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...|
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)|
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)|
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