Anonymous Arsenal. Barely able to make three complete passes in a row. For once I wished the International break could have lasted even long. Then we would not have to force ourselves to stay awake as Arsenal slumbered their way through this game. We can come onto individual performances (or lack of) a little later. Overall there was nothing going on with this team. It was like that first half against West Ham but worse. There was not second half rebound here.
Sure Liverpool aren’t a shabby team and they have some good players. But how is it they won every single 50:50 ball? How is it that we could never hold onto the ball. We were unable to link up and create anything. We were so passive. We were, as last week, more like Spu*s than Arsenal.
All team have shitty matches. We seem to have more than our fair share. And, as ever, we can’t overreact. But, on the other hand. What the fuck. This was dreary and pointless. There was no believe. Which team turns up is so random. We’re like Jekyll and Hyde. We’re like Henry and Jeffers. Or Lehman and Alumina.
What did we learn today (aside from not watching such dross)? Not that much. Everything we’ve seen in the past we saw today. Though it’s rare to see it all unravel so quickly. It reminded me of the NoHopaCup v Chelski. We hung in there, defended stoutly and then made too many mistakes.
I like Gabriel as a defender; he’s young, physically strong and good in the air. But today two mistakes cost us two important goals. For the Salah goal I thought Leno could have done better – as he could with the first. It has me still wondering whether there is a buy-back clause on Martinez.
I understand that Chambers provides ariel strength against a team that cross the ball but his passing today was sideways and backwards. And he and Holding left their men free. And for that all important first goal – as he did with Sterling against Manchester City – he lost his man and got beaten in the air by someone ½ his size. After all the hard work defending that had proceeded, it was such a lame way to concede.
But the writing was on the wall. We ceded so much space and territory to them. We were playing like Bolton or Burnley. Except that both these teams would have had more fight, grit and determination.
Ironically when Ceballos finally got replaced it was still 0-0. He was by far our worst player today but it’s only when he left the field that we lost the game. Ceballos has no future with Arsenal. He takes so many touches when he could just lay the ball off. He losses the ball in dangerous positions on the pitch and he can’t defend. I am so desperate to see him join Mustafi, Kolinsac and the others. We’ve had him now for nearly two years and, with time, just like a wine that is not fine, he has not aged and improved. He’s going backwards. Hopefully all the way to Madrid.
So how do all those fans who’ve tried to chase Xhaka out of this club feel now? He was so clearly missing today. His ability to pick the ball off the backline and create was what we so desperately missed. And his ability to fill in behind Tierney was also missing. This is why Gabriel got into so much trouble today. There was no-one near him to receive the ball.
Partey looked dead on his feet today. When is he ever going to be ready to play a full 90 minutes? Once we’d lost this game (at 2-0) he should have been protected and removed. I’m convinced he is still not fully fit. Our season is all about the NoHopaCup. Protect him for that please.
Pepe was ineffectual and lost the ball at key times. He is so lacking in physical strength. You could blow and he’d fall over. He is too easy to push off the ball and is a risk we can’t carry. Here was another chance for him to excel but he failed. He offered no outlet today. It’s inconceivable we paid so much money for him. At some point, even though he’s young, we have to off-load him. I don’t believe he’s ever going to work out for us.
Losing three points is frustrating but not surprising. But losing Tierney is far more worrying. We can’t progress without him. Sure Cedric was reasonable but it’s not the same. We need Tesco-boy. And losing him today would be way more impactful than losing three points. We’ve seen every team have bad games and lose games they should not (cough cough Chelski) but it was the timid way in which we played today that is so worrying. Aubameyang was not involved at all. Cigarette could not hold onto the ball or pass to our players. And poor old (or young) Odergaard must have wondered why he’d want to be part of this team. We could not get him the ball. And when we did all he could do was pass sideways or backwards. There was no-one making any good runs. It was all so static.
As good as Partey can be though it demonstrates the value of Xhaka. Not only is the replacement (Ceballos or Elneny) too below the required level. But, just as Partey makes other better players so does Xhaka. He’s not perfect by any stretch – he’s too slow and too one footed. But he’s the 2nd best midfield player. And we clearly need a couple more.
Hector must be wondering why he’s in the dog house. He’s behind Chambers now and possibly Cedric. It’s not clear why. I’m not entirely happy with Hector but he offers us something we otherwise don’t have.
It also shows us what happens when you remove both Saka and Smith-Rowe from the team. These were the two catalysts for all the good things that happened from the Chelksi game onwards. And today you could see we missed their energy, drive and aggressive. Their willingness to take the game to the opposition. Their quick interplay and one touch passing is in stark contrast to the belabored rubbish we saw today. Again, with them Odergaard is wasted and unnecessary.
Games like this do make you wonder about Arteta. He was not responsible for any of the goals. But he was slow to change up our shape. I suppose we have to remember he is learning on the job and he’ll make mistakes. At least he pulled Ceballos quickly. But the shape and tactics – as excellent as they were last year against Liverpool – were absent today.
So it’s onto Thursday. We need Tierney back along with Saka and Smith Rowe. And, even, the much criticized David Luiz. This team is three players away from being competitive on a regular basis. It’s can’t happen when we so vulnerable to particular players being unavailable. We have wasted too much money over the last few years on Pepe and others to be able to recover in a year. It’s a long shot that we’ll find any way into Europe next year. Like other clubs we could use the absence to complete the rebuild. Or it could be an other step towards oblivion. Days like this one give me pause but I’m still optimistic as long as we can remain patient.