Liverpool 5 – 1 Arsenal
Where to begin after a performance like that? They say don’t hit a wasps nest with a stick but that’s what we did. Dressed in swimming trunks. Probably budgie smugglers given our incompetence. Someone on social media wrote that we had a “top 3 attack, a top 5 midfield and bottom 3 defence”. That sums it up. The defence, unchecked, could drag us relegated.
It’s a lesson Unai Emery won’t forget. A public demonstration of how bad his defenders are. The sight of Mustafi berating Lichtsteiner after his mistake in the equaliser was pure Spinal Tap; the German would make as many, if not more, devastating contributions in his 45 minutes on the pitch.
Should we talk of the slack marking or pathetic non-tackling? It’s harsh to pick on him when Sokratis and Lichtsteiner found themselves as guilty of those charges. It was a chastening experience to watch such experienced players get the basics so completely wrong. I knew they had a clusterf*ck in them individually but three players suffering brainfarts at the same time was car-crash football.
It puts the season so far into context and a disconcerting analysis of the recruitment team. Lichtsteiner, for all the experience he gathered, played like Bambi. Mustafi was Bambi’s mother after she got shot whilst Sokratis was Daffy Duck who wandered onto the wrong film set just as his rifle explodes in his face.
To some extent, this was foreseen and as such, leaves me sanguine. When you think we’ll lose 4 – 0 or fluke a 3 – 2 win beforehand, it underlines where we are at present: a country mile off the top four and the title is in a different county.
Still, we scored, eh. Hat-tip to Ainsley Maitland-Niles for that run and finish.
Not As Bad As Police Academy 7
Emery called it a “bad experience”. We’ve been here before. Losing by a hatful of goals at Anfield is nothing new; Wenger did it on a number of occasions so we’ve got the t-shirt and realised it’s a movie franchise with too many sequels. They get progressively worse as the stars of the initial film are replaced by straight-to-DVD jobbers.
He’s learning as well. Emery pointed his finger – in an Invasion of the Bodysnatchers kind of way – at the referee for awarding Liverpool two penalties. The second was soft beyond words in the same way the first was Sokratis’ stupidity which I can quite easily describe: crass. A player known to tumble at the slightest contact so what do you? You kick his calf on one leg and the opposite ankle from behind. Hmmm; I wonder what will happen?
Then again, to not award a penalty for the foul on Lacazette is the best argument for VAR I’ve seen this weekend. Unai is of the same opinion:
I think VAR is important – it’s coming next year, because I think it’s going to help the referees to take better decisions.
Yeah, but there are still feeble-minded officials to contend with. The theory is that not being in the ground will alleviate the pressure of the crowd. But the match official – the decision-maker – is still subject to those influences.
But that’s not Arsenal’s problem nor one we can influence.
Recruitment is the issue. Anyone who thinks we don’t need major surgery on the defence is deluding themselves. The bar is Mustafi. Is a player better than him? Sign him up. Stronger in the tackle than Lichtsteiner? Give him a pen. Less injury prone than Koscielny? You know what to do.
Diamond Eye or Goldeneye
The signing of Gary Cahill, even of a six-month loan deal, vexes some. In the sense that he has experience, it makes sense. At 33, I’d question the wisdom from a playing side. We’re struggling with pace and a high line; can he save the day?
It’s press speculation at the moment – Italian press speculation at that – so maybe we have someone else lined up. Diamond Eyes might need to take his sunglasses off if it proves to be true; his Stevie Wonder impersonation won’t impress anyone.
We have just two days to recover from this, to find a plan. Liverpool
Unai Emery has questions to answer as well. It’s fairly obvious that a back-five with Lichtsteiner involved as one of the centre-backs doesn’t work so is a back-four a better option? That way he can drop Lichtsteiner and Mustafi.
It’s easy to think the coach and players owe us a big performance on Tuesday but to be honest, I’ll be happy with a winning one. Three points is important for confidence and that’s a fragile commodity in the players right now.