Welcome to my Arsenal blog for the 2015/16 season; here you can check out my thoughts on the current goings on at the club.
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Monday, 22 December 2014

Late Skrtel header denies Arsenal win

Arsenal eradicated memories of that 5-1 defeat at Anfield last season by earning a 2-2 draw with Liverpool yesterday evening. It was the home side that took the lead before goals from Debuchy and Giroud saw the Gunners take the lead. However, it was bitterly disappointing to drop 2 points as Skrtel headed home a late equaliser deep into injury time for the hosts. Arsenal were dominated in the first 45 minutes and because of that most fans would've been happy with a draw going into the break but it wasn't to be as we lost concentration late on once again. There was one change from the side that beat Newcastle last weekend as Chambers returned from suspension in place of Hector Bellerin.
Olivier Giroud scored his fifth league goal of the campaign
You'd be forgiven for accepting a draw against Liverpool, but such is the position of Arsenal in the table that three points are a necessity at the moment. We hadn't deserved to be winning the game at any point, we'd played terribly and we had struggled to retain possession all game. However, when 2-1 up against ten men (Borini had been sent off) in the seventh of nine added minutes on due to a head injury you shouldn't then drop points. Skrtel was the reason for the nine minutes of injury time due to a head injury, and it was inevitable that he would score the equaliser with a matter of moments left. It was just typical of Arsenal to concede in the manner that they did. Every man was back defending the corner, but Mertesacker ducked out the way, Gibbs wasn't on the post and no one challenged Skrtel who powered a header home.

Why were we dominated for large parts of the game though? The answer is simple, the lack of a calming influence and a ball retainer was heavily missed. Fans can harp on all they like about the need for a central defensive midfielder but the pairing that played at the weekend of Flamini and Chamberlain were heavily outnumbered by the 5 Liverpool played in midfield. There was far too much space in the middle of the park for Coutinho and with Chamberlain committing forward Flamini had his work cut out. It didn't help that the Frenchman received a yellow card so early on either. Mikel Arteta is hugely missed in these types of games. Although he's getting older and he doesn't suit that deep role we're craving his ball retention and composure on the ball. That's not to say that Francis Coquelin didn't have a very positive impact when he came on though.

Those that watched the game would've recognised the amount of times we gave away the ball. I'm unsure of the number of times we did but I hadn't seen an Arsenal side struggle to keep hold of the football for such long periods. The first goal came as a result of the ball being given away down their right hand side and there were chances spurned from the likes of Markovic and Coutinho despite the latter scoring Liverpool's first.

The form of Per Mertesacker this season is particularly worrying. It remains to be seen whether that form has dropped as a result of Laurent Koscielny not being beside him but the best players should be able to adapt. Twice this season he's ducked out the way rather than putting his body on the line, as well as against Liverpool it happened versus Stoke and cost us a goal. The defence had looked a lot better last time out against Newcastle so it can be queried as to why we changed the team around. Hector Bellerin looked excellent at right back against the Magpies so to drop him in favour of Chambers was a little harsh in my opinion. Calum Chambers had such a positive start to his Gunners career but has struggled in recent months. Montero caused him problems against Swansea, and Markovic and Sterling ran him ragged on Sunday.

There were positives though and what was encouraging was Olivier Giroud's goal. He's been a revelation since returning from injury and our overall play has improved massively since he's been back. He's been criticised for not finishing the big chances but he buried the only chance he had at the weekend after a brilliantly sweeping move that saw the French striker combine with Cazorla. Despite conceding two Wojciech Szczesny also returned to form, making some important saves late on. Mathieu Debuchy heading in his first Arsenal goal despite a poor first half from Arsenal showed great resilience too.

I noticed a few people after the game moaning about the substitutions Wenger made. I personally had nothing against seeing Monreal and Coquelin come on. We were winning by a slender margain and we needed to protect our lead; it was typical that we did exactly the opposite of that. Giroud coming off was a bit of a bizarre change considering he is the best header of the ball in the team and had he been on the pitch then perhaps Skrtel's goal could've been prevented. In terms of criticism for defensive substitutions rather than trying to get a third, had we held out then the subs would've been herald as brilliant. Instead, Wenger was used as the scapegoat for the dropped points when it was the defending that let him down once again.

It's a busy Christmas period and with so many out injured it could be difficult to rotate. We face QPR on Boxing Day before a trip to West Ham on the 28th and then Southampton away on New Years day. The latter two of the three are huge games considering both are ahead of us in the table at the moment. Come the first round of the FA Cup we could well be back in the top four. Fingers crossed. 

The team's line-ups:

Liverpool: Jones, Toure(81), Skrtel, Sakho, Lucas, Henderson, Gerrard, Lallana, Markovic(73), Sterling.
Subs: Mignolet, Enrique, Manquillo, Moreno, Can, Borini(73), Lambert(81).

Arsenal: Szczesny, Chambers, Debuchy, Mertesacker, Gibbs, Flamini, Oxlade-Chamberlain(90), Cazorla, Alexis(90), Welbeck, Giroud(82).
Subs: Martinez, Monreal(90), Coquelin(82), Maitland-Niles, Campbell(90), Walcott, Podolski.

My man of the match: Santi Cazorla.

Referee: Michael Oliver.
Attendance: 44,703.

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