I didn’t blog yesterday on account of a raging hang over that really didn’t see me feel human until about 2pm yesterday, but suffice to say that despite my personal fear and negativity surrounding a potential home battering by Liverpool, we have a really good account of ourselves and I think most Gooners will be happy this week that we’ve managed to maintain a decent level of form going in to another two home games that could see the undefeated run go even further.
You’ve probably all read a million and one match reviews by now so there’s no point in me going over a blow-by-blow overview of the game, but I thought we were really good value for at least a point and in fact if any team was going to come away with anything I thought we might have just edged it.
Liverpool have a good team and they looked like a side challenging at the top of the league. They’ve spent well north of £300million in Klopp’s reign and yet we are just beginning our journey under Emery and effectively what is a brand new infrastructure at the club.
So for me the game represented the first really positive sign that this season can look different to the last couple. Last season was a nightmare as the wheels fell off the Wengerbus but before that we’d also seen decline in the team overall. The accusation that we were ‘flat track bullies’ and only able to beat the smaller teams is something that has been following us around for a few seasons now, not just in the recent winning run we went on, so for me what Saturday’s game meant was that we could actually mix it with the big boys, just as much as we could grind our results against the so-called ‘lesser’ teams.
The result itself might not have shown a victory that would have made people sit up and take note, but for me it represented more because of the overall performance. We had chances against Liverpool. We looked good against Liverpool. We got respect from Liverpool.
That’s great stuff and it gave me a lot of comfort for the season ahead. I’ve been guilty of thinking that given all of the other teams we’ve played and been troubled by, that we’d concede even more chances, look even more vulnerable, especially given how much better Liverpool are than the likes of Leicester or Everton for example. But as I should know by now football is not a simple game of mathematics. Each game has to be taken on its own merit and each game has its own selection of variables.
I was guilty of thinking that because each first half since the Chelski game away has seen us play poorly, that the same would occur on Saturday, but the reality was of course not the case as I thought we had a really good first half and matched that in the second too. That’s really heartening and gives me hope that the first half doldrums that we appear to have had all season, won’t necessarily be the case for the rest of the season, because at least we have an example of how the team can play.
And play they did. With proper full backs and Xhaka and Torreira in the middle the team looked more natural, more balanced, more like the Arsenal we want them to be. We pressed in the right places, I thought we were tenacious in winning the ball back higher up the field, but also that the players had responded to widespread media assumption that Liverpool were going to give us a pasting.
They didn’t of course and now it is incumbent on those Arsenal players to show that they can replicate the same approach and intensity on a more regular basis. Had, for example, we seen that same level of ferocity in our winning the ball back in the first halves this season against Watford, West Ham, Everton, etc, would we have come away with the types of swashbuckling victories that Man City seem to do under Pep?
Maybe, maybe not, but certainly we would have not have had people saying that we’d been fortunate in some of our games in the winning run. What City do under Pep is have the same level of intensity every single week; they are as consistent as they are intense in their press and that is what Emery has to strive towards.
Games like Saturday will have given us all glimpses that with a bit more time and perhaps slightly different players that are ‘his’ players, we might start to see this kind of performance on a regular basis.
And that is again something that we can all be more confident and happy about with our Arsenal.