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Liverpool 2 Arsenal 2 - "Some thoughts" by Paul Natton

1. A point was the least we deserved. We absolutely dominated that game from start to finish and how Arsenal managed to ever be in the lead is beyond me. I thought we'd been poor this season, but they were awful. Now I know why some of their natives are so restless: it's not just the trophy drought; they're actually not very good either. I don't think I've ever seen a Wenger team sit as deep as they did in the first half. Maybe they've been so scarred by what happened in this fixture last season they felt they had no choice.

 

2. Michael Oliver is yet another referee out of his depth in the big matches. What possible justification can he have for allowing Flamini to stay on the pitch not once, but twice? The early wild tackle through the back of Coutinho was a straight red and the one on Lallana later on was at least a yellow, but no - Oliver declines to follow the laws of the game and allows him to continue. It's not right this level of officiating and referees should be publicly accountable for their errors.

 

3. Our basics of pace, aggression, pressing and attack are back and it's about time too. We are nothing without them and Rodgers clearly feels the same way. Long may it continue too because the atmosphere was noticeably better at Anfield even when losing deep into the second half. People can bemoan a lack of support all they like, but the bottom line is that we'll support a losing side if it gives its all; a tepid, slow, lackadaisical performance is something else though and I'd say people are quite right to be intolerant of paying fifty or sixty quid for much of what we've endured this season. Yesterday was a different matter though and it felt good to be roused by our aggression and tempo again. People can debate systems all they like, but it's the style of play that's more important for me rather than the shape.

 

4. Clearly systems aren't irrelevant though and this 343 is working (to a point) right now. I must admit, I fully expected us to be vulnerable down the flanks but that did not prove to be the case except when they hit us on the break for their second. Despite the errors for the goals, I thought the centre halves all played well and the shape gave us numbers in the middle and in attack too, as well as allowing Coutinho and Lallana to play between the lines where they're both dangerous. If Sturridge can come in and play as the focus of this set up with Sterling moving out to the flank and Henderson dropping back to the middle then this could be a very productive team shape.

 

5. Markovic is not a heartless fanny after all. I'm not getting carried away yet, but he looks like he could well be a player as he showed pace, skill and direct running here in spades, linking well with almost everyone around him. Nice one.

 

6. Jones is worse than Mignolet and a new keeper is the number one priority now Rodgers has publicly condemned the Belgian and the full paucity of the Aussie has been exposed for all to see. More faith in their custodian might reinvigorate our defenders too.

 

7. Fair play to Skrtel for fighting on after those stitches and then grabbing the equaliser deep into injury time. That was a massive goal for us in terms of mentality and confidence and if he'd not been on the pitch to score it, I think we'd have lost as no-one else in the squad attacks the ball like that from a corner.

 

8. Top four is going to be very tough this season but having seen these and The Mancs up close recently, I know that no one is nailed on bar the top two. So, if this mini-Renaissance can be developed and sustained then we just might do it. However, even if we don't, we have to stick to our guns and play the same style of football because, regardless of what people say about results being the only thing that matters, we need something to cheer about and this fast, attacking stuff is something we can all get behind.

 

9. Roll on Burnley, Swansea and Leicester. Nine points from nine are what I'm looking for now to show me that this team is finally finding its feet and the CL next season is not the pipe dream it appeared until recently. Come on you Reds!!!

 

Paul Natton

@OxtonSoulBoy


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