Monday, August 24, 2015

Monday Night Football: Arsenal, Liverpool share points at the Emirates

Arsenal 0-0 Liverpool
Both side will feel they were robbed by three points in this one. Arsenal will feel the refs cost them a victory, while Liverpool will point squarely at Petr Cech.

Arsenal were in control if this game throughout the first half. The problem was, they were also controlling Liverpool as much as themselves. The Gunners were without Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker, who were dropped late from the team due to illness. Due to their two starting center backs being sidelined, Gabriel and Nacho Monreal were forced into anchoring the back line. And what a shaky job they did early on. Not only did they allow the first golden chance of the game less than five minutes in, but they also had trouble clearing the ball out of their own third.

Arsenal spent the first half alternating between controlling the ball with their typical passing style in their attacking half, and turning the ball back over to Liverpool in their defending half. Liverpool really wasn't doing anything. They were just waiting for Arsenal to put themselves offside or take a shot and either step in the way of it or watch it go wide when defending. On the other end, they were allowing Arsenal to screw up their breakout, pounce on the ball, and take another shot.

Arsenal's spells of possession weren't exactly fruitless either. Aaron Ramsay should have had the opening goal within the first quarter hour after he collected a through ball from Mesut Ozil, but he was incorrectly ruled offside as he put the ball in the net. Even with the chances, each one of the increasing number of turnovers was creating a better and better chance for Liverpool. Christian Benteke was robbed by Petr Cech just before the 40 minute mark after one of said turnovers. In fact, Petr Cech was the only reason this game wasn't 3-0 to Liverpool at halftime. His crowning achievement of the opening half was barely getting enough of a touch to keep Philippe Coutinho from scoring a stunner in the 44th minute.

In the second half, Arsenal was in more positive control. The silly back line turnovers stopped, for the most part, and the attractive passing play in Liverpool's end became more and more prevalent. Arsenal had the bulk of the chances in the second 45, but Simon Mignolet made a couple nice saves and Martin Skrtel made more than his fair share of timely clearances. Skrtel was probably Liverpool's man of the match. As Arsenal brought on fresh attacking bodies, it was he who kept pace with the speed and power of Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Speaking of Arsenal's two subs, they didn't really have their desired impact. Both Chamberlain and Walcott entered the game with the expectation of creating pace down each flank. Neither accomplished their goal. Walcott was non-existent for his brief time on the pitch. Oxlade-Chamberlain was noticed for all the wrong reasons. Each touch he took was followed by an ill advised shot or off target pass.

Liverpool was able to get forward a couple of times, but they never gave the makeshift Arsenal back line all that many nervy moments.

It will be hard to look back at this match without referencing the Aaron Ramsay disallowed goal. It was clearly a case of linesman error as he was most certainly onside. It would have given Arsenal a huge early lead. Considering the amount of control they displayed throughout the rest of the match, particularly in the second half, it is beyond conceivable to think that they would have held on, maybe even scored another goal.

Arsenal have now gone two home matches without scoring a goal, which is concerning considering the firepower this team has up front. Perhaps the answer is for Arsene Wenger to add another high priced attacking player, a move he has been criticized for considering throughout the summer.

Liverpool is also having troubles scoring, they won on opening weekend only because of a highlight reel goal by Coutinho. They won in week two by a 1-0 score as well. So, while they can't seem to score much, they do have the benefit of not having conceded in their first three matches. But you can't win if you don't score. And if you don't win, you don't see Champions League games next season.

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