Picture: Screencap from NBC coverage
Well, at least that picture is funny.
Anyway, I think at this point that me watching might be the problem. Of course, the two weeks I miss are both 4-1 wins, and as soon as I'm able to watch again, the team lays this epic turd at our feet.
The first half in particular may have been the worst 45 minutes I've seen this side play in ages. The general idea of sitting deep and letting Liverpool come at us was not a bad one - they were forced into a weird strikerless formation, and of course we all remember what happened at Anfield last season.
But, for that to work, you need to be able to pass your way into transition quickly and accurately. As it was, we couldn't pass gas, let alone the ball to a teammate. Further, were it not for the excellence of Wojciech Szczesny, we'd have been down 1-0 early and who knows what may have happened then? Callum Chambers - our worst player on a day when we had few good ones - was guilty of a poor clearance and then of charging out of position. Lazar Markovic was able to run in alone on goal, but thankfully Szczesny cut the angle well, made himself big, and got it out with his trailing leg.
The worst part? Soon after a play where he dribbled it right over the sideline, Chambers got caught out AGAIN, and Markovic again had a glorious chance. Ay-yai-yai.
Meanwhile, all of our attacks consisted of bombing long balls to Giroud, many of which he won. But, with no one there to collect the scraps, the Scousers would simply start back the other way. For their part, they mostly ripped our non-existent central midfield to tatters, with our skill players like Santi Cazorla and Alexis Sanchez having to drop deeper and deeper to put out those fires.
We have, in my estimation, the literal worst manager in the Premier League. I mean, this is the worst Liverpool team in a long time, and we were lucky to get a point out of it. Unreal.
Anyway, a truly preposterous defensive showing from both sides ensured that it would be 1-1 going into the interval. Liverpool got theirs from a silly giveaway followed by Mathieu Debuchy getting torched on a simple turn from Coutinho, who then lashed a shot in off the post. Up the other end, Alexis Sanchez won a free kick taking on three defenders, then Liverpool managed to lose headers to Per Mertesacker and then Mathieu Flamini (lucky to be on the field at that point) before Debuchy made up for his error by planting his back-post header over Brad Jones.
The result at the time was fine, but the process...my god, it was just a dreadful game of football.
Things didn't get much better in the second half, either. Szczesny made one mistake early on by haring off his line for no reason, but the home side over-elaborated in their attempt to take advantage and the chance passed.
Now, the one thing I haven't mentioned yet was thanks to their insane manager, Liverpool were playing with a frankly sub-professional goalkeeper between the sticks. I mean, Jones is godawful - I hear he once failed a trial with Shelbourne of the Irish league. Seriously. I would put his level at somewhere midtable in League One, and so you would think we would make it a priority to test him at every opportunity. That did not happen often enough to make a difference.
We did get one gift from him, though. After some good work down the left, Cazorla crossed into Giroud. He never should have had that time and space, but how Jones gets nutmegged there is astonishing. Giroud really only had one place to put that shot, and to not protect that first is brutal goalkeeping.
That one flash of decency aside, the game immediately reverted back to form. I can't help thinking that a Theo Walcott might have drove the dagger in and gotten us the third goal that would have put this away. Instead, Arsene didn't make his first sub until the 82nd minute, and it was Francis Coquelin on for Giroud (that one I can understand though, Flamini was still getting overrun at every opportunity). Joel Campbell came on for the Ox soon after, though I don't think he touched the ball once.
Still, once that genius Fabio Borini got sent off (once for spiking the ball when a throw-in didn't go their way, once for karate kicking Cazorla in the chest), that should have been game over. Damn near any competently-coached and drilled team would have seen that out.
But, honestly, was anyone out there shocked when they scored? Was anyone out there stunned that we left their biggest aerial threat unmarked on a set piece? It's all so boring now. For the record, it was Chambers who got caught ball-watching there, too. He's a strong talent but man, our lack of options is biting us in the ass right now.
So, in the end, a point is probably fair for two struggling sides who played out a godawful match of football. It sure doesn't point to anything better coming over the horizon, though. On this evidence, I still think 4th place is going to be a serious reach.
The Modern Gooner Player Ratings:
Szczesny 8, Gibbs 6, Debuchy 7, Mertesacker 5, Chambers 3, Flamini 4, Oxlade-Chamberlain 7 (Campbell 6), Cazorla 7, Welbeck 5, Sanchez 6 (Monreal N/A), Giroud 6 (Coquelin 6)
Man of the Match: There's not much to choose from here, but arguably Wojciech Szczesny earned us a point with his stellar play - that one ramble outside the area aside.