Arsenal (0) 0 Liverpool (0) 2
Emirates Stadium, Drayton Park, London N5 1BU
Wednesday, 16th March 2022. Kick-off time: 8.15pm
(4-2-3-1) Aaron Ramsdale; Cédric Soares, Ben White, Gabriel Magalhães, Kieran Tierney; Thomas Partey, Granit Xhaka; Bukayo Saka, Martin Ødegaard, Gabriel Martinelli; Alexandre Lacazette.
Substitutes: Bernd Leno, Emile Smith-Rowe, Rob Holding, Nicolas Pépé, Nuno Tavares, Albert Sambi Lokonga, Mohamed Elneny, Eddie Nketiah, Zak Swanson.
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 49%
Referee: Andre Marriner
Assistant Referees: Simon Long, Scott Ledger
Fourth Official: Andy Madley
VAR Team at Stockley Park: VAR John Brooks; AVAR Marc Perry
There’s no doubt about it, an Arsenal versus Liverpool match certainly raises the hairs on the back of your neck. Anything that involves these two leviathans of the English game demands the interest of supporters and football pundits from around the world, and tonight’s match is no exception. Both clubs insist on victory; we need it to propel ourselves to within five points of third place Chelsea, and our visitors need a win to take them to within a point of leaders Manchester City. All to play for.
The match started at a frenetic pace, and the very early stages were played out in our penalty area with the visitors winning two or three corner kicks within no time at all, which thankfully came to nothing. We then managed to breakout and although Bukayo Saka did well, Andy Robertson slid in to gain the ball back. There were lots of strong tackling from both teams as an end-to-end match was being played out by two very committed sets of players. Trent Alexander-Arnold slotted a ball down the line but Kieran Tierney was there ahead of Sadio Mane, thankfully, with the Liverpool forward pressed our full-back but it deflected straight out for a goal kick. A couple of minutes later, Gabriel passed the ball firmly to Gabriel Martinelli, who flicked it on and he made chase down the left-hand side of the pitch, and passed it over into the middle of the visitors’ penalty area; Joel Matip left it and Andy Robertson hooked it away a few yards out from his own goal. Gabriel Martinelli then managed to sprint back to beat Trent Alexander-Arnold to Jordan Henderson’s pass to neutralise any possible danger, which was good and quick thinking by our man from Brazil. After twenty minutes, the ball came to Cédric Soares in the middle of the pitch and he took a snap shot at the Liverpool goal, but it went wide of the mark by a couple of metres. A large percentage of the match was being played in the midfield area, with very few shots on goal taken by either side. Just after the half hour mark, Alexandre Lacazette held up the ball well on the left hand side, slotted it back to Granit Xhaka, whose left-footed shot went narrowly wide of Alisson’s left-hand post. We were playing well with and without the ball, and our level of desire and commitment tonight is utterly superb. Luis Diaz ran down the wing, and Kieran Tierney outran him and robbed him of the ball, whilst up front, Gabriel Martinelli was turning Trent Alexander-Arnold inside out, and the standard of his play tonight is wonderful to see. When the visitors come forward, our defenders, particularly Ben White, is on hand to clear the danger, making sure that nothing is left to chance. Five minutes before the break, Liverpool won a corner on the left, and Gabriel cleared it, but it fell to Thiago. He did well to send it back in but Aaron Ramsdale easily plucked it out of the air. A minute or so later, referee Andre Marriner blew the whistle for the half-time break, honours even at this point in the match.
We started the proceedings for the second half, in a very important forty-five minutes for both clubs. Within a minute of the restart, Sadio Mane got the ball into our net, but thankfully it was cancelled out for offside. Gabriel Martinelli was truly magical out on the left, beating several Liverpool players, and slotting it across, but sadly no-one was there to knock it into the net. Five minutes after the restart, Thiago gave the ball to Alexandre Lacazette, who teed up Martin Ødegaard and Alisson recovered well to deflect it over the crossbar. A few minutes later, Diego Jota ran onto a through ball from Thiago and shot the ball past Aaron Ramsdale to open the scoring for the visitors, which was totally against the run of play overall. Liverpool came forward again after their goal and grabbed a corner on the left which was cleared to Mohamed Salah on the edge of the box; he rushed the shot as he brought it down then thankfully hit it into Row Z. Just after the hour, Roberto Firmino was in the right place at the right time (for Liverpool) to score the second goal of the evening, sadly. Also, with a two goal cushion, the visitors applied more pressure on our goal, and with twenty-five minutes remaining, Martin Ødegaard was replaced by Emile Smith-Rowe in order for us to try and get something back from this game. A couple of minutes later, Alexandre Lacazette won the ball just inside the Liverpool half. He found Gabriel Martinelli, who tried to cut inside Joel Matip but the Liverpool defender stood firm and won the ball. Bukayo Saka was replaced by Nicolas Pépé after seventy-two minutes, and his substitution appeared to rejuvenate the boys somewhat, and eight minutes later, Eddie Nketiah replaced Alexandre Lacazette to give the team a different shape. The visitors now did what they always do best, which is pure game management. However, Nicolas Pépé wanted a free-kick out on the right which he didn’t get. Thomas Partey went down too, but they had the advantage until Nicolas Pépé won a throw-in. With two minutes remaining of the match, a beautiful Gabriel Martinelli shot brushed by the left hand side of the post, and although the chaps kept coming back at Liverpool, the sands of time were running out for us. In the three minutes injury time, nothing much of any note happened, and we finished the evening with no points for all of our wonderful efforts from our superb young team.
In essence, it was a game of two halves, with our boys being the best side by a mile in the first half, but unfortunately we were unable to capitalise on all of our great efforts. For the second match in a row, Gabriel Martinelli was our man of the match, turning the Liverpool defenders every which way but loose, showing huge amounts of class every time he touched the ball, performing his magic as the game wore on. Of course, we can always say, what would have happened if Martin Ødegaard had scored so early on in the second half, or if Gabriel Martinelli’s shot hadn’t shaved the post but had gone in? Still, these things happen, but overall we showed that we can organise ourselves to threaten a top side, and give them a few scares along the way as well. We were confident, strong and hungry to win, and you cannot ask for more than that against a side such as Liverpool. Undoubtedly we certainly deserved more out of this match than we actually got, and at times it certainly looked like we would. Such a shame, really. Interesting times ahead for us all.
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: Aston Villa at Villa Park on Saturday, 19th March 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.