Liverpool 5-5 Arsenal: Gunners Implode Against Make Shift Merseyside Outfit
If you were a neutral fan, you might have enjoyed the great football on display from two fearless sides that had nothing to lose really. Jurgen Klopp made his intentions known with the lineup he fielded – loads of unknowns with only Divock Origi, James Milner, Naby Keita and ex-Gunner, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain being the only reputable names. In all fairness, the Gunners had a better squad on paper and these are lads that have played together in the previous rounds of the Carabao Cup as well as the Europa League group stages.
However, the Gunners started the game on the back foot when Neco Williams cross was deflected into his own goal by Skhodran Mustafi. The German has been a much maligned figure and was shown the door this summer but he has somewhat revamped himself playing alongside Rob Holding this season, so conceding an own goal brought the ghosts back and fans were having a field day on it. The Gunners didn’t allow that setback deter them as they waltzed forward with some good attacking play. The away side got their reward when Mesut Ozil showed some great composure to tee up Bukayo Saka but the winger’s shot was very tame.
Luckily Caoimhin Kelleher had a bit of the Flappyhandski Syndrome which allowed the ball to get into Lucas Torreira’s path and the diminutive Uruguayan tucked the ball home. Replays showed that Torreira was offside but with no VAR, Arsenal got away scot free. Just five minutes after the restart, the Gunners went 2-1 up following some good work from Ainsley Maitland-Niles on the right hand side with the Brazilian predator, Gabriel Martinelli, smashing the ball in from point blank range. That was his sixth goal in seven starts for the Gunners and I must say, he has been a gem of a player. Martinelli doubled his money when Ozil and Saka latched onto a defensive error from Williams before Saka provided a cut back that was blasted home by Martinelli.
As if we hasn’t seen anything from such a topsy-turvy game, a little bit of karma was on show when the youngest player on the pitch, Harvey Elliot, conned the ref with a nice dive when Martinelli stuck out a foot in the penalty box. Milner wasn’t going to miss and he sent Emi Martinez the wrong way to make it 3-2 just before the break. Milner then had a moment to forget early in the second half when his back pass to his goalie was anticipated by Maitland-Niles but the ball was about to leave the pitch when Ozil showed great presence of mind to tuck it back into play which allowed AMN blast the ball home.
4-2 and everything was looking good but with Arsenal, you just can’t tell. With the ball at the edge of the Arsenal box, Maitland-Niles showed his lack of concentration that allowed the Ox to nick the ball off him and smash in a piledriver that offered a glimmer of hope to the home side. 4-3 became 4-4 minutes later when Origi received the ball from Jones, who was gifted by Torreira, shimmied past his marker and fired a shot that Martinez palmed into the net. I expected the goalie to catch that but hey, that’s football. Emery decided to take off Ozil for Matteo Guendouzi much to the surprise of the Arsenal faithful but he confirmed after the game that it was agreed between both parties that Ozil would play for a specific amount of time.
As if we hadn’t seen enough madness for one night, Joe Willock, that had been somewhat peripheral all game burst into life and blasted a rocket of a shot that breezed past Kelleher to make it 5-4. It was clear that both sides weren’t ready to defend, so Emery obliged us by taking out Torreira for Dani Ceballos, which was another tactical move that got me confused. The fact that we had no more protection in front of the defense wasn’t bad enough, but Ceballos went on to have a stinker and lost the decisive penalty that saw his team eliminated. It wouldn’t have gotten to that if the Gunners just did their jobs and defended, which makes me loathe the final moments of the game that saw Liverpool get yet another equalizer. Saka for the life of me saw Williams on the byline and watched him as he floated a cross into the area. Guendouzi misjudged the flight of the ball and it crept above him before reaching Origi’s foot. Mustafi just stood still and also blocked his goalkeeper and with Martinez blindsided, the only outcome was a goal.
Sadly, it seems that Arsenal doesn’t do any goalkeeping training on penalties, as Martinez offered nothing from the spot kicks and the Gunners lost the contest via the lotteries of penalties. There are some positives we can latch onto like Ozil’s quality that was always glaring from the start, which makes the decision not to play him really stupid. Then there were the Gabriel Martinelli goals (seven goals in eight starts) that are hugely encouraging. I really wanted the Gunners to go all the way in this competition because it offered a good breeding ground for Martinelli and the other youngsters, so with the team eliminated, they will need to stick to just the Europa League for consistent game time, or maybe the FA Cup from January. However, we can’t shy away from the negatives – defending has been such a problem for the team this season and it was on show yet again against a weakened Liverpool side. Emery needs to sort this mess out as we are going to play more games in the course of the season and the defense will be under scrutiny.
All plans will move to the game against Wolves and that’s one we need to win as we are drifting away from the Champions League places.
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