Arsenal were almost able to pull off a huge win at Anfield, if it wasn’t for a late Martin Skrtel goal in stoppage time. The game ended in a 2-2 draw, and I think most Arsenal fans would have been content with a draw before the start of the game.
Throughout the game, Arsenal were outclassed by Liverpool. Liverpool had more possession, more shots, and more shots on goal, but the positive for Arsenal is that they didn’t allow the game to slip away from them early unlike last season. It’s clear that Arsene Wenger learned his lesson by installing a more conservative approach to the game. Even though, this Liverpool team is very different from last season’s — Luis Suarez is now enjoying life in Barcelona and Daniel Sturridge is out injured — Wenger couldn’t take the risk of setting up his team to play their usual free flowing, attacking football.
Wenger’s Plan B almost worked out in Arsenal’s favor.
Arsenal left less space in the back, and Liverpool were unable to punish them on the counter like they did in the 5-1 bashing from last season. This allowed Arsenal to stay in the game and nick a few goals as opportunities presented itself.
In the 45th minute, Liverpool took a 1-0 lead after an errant Olivier Giroud pass resulted in an eventual Phillppe Coutinho goal. Coutinho was able to create some space, in the box, and kick a low strike past Szczesny that banged off the post into the goal.
Liverpool’s lead was short lived as Mathieu Debuchy tied the game 112 seconds later. Alexis Sanchez was able to win a free kick, and he delivered a cross into the box that was first headed by Per Mertesacker. Mathieu Flamini was able to out jump Lucas and headed the ball towards goal where Debuchy was waiting to head the ball past a diving Brad Jones.
At halftime, both teams were tied 1-1.
Giroud put Arsenal into the lead, in the second half, by kicking a low strike through Jones’ legs in the 64th minute. Santi Cazorla was able to get on the end of the ball, in the box, and deliver a cut-back pass to Giroud for the goal.
After going up 2-1, Arsenal sat back and tried to defend the lead. Wave after wave of Liverpool’s attack were stymied by Arsenal’s defense, but the breakthrough finally came in stoppage time when Skrtel was able to blast a free header past Szczesny off Adam Lallana’s corner.
Fabio Borini received a red card in stoppage time for a high boot that hit Cazorla in the chest. Borini came on as substitute in the 74th minute, and he let his team down by receiving two yellow cards in the space of 18 minutes.
Overall, the result was fair, but Arsenal could have put in a much better performance. Arsenal were sloppy in possession, and one of those errant passes led to a Liverpool goal. Also, Arsenal still struggle to defend set pieces. This has been a reoccurring problem for the Gunners, and it’s a problem that needs to be corrected.
Wenger may be annoyed with Skrtel’s late goal and the final result of the game, but he can take solace in that his team performed much better than they did in this fixture last season. This was always going to be a tough match for the Gunners, or for any team that steps foot on the Anfield pitch. In games like this, current form doesn’t matter, and it was clear that Liverpool were going to come out fired up for this game. Arsenal were able to stand their ground, for the most part, and were able to almost pull off a huge victory.