no longer an automatic selection. Gallas played poorly, but he's missing Terry's aerial dominance and he's the best defender in our squad otherwise; indeed the whole team is missing a defender who can dominate in the air. Despite his injury record, if Woodgate is available we should be in for him.

And now on to the midfield. What struck me watching the United-Blackburn game was how many United players stood up to be counted when they fell behind. Could any Arsenal midfielder have scored Scholes's goal, one which was as much about sheer guts and determination as ability? When a player like Carrick is outscoring our midfield, something is clearly wrong.

Indeed the nullifying of our midfield appeared stupefyingly simple for Liverpool. Get tight on Cesc, don't let him pull the strings, and let apathy, indifference and inexperience do the rest. Cesc has become too central to our success, and we need a plan B for if he's off form, or not allowed into the game. Denilson has shown that he has considerable ability, but he should not be playing this many games so young. Neither should Cesc, nor Diaby, who, again, was completely wasted on the left. We need goalscoring wingers, not just central midfielders converted to inside lefts/rights. Hleb was poor again, and he is increasingly looking like a luxury. The last decent performance from him was Bolton away in the FA Cup and his struggles have become worrying, especially as he never looks like scoring.

Up front, Baptista is not taking his chances. Simple as that. He's getting into half-decent positions, but there's only so many times a player can miss before you wonder if he will ever be a consistent goalscorer. Adebayor was the bright spark of the team and deserved a goal. If Dudek had been playing, he would have had one.

So where now? Fourth place again? Maybe not even that is secure but I can't even contemplate not getting it. And even if we were to get it, and despite some excellent performances this season, its hard to say whether we've improved. About this time last year, we seemed on an upward wave and I was genuinely excited about the club's future. Now, I have to admit, I'm not so sure. Sure, we have bags of youth and potential, but when will it gel? Can we face another trophy-less season next year? How long can players like Fabregas accept fourth place?

It's good to see some harsh words from Arsene this week on the unacceptability of Saturday's recent capitulation. I think a re-think is necessary. Because otherwise it's hard to see how we'll get off this plateau.


Anonymous said...

Don't forget Lehmann conceded four goals too. And it wasn't like Liverpool had 20 shots - I can really only recall one save. He has no agility and seems to concede from virtually every shot on target.

Wenger was mainly to blame though. How can you go in against Gerrard and Mascherano with no steel in midfield? Four goals from crosses too - someone needs to do some defensive coaching. How can you play four defenders against Crouch, none of whom are any good in the air? And how can you not learn that 4-5-1 away from home last season worked but go 4-4-2 away at Anfield with a depleted front line.

Two seasons of summer selling and not strengthening have cost the club big time. After an abysmal month and a long time since a even decent performance, surely it's about time the fans let the board, the players and Wenger know it's not good enough.

But will Arsenal fans make a noise or sit there with usual apathy?

Anonymous said...

Eboue is a very good right back. What did we expect to happen after his absence from major competition for such a long period? We must blame Wenger for that choice. He should have been eased backed into the line-up

Anonymous said...

As Cloughie used to say "It's a funny old game, init" I am a Reds fan and feel good that we got a degree of pay back after what your lot did to us in February but I still rate Arsenal highly. You mentioned that your midfield lacked steel against Mashcerano and Gerrard and I think you hit the nail square on the head. To me Arsenal looked soft in the middle and really lacked any kind of fight. Could this be due to a lack of British players? I often worry that Liverpool are losing their 'Britishness' but then we get performances from Carragher, Gerrard and Crouch that make feel more at ease.

I have always admired Arsenal, in fact they are the only London club I have had any time for. You have some great young talent but where is your next Ray Parlour or Tony Adams?

Anyway, good luck to you and I hope to meet you in a final some day soon.

Anonymous said...

i think we need to sign peter crouch

Anonymous said...

I agree with my fellow red.

Looking in from the outside, though Arsenal were outplayed there was still some good play out there. The only thing missing was any teeth were it mattered.

Liverpool had both the muscle and guile to win now Arsenal need to find the muscle!

One question I do have for Arsenal fans, is Wenger losing his way?

Anonymous said...

I think our problem lies on our tactics…
If we review our overall formation & the way we played, we’ll be exposed by any good team.

Why on earth must we play attacking football? Are we kidding ourselves?
Our attack is non potent without henry or van persie. Baptista is a joke. If their defenders have no problem shackling our attackers, their fullbacks & even CB will have more confident to roam forward. As such they will swamp our midfield and the snowball continues where their attacking midfielders will push further upfront causing problems for our defences. Even fullly fit Barcelona have trouble breaching Liverpool's defense, let alone Adebayor & Baptista.

I was so exasperated when we still opt to play attacking football even under such circumstances, when we should be playing defensive 4-5-1, like when we did with Adebayor upfront against MU

So the problem is not our defence really, IT’S ABOUT THE WAY WE PLAY. We should learn how to play according to circumstances & wise up tactically.

We’ve to learn to be more tactically aware & grow up in this department starting with wenger!!

Aliadiere should be considered being a winger. He caused a lot of problem running at defences previously.

Our probable squad next season should read:
Strikers: Henry, Van Persie, Adebayor, Bendtner
Left: Rosicky, Aliadiere, Flamini
Right: Walcott, Hleb, Ljungberg
Centre: Fab, Denilson, Gilberto, Diaby, Baptista (should be converted to defensive midfielder)

Left: Clichy, Traore
Right: Eboue, Hoyte
CB: Toure, Gallas, Djourou, Senderos

Attacking Formation:
Henry vanPersie
Aliadiere Fab Diaby Walcott
Clichy Gallas Toure Eboue

Balance 50/50:
Henry Adebayor
Rosicky Fab Gilberto Hleb
Clichy Gallas Toure Eboue

Defensive 4-5-1
Aliadiere Diaby Fab Gilberto Hleb
Clichy Gallas Toure Djourou

And we should work on defending setpieces & also convert the corners we earned!!! If we consider the ratio of scoring through corners & conceding from corners…..IT’S RIDICULOUS!!

Brendan said...

I'll say it for the last time after seeing that performance on Sat. BAPTISTA, NICE GUY ASIDE is SIMPLY NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR ARSENAL FC

Anonymous said...

I'm a Liverpool fan and i think Arsenal is a really good team. Against us your lads played badly but it was one performance out of many. I know your team has not performed up to expectations this season but I still think you have a frightening squad for the very near future. You have hit the dreaded transition period where for 2 or 3 even 4 years a club struggles to bring together a team which can bring back the glory days. Keep your heads up. Get behind your team. You're still a scary opponent.

Gelbs said...

Where do Arsenal go from here?
Very simple...


Anonymous said...

This is a weird read. The Gunners see gloom and doom, and the Liverpool fans are offering encouragement. One might expect to read gloating comments from Liverpool supporters (like me) and defiant comments from Gooners. Weird.

Anyway....when I think of a header narrowly over the bar...a shot against the post and another header parried on to the doesn't stretch the imagination to see Arse with 3 goals on Saturday. Not that you would, could or should have won, but it was not a whitewash. (Though if Pennant hadn't gone walkabout you wouldn't have scored either.)

Reds have a lot of respect for Arsenal (as you read above). I thinke Arsene is building a great team, and you'll be there or there abouts for
the years ahead.

A Scouser In Philly

Goonerboy said...

Its really nice to see opposing fans post comments on blogs which aren't just abuse, and actually add to the discussion. I've got a lot of respect for Liverpool and I hope you go on to win the CL again - if only to stop the Mancs and the Chavs.

There is a lot to be optimistic about, but we're going through a really rough patch at the moment. All the cup losses and now two defeats on Merseyside. There's a real air of pessimism about the club, which is disappointing considering how excited everyone was at the beginning of the season with the new stadium opening.

I think with a few goal-scoring midfielders, and with a Van Persie who stays fit for at least 75% of the season, we should do a lot better next year, but we need to get through this season with some semblance of moral intact.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the Frenchness of the team is bleeding into the fans. Throwing in the towel over one bad game?

Not performing up to expectations? It seems to me that the pundits had exactly this kind of season in mind back in August. Henry a little burnt out after the World Cup, the youth showing flashes of brilliance but only just enough to tease people into increased expectations, not enough to fulfill them. Throw in a pretty nasty injury bug, there you have it. If Man U had major injuries to Ronaldo, Ferdinand, etc., how well would they be faring?

Also, Man U was playing Blackburn, you were playing at Anfield. I just think you're overreacting a little bit.

Anonymous said...

Well, this is the kind of things that I would like to see. I'm a Liverpool fan and my best friend is an Arsenal fan. He sometimes watch Liverpool matches with me and as do I for Arsenal matches.

That's what I like about Liverpool and Arsenal. Both of our clubs have respects for each other. Kind of a friendly rivalry thing. Hey, Benitez and Wenger often see things eye to eye. Not to mention the friendship that both club captains have. Gerrard and Henry always encourage each other.

Anyway, Arsenal fans, keep your chin up. You are only going into a transitional period. You currently have what Liverpool are trying to create. A great team for the future. But we are also heading towards that. All the best for the rest of the season.

Anonymous said...

I actually thought Gallas played well and if it were not for him, the score will be much more embarassing. I'm a Red fan but I feel some of you were overly harsh on your team. Given the limited resources and the obscene amount of money available to both Chelski and ManUre, I thought Wenger is really doing quite well.