The clash between Arsenal and Liverpool at the Emirates Stadium was always going to be an intriguing one simply because both sides have been consistently inconsistent throughout this season and perhaps fittingly remain side by side in the Premier League table after the 2-2 draw that transpired on Wednesday night. However, the one aspect of Liverpool’s season that’s been freakishly consistent is their inability to hold their own against the bigger teams.
The draw in North London last night ensured that the Merseyside outfit maintains their undesirable record of failing to beat any of the teams above them so far this season. Their inexplicable tendency to capitulate in the face of stronger opposition has kept them from being one of the favourites for that coveted fourth Champions League spot.
Earlier this season the Reds put in a couple of stellar performances against the two Manchester clubs. They should have won against City at home but a misplaced back-pass from Martin Skrtel gifted the visitors an equalizer.
They played with 10 men for most of the game against United at Anfield but despite dominating, they only scored the one goal when they had the Red Devils on the ropes who were then able to respond with two to win the fixture somewhat undeservingly. The corresponding game at Old Trafford saw Liverpool stand-off United who absolutely dominated them but later on in the second half, the visitors pushed forward and had the home side clinging on to their one-goal lead as the game approached the final whistle.
Against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, Brendan Rodgers needlessly switched to a three-man approach in an attempt to contain them. Ultimately, the draw was a good result but they could have taken the game to the hosts had they persisted with their usual system. They may have shown the Blues a little too much respect on that occasion.
On Wednesday night, it looked as if Liverpool were finally going to beat a side above them in the league when Jordan Henderson put them 2-0 up on the hour-mark. The midfielder went on a peculiar ‘solo run’ and with the help of a couple of untidy ricochets; he managed to evade three Arsenal defenders and the keeper to slot the ball into the net.
Luis Suarez also benefitted from the hosts’ soft defending early on but instead of killing the game off, Liverpool hesitated and backed off once more just when they had the upper hand. Within seven minutes, Arsenal levelled the game with strikes from their two in-form men, Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott.
The visitors had the best opportunities in the first half and should have scored more than the one goal going into the break. As soon as they scored their second, they sat back and it was all Arsenal from then on until Suarez’s 90th minute effort.
Defensive calamities aside, Arsenal must be given credit for their response to going two goals down at home but the drastic change in approach from Liverpool after the hour-mark certainly facilitated the Gunners’ comeback. Keeping possession has been a feature of Liverpool’s game this season under Rodgers but their ball retention was surprisingly poor as they only managed 38% of possession.
A draw away to Arsenal is still a positive result for Rodgers’ troops but having gone 2-0 up and looking comfortable, this result has to be viewed as two points dropped. Once again Liverpool are left to rue their missed chances and wonder what might have been if they adopted a more positive approach while harbouring the all too familiar feeling of nearly toppling one of the bigger sides in the league.
This unhealthy inferiority complex is hindering their progression as a team and has kept them from leap-frogging Arsenal and going within 5 points of Tottenham in 4th place who also drew against Norwich City. With the inconsistency of the 4th place contenders at large, Liverpool must realize that a place in Europe’s elite competition is up for grabs, they just have to be fearless enough to challenge for it.
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