For the first time since the 1999-2000 season, Liverpool completed a league double over Arsenal.
The first half saw Liverpool break the deadlock within nine minutes through Roberto Firmino. A through ball from Sadio Mane to Firmino allowed the Brazilian to tuck past Petr Cech and put his side into an early lead. The pressure then continued as Cech was forced to make a great save from an audacious strike from Philippe Coutinho.
Coutinho continued to cause problems and was denied what he thought to be a free kick, in what would have been a good position, but the referee saw no malice in the challenge.
Mane then scored to double his side’s lead with five minutes to go before the break, although he probably should’ve double his side’s lead a little earlier when his effort went just wide of the mark.
Arsenal then stepped up their performance in the second half, one could argue, perhaps unsurprisingly, this coincided with the arrival of Alexis Sanchez.
Giroud could’ve put his side back in the game three minutes into the second half, but saw his header saved by Simon Mignolet. Firmino could’ve made it three with some silky piece of skill, but was foiled by Cech who made easy work of a save.
Danny Welbeck got his side back into the game and gave the away support a glimmer of hope. Substitute Sanchez slotted the ball through to Welbeck, who dinked the ball over Mignolet to get his side back into the game.
Jurgen Klopp’s side continued to threaten as Mane went forward, then passed to Firmino, but his effort went amiss as Shkodran Mustafi was there to deny Liverpool a third.
Klopp’s side threatened, even more, when Coutinho forced his effort over. The home side made yet another threat when Joel Matip’s effort only found the hands of Cech after a freekick from Coutinho. Threat after threat, Liverpool just couldn’t seem to be able to find a third another chance to score went begging as a freekick from Coutinho found Divock Origi, but his effort rebounded back off the post.
Arsenal had a chance of their own when Sanchez’ effort was blocked. Liverpool didn’t waste time in going on the counter as Adam Lallana started the counter, which was finished off by Georginio Wijnaldum via Divock Origi to put the game to bed in injury time.
Thoughts on the game
In all honesty, I wasn’t looking forward to this game, which is rather strange, but I was expecting a backlash from Liverpool following their loss to Leicester City on Monday.
Now, most people disagreed with the decision to bench Sanchez, and start Giroud, but I saw it differently, although some joked that Sanchez was being “rested” for the second leg against Bayern Munich. I think the reason why Giroud started was to ease off the pressure on Sanchez. I don’t know for sure, but hey, it’s what I think. Arsene Wenger said the reason why Sanchez was benched was to be more direct going forward and start two players who are strong in the air. Ultimately, I think Sanchez should’ve started, to give Arsenal an early boost in the game. If he really benched Sanchez to deflect contract issues, like some have suggested, then benching Sanchez for that reason will only add fuel to the fire.
On the game itself, the result was disastrous for Arsenal who find themselves in a situation where they are really going to have to battle for a top four spot.
Could you take into account that Liverpool had an edge as they’ve played more recently? You could do, but I wouldn’t as Arsenal had more than enough time to prepare for this fixture after their game against Southampton was rearranged following the Saints reaching the League Cup final. I wouldn’t buy any mentally or physically jaded excuses.
Now, Arsenal look forward to a “dead rubber” in the Champions League against Bayern Munich (cue a “heroic loss”) then go to host Lincoln City next weekend in the FA Cup. As for Liverpool, they go again next weekend when they face Burnley. Overall, I’m neither angry or sad. I’m just “meh”, and that just goes to show how I feel at this stage of the season, Arsenal do have to fight, but it’s all coming together for the same old story.
Questions to be asked
When Emre Can was adjudged to have fouled Theo Walcott, should he have seen red? For me, having watched replays, I think that had Can seen red, it would be a soft decision.
Do you agree with the decision to start Giroud, and bench Sanchez
Let us know your opinions @OfficialTFF
Feature Image Credit: anfieldjustice