When you are set up to avoid defeat...

Guess what...you also rarely, if ever, actually win.  Perhaps all along that was the plan on the tactics board on Sunday - avoid another catastrophe at Anfield and settle for a point.  There is no doubt in my mind that the thrashing administered by Brendan Rodgers' Liverpool last campaign weighed heavily on Arsene Wenger's mind in the run up to kick off, but it was his overly cautious approach that caused us to miss out on a golden opportunity to achieve the maximum point haul on Merseyside.

I finally had the pleasure of making it to The Football Factory for the first time, meeting up with my friend Laura, my former Riverdale FC midfield partner in crime AJ and plenty of regulars who also live and breathe the club as much as I do.  Before the match we were all positive...once the XI's were made public, we had even more reason to be confident.  Apart from missing Koscielny and Ramsey, the XI was strong...for me, far more potent than Liverpool, who had to turn to Raheem Sterling to lead the line (at least on paper).  But their front three was a bit of a concern, wasn't it...Sterling with Lallana and Coutinho (highly underrated) in support, with a bank of four midfielders behind them.  Still and yet, as Sean stated in our previous post, this has been the worst Liverpool side for years.  We needed to be confident, we needed to take the pitch with that bit of self belief and determination to walk away and leave 'Pool with nothing to take away from it.  We didn't...at all.
From Arsene Wenger to Zeke, the Cowardly Lion...
Twenty minutes into the match...Liverpool sitting on 75%-80% possession...us being unable to string together more than three passes before being dispossessed...what in the name of all that is good and holy were we bearing witness to?  To put it bluntly, we played like complete shit on the whole, but the first thirty minutes set the tone for the entire match, all the way to stoppage time in the second half.  We took our goals well, especially Giroud's excellent finish through Brad Jones' wickets, but when you've set your team up to soak up pressure for the duration of the match, an bereft of the personnel to effectively do it, what did you really expect, honestly?

There was never a more telling moment to sum up the entire bit of proceedings than the events after Signore Borini's sending off.  Up a man, Liverpool getting tired legs, Walcott's jet-fighter pace on the bench and the only Liverpool player remotely close to being capable of stopping him being Sterling, Wenger opts to bunker down and hold a 2-1 lead rather than look to bring on pace to put Liverpool's back three of Skrtel, Sakho and Toure to the sword - in a word, foolish...in six words, the reason why we didn't win.

Now, I will admit that it is easy to criticize from an armchair, or in our case at the time, a bar stool...but the point really is, these are decisions that any half knowledgable football supporter of more than five years could probably get right...somehow, Wenger gets them wrong...time and time again.  I think by now that any of you who are frequent readers know my stance on the Alsatian...the point here is not to ramble on about why he needs to go, but rather to continue to bring to light why we will never have a chance in hell of truly competing - he's not tactically up for it.
"I have no idea what I am doing anymore" should be the words being uttered (Image courtesy of Arsenal's official Facebook page)
Time after time after time, Wenger is completely outclassed, and not just by gaffers like Mourinho, but the flipping Gary Monk's of the world.  No, he was not outclassed by Rodgers on Sunday, but he certainly stood in his own way...and more importantly, the clubs way.  Yes ladies and gentlemen, we are now at the point where the second greatest manager in Premier League history was afraid to take the game to a Liverpool side that lost Luis Suarez, was without the injured Daniel Sturridge, had zero pace in defense, and who has a club legend in Steven Gerrard who looks more and more like he belongs in moth balls...it's come to this.  Wenger's tactical failings in the past have caused him to be afraid of making those same mistakes again, so he then goes and makes new ones...truthfully, it's beyond mind boggling.

No, in all honestly, if there ever was a time to put in a high-flying, show stopping performance, it was yesterday.  Think about the pace and direct players we had in our XI; Sanchez, Welbeck, Chamberlain, Cazorla, Gibbs...on what planet is that EVER a side that is going to be efficient in sitting back, bunkering in, and trying to hold on for dear life?  I really am trying to avoid going into a frustrated tirade, but I think you see my point - not only did Wenger get our tactics wrong, but he also clearly has no idea how to utilize the personnel who are on the pitch.  If he wanted to set up more defensively, why didn't both Coquelin AND Flamini start from the off, providing ample cover for the back four and support of (likely) Cazorla at the top of the midfield triangle?  I could go on, but it was all wrong...so, so wrong.

The most telling part of my time at The Football Factory was when, in typical AJ fashion (please excuse the incoming profanity...and, you know, for the one or two instances I let fly previously) he blurted out; "we're dog shit at trying to hold a lead, Liverpool are going to equalize"...sure enough, like most of us could have predicted, Skrtel's orc-like head nodded home to level matters - a very valuable three point haul lost.
Zonal marking? Sad sack of Man Mountain cowering rather than challenging? What could possibly go awry...(Image courtesy of Liverpool's official Facebook page)
So, we enter the Christmas period sitting in sixth on 27 points, a whopping 15 behind league-leaders Chelsea, 12 behind City who are in second, and 5 behind United who are in third (and who are playing better football than we are despite having their own injury crisis).  We're level on points with Spurs and only 4 out of 4th...our not so welcomed comfort level.  Correct me if I am wrong but...was this not meant to be the season where we built on our FA Cup success and truly challenged the league's elite?  Sorry, but 4th it is, if that.

All in all, the Premier League is unforgiving...you either take your chances well or you suffer the consequences. When it comes to our performance at Anfield, it was our own manager who shot us in our own foot, and when that happens as routinely as it does, you haven't got a hope or a prayer of ever reaching the summit.

Post Script - just as a closing remark, don't get your hopes up about us remedying any of our personnel issues in January - see more on that here, and prepare yourselves for the usual winter window foolishness.

Andrew Thompson is a contributing writer at both The Modern Gooner and Outside of the Boot - he just wants his beloved club to remember it's Premier League roots...and go back to them with the utmost haste - follow him on Twitter @AFCBvB1410