Bernd Leno’s spell as Arsenal’s starting goalkeeper may come to an abrupt halt after his mistake denied the Gunners all three points last Saturday. The Gunners were the better team throughout their clash with a Liverpool side tipped to challenge for the title this season.
A superb strike from Alexandre Lacazette saw Arsenal rescue a draw, but Leno’s earlier mistake will disappoint his manager. He tipped Sadio Mane’s fizzed cross tipped out to a grateful James Milner via a glancing blow off Holding’s leg; the Liverpool midfielder slammed the ball home.
Petr Cech began the season in goal for Arsenal, but an injury to the veteran stopper allowed Leno to come into the first team. Cech is now back and raring to go. Unai Emery might now be tempted to return the veteran goalkeeper to the starting line-up.
Leno has made some smart saves during his spell in the first team, and he looks composed on the ball, but he struggled against Liverpool. He was caught in no man’s land as Virgil Van Dijk headed onto the post in the first half, and the more experienced Cech might be preferred going forwards.
Despite that mistake, Arsenal fans had plenty to cheer on an entertaining evening at The Emirates. They dominated possession against Jurgen Klopp’s men and carved out plenty of chances, so they can feel aggrieved not to have taken all three points.
The very best betting sites will have Premier League winner odds and they all have Liverpool as clear second favourites behind champions Man City. Arsenal are fourth in the betting, after Chelsea and neck-and-neck with Tottenham, but the odds on them seizing the title are huge. Yet they should take a great deal of confidence from their performance, which extended their unbeaten run to 14 games.
Consistency Yada Yada Yada
Lucas Torreira was an absolute beast in midfield. Arsenal have long been crying out for such a player, and his terrier-like performance ensured the Gunners dictated the pace of the game. It was great to see Sead Kolasinac back from injury, and the Bosnian provided a strong, bustling outlet down the left-hand side.
Hector Bellerin continues to improve under Emery and the central defensive pairing of Shkodran Mustafi and Rob Holding held firm throughout against three of the world’s most dangerous forwards.
Yet there is clear room for improvement. Leno cost his team the win and it could have been worse if that Van Dijk header had rolled in. Henrikh Mkhitaryan was wasteful in possession and frequently found a Liverpool player with his passing. Alex Iwobi looked a lot more dynamic and purposeful when introduced, and he should be able to nail down a starting berth in this team.
Lacazette was quiet apart from his goal, but that magnificent strike showed the value of him leading the line. It is a shame for a striker as dangerous as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to be shunted out to the wing, and he was disappointed to be substituted after barely getting a sniff in the game, but there seems to be no solution to that conundrum.
It is also disheartening to see Mesut Ozil struggling to impose himself on the game. He delivered three positively majestic contributions to inspire Arsenal to victory against Leicester a couple of weeks ago, but since then he has failed to make a single meaningful contribution in 180 minutes of football. The German needs to find better consistency, as Arsenal are not short of options going forward.
But overall this was a satisfying performance for the fans, as the Gunners proved they are no mere flat-track bullies. After scoring, Liverpool set out to frustrate, and if Arsenal had not found an equaliser, they would be slaughtered in the press for going missing against the big teams.
Instead they can hold their heads up high and they could end up carrying an 18-game unbeaten streak into the North London derby on December 2. It was also brilliant to see Unai Emery so animated on the touchline, and this bodes well for the rest of the season.