For a match played on a Friday night, this one had more spills and thrills than a night spent at Quilox. Matches between Arsenal and Liverpool have always been helter-skelter affairs. Mad smash grab affairs with late goals to boot. This one was not that much different. The game swayed back and forth between one team excellent going forward but shoddy at the back to another.
It was a minor shock that the Arsenal manager persisted with fielding the Conservative MP, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, at left despite Mustafi and Kolasinac being fit enough to be on the bench. It was either Arsene is so trusting of the abilities of the youngster or there is something really wrong with Kolasinac. The young player didn’t really disappoint his manager and despite some shaky moments initially, had a solid game overall.
The Arsenal team itself didn’t. For the entire first half, it was as if the team was still in the dressing room. Even the most simplest passes were a struggle. Despite looking like a 4-3-3 on paper, it wasn’t exactly clear what the Arsenal team was set up to do. The team’s star striker, Lacazette, was isolated upfront as passes and long throws somehow found a way to miss him.
When the first Liverpool goal went in, it almost felt like a relief. Maybe the conceding of the goal would be a kick up the arse of the home team. But it wasn’t. Still the team struggled to string passes together and conceded possession cheaply. The first goal itself was fortuitous; during a Liverpool counter, the ball deflected off Koscielny and unluckily into the pan of an arriving Coutinho who headed the ball over Cech.
Things didnt exactly improve in the second half for the home team. Even after Liverpool missed a couple of gilt-edged chances to increase their lead at the end of the first half, the Arsenal team didn’t learn anything from that and continued to make the same mistakes. And they were duly punished soon after the interval when Salah’s shot deflected off the substitute Mustafi’s outstretched leg.
From virtually nothing, Arsenal drew now back almost immediately. A frankly hopeful Bellerin deep cross was being awaited by the Liverpool right back Joe Gomez at the back post. Alexis Sanchez sensed the opportunity and stooped to head the ball between Mignolet’s legs. The Belgian would be caught napping only a few minutes later when Granit Xhaka’s shot somehow found its way past him. And the comeback was complete when Lacazette and Ozil combined in the box for the German to lift the ball over the Belgian.
But the lead wouldn’t last for long. Somehow, Firmino found acres of space in the box when Koscielny went wandering; the Brazilian’s shot was half-saved by Cech but the ball looped over the Czech goalkeeper and into the net.
In the end, a 3-3 draw was perhaps the fair result for the two teams who were brilliant going forward but utterly diabolical at the back.