Arsenal (0) 0 Liverpool (0) 3
Emirates Stadium, Drayton Park, London N5 1BU
Saturday, 3rd April 2021. Kick-off time: 8.00pm
(4-2-3-1) Bernd Leno; Calum Chambers, Rob Holding, Gabriel Magalhães, Kieran Tierney; Thomas Partey, Dani Ceballos; Nicolas Pépé, Martin Ødegaard, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang; Alexandre Lacazette.
Substitutes: Hector Bellerin, Willian Borges da Silva, Cédric Soares, Pablo Marí, Reiss Nelson, Mohamed Elneny, Eddie Nketiah, Mat Ryan, Gabriel Martinelli.
Yellow Cards: Gabriel
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 36%
Referee: Stuart Attwell
Assistant Referees: Constantine Hatzidakis, Sian Massey-Ellis
Fourth Official: Andre Marriner
VAR Team at Stockley Park: VAR Jonathan Moss; AVAR Andy Halliday
Attendance: A maximum of 300 attendees due to UK government coronavirus restrictions
Going into tonight’s crucial match against the Premiership champions, it is to be noted that we have lost just one of our past eight home Premier League games, of which we have won four matches and drawn three, and Alexandre Lacazette has scored in each of his last three Premier League starts against Liverpool. However, at the time of writing, the coaching team will assess Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe, who are nursing respective hamstring and hip injuries, whilst Willian is available after overcoming a calf problem, but Granit Xhaka is doubtful through illness and David Luiz is sidelined by a knee problem. A win is a must, as they all are at this stage of the season, of course. Let’s go!
As most Arsenal v Liverpool matches start with purpose, this one is no different with both sides showing their intent straight from the get-go, without any hard and fast goalscoring chances for either team in the opening ten minutes or so. There also appears to be a fair amount of jittery nerves out there tonight, with everybody conscious of serious goalscoring errors and mis-timed tackles. The visitors are having the lion’s share of possession so far, which inevitably leads to concentrated pressure on our goal; it has to be said that Rob Holding was holding the defence together extremely well, neutralising any effort on Bernd Leno’s goal. Alexandre Lacazette went off the pitch briefly to get medical attention to a cut eye orbit after a tussle with Nathaniel Phillips, and at the half hour mark in the match, it has to be said that Liverpool are the team that look more likely to score. Roberto Firmino’s twenty-yard shot went flying past the outstretched arm of Bernd Leno, narrowly missing his left-hand post by half a yard. Nicolas Pépé had a weak header on target (our first of the match), that Alisson easily plucked out of the air, and minutes later, James Milner’s shot missed the target from just inside our penalty area, which was a real let-off for us. Kieran Tierney took a bad knock, and went off for treatment, to be replaced by Cédric Soares in injury time, which finished a minute or so later with honours even.
With no substitutions for either side at half time, the second half started with us showing more urgency in taking the game to the visitors, which was good to see at last! The match started to get more competitive at a higher level, and as a result, Liverpool started to push us back into own half again, as they did so successfully in the first half. Because of the ever-worsening situation, Mohamed Elneny replaced Dani Ceballos in order to tighten things up just before the hour, and a few minutes later, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang slotted a perfect ball into the path of Cédric Soares, who hit a superb right-footed shot on the Liverpool goal, which Alisson was extremely fortunate to pick up. Sadly, Diego Jota opened the scoring for Liverpool on the sixty-fourth minute with an header, in which Bernd Leno was unlucky not to push away, delivered from the right by Trent Alexander-Arnold. Four minutes later, we were two goals down, when Fabinho played a first-time ball through for Mohamed Salah to run onto; Gabriel slid in, missed the tackle completely, only for Mo Salah to race into the box and slot it cheekily through Bernd Leno’s legs. A few minutes later, Bernd Leno made a point-blank range save from Mo Salah, and since the visitors scored their second goal, it rather looked like we were being pulled and pushed all over the pitch by the visitors. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was replaced by Gabriel Martinelli with fourteen minutes left on the clock, and Liverpool by now, were comfortable. So comfortable in fact, that with eight minutes left of the match, Diego Jota scored his second goal of the evening from point-blank range, which finished the contest completely. Even with four minutes injury time, we still didn’t look like scoring, and in many ways, the scoreline reflected our performance of the evening, unfortunately.
To say this was a disturbing performance is an understatement. Yes, there were important players absent for one reason or another, but this was a bit more than a bad day at the office, so to speak. We were completely outclassed in most areas of the pitch, and Liverpool made us look second-class, and for a club like Arsenal, that is totally unacceptable. With just two shots on goal, and thirty-five per cent possession, this shows that we are a long way from challenging for honours, and if the Slavia Prague match goes the wrong way, then European football next season will be merely a pipedream; that will then make the close season more important than ever for Mikel Arteta to strengthen this squad of players. The alternative is mid-table obscurity, hoping for a decent cup run somewhere. And that is just not the foundations that our club was built on.
Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as this season is going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners. Our next match: Slavia Prague at the Emirates on Thursday, 8th April at 8.00pm(Europa League). Victoria Concordia Crescit.
Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten: Arsenal v Racing Club de Paris 1930-1962 by Steve Ingless (Rangemore Publications, ISBN 978-1-5272-0135-4) is now available on Amazon.