March 16th – Arsenal 0 Liverpool 2

At least we ended up with eleven players on the pitch.

We wasted the first half performance with a sloppy second half. Within 3 minutes the game turned. Thiago played a backpass that Cigarette intercepts. He’s not able to turn and shot on goal so instead lays it off to Odegaard. His shot then deflects of Allison over the bar. Within two minutes Thiago slices a pass through our defense. Party, Saka and especially Cedric are by-passed and then Ramsey is between at the near post.

The game was not over until we presented them with the second goal soon after. I can’t count the number of times we had to clear the ball. Between Tierney then Xhaka and then finally Gabriel who decided to pass his way out of the penalty box we created another opportunity from them. And then when we cleared the ball Saka lost his challenge with Robertson to create another chance for them. This time, with everyone out of position Fermino waltzed pass Gabriel to slip in a neat goal. This killed the game off. It put a nail in the coffin of that first half when we went toe to toe with Liverpool. We were able to make them look average. But threw that away with how we came out in the second half.

Maybe we invested too much effort in the first half because it looked like we lost our legs a little. As anyone who is unwise enough to regularly read the drivel produced on this site knows, I never expected to get anything from this game. It’s just so frustrating to throw it away in the manner we did. We did not seem to recognize the change in patterns and interplay. Maybe it’s immaturity. But it just felt like a waste. An opportunity to creep up a level to really make them work for the entire game. Instead, we made it easy with sloppiness and too many mistakes. The loss of those second tackles killed us today. And it was epitomized with that second goal. The overriding feeling is one of frustration. As good as Liverpool are, we killed ourselves.  It seems, we are fated to lose every game to them 2-0.

So many things were right about that first half. They could have scored in the first 2 minutes but rather than be disrupted by their fast start we established our style on the game. Good passing and movement with outlets on both wings. Today we had real threat down our left. Martinelli was our stand out performer today. He took Trent to the cleaners today. And in the first half left him rooted to the spot on numerous occasions. We lacked that final pass. But, sorry to have to state this yet again, we missed a real striker. Cigarette was not at his best today. Aside from being too slow on the Thiago mistake, he failed to accept the quick pass from the free kick from (I think) Odegaard. And generally, he would arrive, in the box, just too late to have an impact. Outside the box he was slightly better but fairly anonymous. As good as Martinelli was though this was also offset by the lack of threat from Saka. As good as he was against Leicester, he was as quiet today.

Odegaard, aside from missing the game changing chance, was less impactful. It did not help that the center of the pitch was clogged up. But he had one or two chances to play Saka through and underhit the pass. Unfortunately, against this team, at this level, the margins are paper-thin. What you can get away with against Leicester you can’t again Liverpool. They operate at another level. When you get your chance, whether in front of goal, or to play someone through, you have to take it. There is no margin for error at the highest level. These little mistakes cost you. And we saw that today. And that’s whats’ frustrating. Of course, there’s a context here. The pressure Liverpool apply, the quality of their players. It drains you, it takes away your energy and causes the focus to meander.

Partey was again very strong. He and Martinelli were our best performers. Tierney was solid. As, I thought, was White. Gabriel reverted a little. His passing was off. The mistake he made for that second goal was annoying to watch. He should have battered it into row Z in the stands. Watch Van Dyke – he’ll do that in addition to passing it out. You have to know when and where to take chances with coming out of the back. And from the edge of your areas when you surrounded is not one of those.

The fans though were our stars today. They were vocal and engaged fully. Even after giving away those goals they were still behind the team and willing them on. Their performance was at least consistent for the entire 90 minutes. You could feel the atmosphere in the stadium. It’s just a shame the players let them down in the end.

Not that this is the end of the world. For that just cast your eyes over to Kiev. This was more a disappointment. To see the hard work of the first half wasted in such a frail manner. And I think we saw the players recognize that. We had a few other chances but never really threatened their goal after that one guilt edged chance. That’s how it goes against the best teams. And maybe we saw tiredness creep in as well. This is why you need a larger squad when you play mid-week. They were able to bring on Salah and Firmino and still leave quality on their bench. We had ESR and then it’s Pepe and Eddie. Sure Pepe changed the game against Wolves but today – like Sunday – he had minimal impact.

I’m not devasted. And I’m still impressed with how Arteta set out the team. We have not lost the race for 4th place – that was never going to be decided today. It’s the games against those we’re directly competing with that will. And we saw enough to see that we are close to the level we need to be. But we have to find away to cut out these mental mistakes. Maybe that’s just down to youth. Though that would not explain Cedric. Not that this is entirely down to him. I can’t help feeling though that with a fit Tomi at right back we’d not have been sliced open for the first goal nor would he have been out of position for the second. I support to be fair I should be critical of Ramsdale for that firsts goal. But I won’t. Because he’s a star and he’s earned enough good will to have us ignore this one. He’s still irreplaceable. He’s still the best goalkeeper in England. I would take him over any other goalie in any other team in England. So, maybe, I’m just a little biased. He could pick up the ball and drop kick it into our own goal and I’d still find some way of defending him and blaming the goal on Cedric.

In the meantime, let’s enjoy the implosion of Stamford Bridge. Let’s hope that no-one can close out the deal. Unfortunately, someone will swoop in and buy an undervalued asset – it’s a fire sale. But whoever comes in, they surely won’t squander as much money as the Russian villain. There will at least be some fiscal control. They won’t be able to out bid everyone, they will have to operate within budgets. No-one else would be insane enough to spend go on the spreading sprees they have in the past. Nor pay off managers right after winning the European Cup. The idea that they lodge a request to have their weekend cup tie played behind closed doors also give you some insight to the caliber of people in the club making football decisions. For them to invoke the notion of protecting the integrity of the competition is behind ironic.  It’s beyond laughable. It speaks to people who have lost touch with reality. And, that, for their fans, should be a little worrying. And for us, with a ring side seat at the long awaited demise of a once irrelevant and shitty club (no, I’m talking about the one in West London).

OK, so now we’re off to Aston Villa. Let’s hope we can put today’s disappointment behind us and channel the frustration at todays sloppyness into a mistake free, and focused performance. I would be nice to see Saka shine and Odegaard have the space to orchestrate some goals. And, on the plus side, we don’t have to play Liverpool again this season. Nor see the ugly face of Jota.


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