After having a weekend off last week because of the EFL Cup final, you would have thought that we would be well rested and fresh for the game. How wrong was this assumption!
First of all the team selection was perhaps the most controversial I have ever seen from Arsenal and Arsene Wenger. To not have your best player and even arguably the league’s best player starting is just stupid. Wenger claimed after the match that he didn’t start him because he wanted to be ‘more direct’, which is understandable, but we weren’t really direct at all and looked a far better team as you would expect when Sanchez came on!
Maybe there was or has been something going on behind the scenes between Alexis Sanchez and either Wenger or the players, but surely he has to start in what is one of our biggest games of the season?! Will he leave in the summer? I feel sorry for him as he tries his best and performs to a high standard in every game unlike others and deserves better, so I wouldn’t blame him if he did leave.
Elsewhere Özil wasn’t even in the squad as he was ‘ill’ but I didn’t actually really mind that much as he hasn’t been performing to his ability recently and does usually go missing in the big games. What I did agree with was that Welbeck was finally starting on the left and Giroud was up front which I thought could work well. Once again though, I did think that Lucas Perez should have started maybe instead of Iwobi, who hasn’t been on form in recent games.
So with the game not even starting, I along with many other Arsenal fans I’m sure, were already questioning Wenger and feeling annoyed. This is something he really couldn’t afford to do especially after being under so much pressure already. With the game itself I was very pessimistic (especially after the team selection) and thought at best we would have scraped a draw because Anfield is a tough place to go, arguably the toughest in the league.
Liverpool in particular, are a team who usually play better against so called ‘bigger teams’ and struggle against the ‘smaller teams’ which is basically the opposite to us, so I was expecting them to be at their best. They counter very well so we would have to be careful after we lost the ball.
The game kicked off and you could tell early on what side was going to win as Liverpool hit us hard. They pressured us very well making us make mistakes and not letting us get into our passing flow and they were rewarded just under 10 minutes in.
In what was their first chance of the match in a quick attacking move Mane crossed the ball across goal for Firmino to hammer in past Cech. It was poor defensively from us but you also have to give them credit as their attack causes any team a lot of problems.
Liverpool continued their dominance as they didn’t allow us to create anything and they deservedly doubled their lead five minutes before half time. This time it was Mane, (who was MOTM and caused us many problems all game) who finished well from of a Firmino pass after a good attacking build up play again.
They should have made it three and killed the game just before half time as Coutinho fortunately hit it straight at Cech. So 2-0 down at half time and we had it all to do. Wenger’s risky decision didn’t pay off at all and things had to drastically change in the second half.
As expected Alexis Sanchez was introduced for the second half (a bit too late if you ask me), and he unsurprisingly made an instant impact. We looked like a completely different team but a much better one and if only he had started! This was shown just before the hour mark, as he provided the assist for Welbeck to lift over Mignolet and get us back into the game.
Giroud also could have scored as his header was denied by Mignolet and hit the crossbar and we really looked like getting back into it at this point. We really pressed for the all important equaliser and Liverpool were lucky not to have a man sent off as Can made a late tackle on Walcott while already being on a yellow card.
The officials got it wrong there, but I’m not one to blame them as we have had many decisions go our way where we were perhaps lucky and I have been told by a Liverpool fan at my university that they have been very unfortunate with decisions this season so I suppose it balances out in the end!
Liverpool to be fair to them did always remain a threat though especially on the counter attack. Substitute Origi hit the post after a good Milner free kick before they eventually did kill the game off near in added time.
We piled too many players forward after Sanchez’s attempt was blocked and they made a quick break. Lallana, who was amazing throughout for them, found Origi and he brilliantly set up Wijnaldum to steer home and get them 3 important points.
So it ended in a 3-1 defeat for us and in what was a top four crunch match. We are fifth in the table but do have a game in the hand following last week and if we win that we go above Liverpool, so it is still all to play for. But being in another top four battle isn’t really what I or many Arsenal fans want and fans made their voice heard once again on Arsenal Fan TV after the game.
It is the most hostile it has ever been under Wenger as more and more fans are against him now. I still want him to stay but think he should leave at the end of the season especially if we win the FA Cup and/or finish in the top four again.
Next up is Bayern Munich at home in the Champions League tomorrow, which I am for some reason going to even though we are realistically already out after losing 5-1 in the first leg! Then on Saturday we face non-league Lincoln City at home in the quarter-final of the FA Cup which I am also going to.
Although Wenger is getting a lot of criticism it is also the players who have to take the blame as so many just aren’t performing enough for a team like Arsenal. This needs to change in the coming weeks and the players need to get behind each other as well as the fans more importantly. The players, including Sanchez, did look happy in training today, ahead of tomorrow’s game and Wenger has denied there’s been any fall-out between Sanchez and his teammates, despite media reports saying otherwise.
What will happen this coming week? Will there be a miracle tomorrow? Will there be a shock on Saturday? Will we be out of all the competitions? What does the future hold for Wenger and Sanchez? A lot of change is clearly needed at Arsenal and only time will tell as Wenger faces his toughest season yet!