Liverpool (1) 4 Arsenal (0) 0
Anfield Stadium, Anfield Road, Anfield, Liverpool L4 0TH
Saturday, 20th November 2021. Kick-off time: 5.30pm
(4-4-1-1) Aaron Ramsdale; Takehiro Tomiyasu, Ben White, Gabriel Magalhães, Nuno Tavares; Bukayo Saka, Albert Sambi Lokonga, Thomas Partey, Emile Smith-Rowe; Alexandre Lacazette; Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Substitutes: Bernd Leno; Kieran Tierney, Martin Ødegaard, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Rob Holding, Cédric Soares, Nicolas Pépé, Mohamed Elneny, Gabriel Martinelli.
Yellow Cards: Mikel Arteta
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 37%
Referee: Michael Oliver
Assistant Referees: Stuart Burt, Simon Bennett
Fourth Official: Andy Madley
VAR Team at Stockley Park: VAR Chris Kavanagh; AVAR Sian Massey-Ellis
And so it’s that time again, Liverpool at Anfield, with all that heaven will allow. The history is one thing; the here and now is another, of course. Today will be a perfect test for our boys, in as much that we will be able to gauge just how far we have come under Mikel Arteta, using this successful Liverpool team as our benchmark for future progression in all competitions. Remember, we remain unbeaten in the Premier League since the Manchester City debacle at the Etihad Stadium on 28th August, which is nine matches ago of course, and it will be very interesting to see if we can continue this successful run at the Anfield Stadum this afternoon.
The home side kicked the contest off, and immediately both sets of players showed their competitive edge. Using our tried and trusted 4-4-1-1 formation, it all started to look very solid at the back despite early pressure from Liverpool, who passed the ball around confidently, moving out into midfield from the back. We played some interesting movements down the wings, with Bukayo Saka looking impressive, firing balls over into the centre of the penalty area for our strikers to capitalise on. It is becoming obvious that there are lots of little battles all over the pitch between various players that will start to unfold more as the match wears on, and both sides are just looking for natural gaps in the play to exploit. Takehiro Tomiyasu crossed a superb ball from the right wing after sixteen minutes for Bukayo Saka to get his head to, but sadly Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain got there first to clear the danger. Arsenal are playing some good, precise football, finding our players well and advancing into the Liverpool half with some urgency; we also need to get Thomas Partey and Emile Smith-Rowe into this match as soon as possible, as they are crucial to our success today. Ben White and Gabriel look solid at the back, confidently clearing Liverpool attacks as they materialise. Just before the half hour mark, Aaron Ramsdale made a superb save from both Thiago and Sadio Mané from close range to deny the home side a certain goal; a minute later, Alexandre Lacazette did get the ball into the net at the other end, but the goal was chalked off for offside. Then, emotions got the better of the two managers after a somewhat innocuous tackle, which resulted in both of them receiving a yellow card from Michael Oliver! And again, just ten minutes before the break, Aaron Ramsdale made an incredible point-blank save from Mo Salah, which amazed everyone in the stadium. The game became really exciting end-to-end stuff now, with no quarter given nor taken by both teams. Unfortunately, just six minutes before half-time, we went one down when a Trent Alexander-Arnold free-kick found Sadio Mané, whose header beat Aaron Ramsdale from six yards, despite getting a hand to the ball during its goalbound flight. A couple of minutes later, Albert Sambi Lokonga fired in a low shot from long range which was saved by Alisson, and although the match started to level out, we went into the break one down, unfortunately.
Arsenal got the second half underway, and almost immediately we brought the match to the home side when a superb through ball by Emile Smith-Rowe found Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who although was tackled by Virgil van Dijk, was sadly offside. Playing out from the back has its dangers, and losing possession is just one issue; we were fortunate not to be punished by Trent Alexander-Arnold, but fortunately Aaron Ramsdale recovered just in time to defend his goal successfully. A period of Liverpool pressure sadly led to Diego Jota walking around a couple of our defenders (after a pass by Nuno Tavares which went astray), and eventually Aaron Ramsdale to score the second goal of the day after fifty-two minutes. Directly afterwards, Albert Sambi Lokonga was replaced by Ainsley Maitland-Niles in order to shore things up better at the back. It didn’t work, as Liverpool started to overrun us constantly, chipping away and wearing us down; after Alexandre Lacazette was replaced by Martin Ødegaard, following wave upon wave of attacks on our defence, Mo Salah scored the third with a simple tap-in after seventy-three minutes. A few minutes later, the game was completely put out of our reach when Takumi Minamino scored the fourth Liverpool goal, with again, a tap-in from close range. An ineffective Thomas Partey was replaced by Mohamed Elneny, and our game became simply one of containment now. The home side seemed to be content with mere possession and a pattern of denial towards ourselves, and with nothing more to do with this Saturday night game, the match desecnded into a disappointing defeat for us.
Yes, this was a disappointing result, and with only thirty-seven percent possession, the scoreline was truly horrible; but please let’s get all this into context. We competed as best as we could, and after all, we are still a young team who are growing and learning as we go from match to match. Today’s opponents show the standard that we must aspire to, and given time, we will; but it is still to be remembered that we not only have had an excellent unbeaten run in the Premiership up until now, but we are still fifth in the Premiership table tonight, which is great. This was Liverpool after all, and they are utterly ruthless, so to walk away from Anfield having only been one down at half time, was heartening to see; although we fell apart in a fifteen minute spell in the second half, we shall take this on board for future reference. It’s not the end of the world, we shall return. Fingers burned, lessons learned.
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: Newcastle United at the Emirates on Saturday, 27th November at 12.30pm (Premier League). Be there, if you can. 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.