Reina’s howler spoils Hodgson’s day

It was the first of the clashes among the big four and hence deserves a more microscopic view than a cursory glance that we reserve for any other 1-1 draw.


One cannot call it an insipid draw by any means yet there was nothing in this match which could have held you in its spell for a phase, let alone throughout. The draw was written on the cards despite Joe Cole’s sending off and Arsenal’s numerical advantage. It would have been a touch unfair if either side had gone off with the maximum points because there was nothing extraordinary about them.

Both the side started off with the much in-vogue 4-2-3-1 system although the way both the sides operated this system was quite different. Arsenal, for the most part, played with a high line with their midfielders placed deeper into the Liverpool territory which consequently demanded that Diaby play in a relatively conservative fashion than he would normally like. Liverpool back four played deeper, and the wingers did not play that far up field hence giving it more a shape of 4-4-1-1, hence making Joe Cole less responsible defensively and giving him somewhat a free role.

Liverpool, although not offensive in their system or intent, had their offensive responsibilities primarily assigned to Cole, whose bit of defending was done by the hard-working Jovanovic but Cole couldn’t live up to that weight of expectations. Lasted only the first half, he was finding it hard to get involved in the play and that was Liverpool’s major concern in the first half. Compared with Nasri’s 25 completed passes in the first half, Cole could only complete 7. Gerrard, being the intelligent player that he is, realized the futility of it and tried to link up with Kuyt more than Cole, playing long balls towards him and Jovanovic from the deep. Lets not forget that Cole has been assigned such a task for the first time in his career for under Mourinho, he thrived on the wings with able support from the center. When sent-off, the incident did little to affect the complexion of the game because he was of little use both offensively and defensively. That’s why Arsenal fans, who might think they should have trampled Liverpool with their numerical advantage, need to have a change of thoughts. All this sending off did was allowed the two Arsenal holding mids a bit more time on the ball in the second half than he was having before.

On the other hand, Arsenal were finding it difficult to get Chamakh involved in the game. You might wonder that for a striker who scored more than 75% of his goals with the headers last season, is Arsenal’s style of play suited to him or maybe the conventional 4-4-2 with crosses from wings would do the trick? Even in his aerial game, Chamakh was finding it hard to beat the Liverpool back four who, to be fair, did well in keeping Chamakh at bay and denying Nasri the narrow channels that he likes to play in. It was down to the two aforementioned factors i.e. Liverpool failing to get Cole involved and Arsenal failing to get Chamakh involved that the game was destined to be a draw although not in the way it happened.

It was Wilshere’s woeful touch that allowed Mascherano to pass forward to Ngog who finished well despite the angle being tight. Now Liverpool formed two layers of four players in their own half that made life difficult for Arsenal for the next quarter. Theo Walcott’s introduction wasn’t much of a help because Arsenal lost the numerical advantage in the midfield and Liverpool were defending so deep that there was hardly any space for Walcott behind the line of defense. However, the goal did arrive for Arsenal; and from a ‘cross’ though Arsenal players would hardly fight for any credit for it.

In the end, a fair result in my opinion.

Talking points are there as ever. Referee again took the center stage and sent both the debutants for an early shower although one might want to argue whether Cole’s tackle was more rash than Wilshere’s or was Koscielny’s handball worse than Ngog’s?

This leaves us with two established facts. If Arsenal are to win something this season, they have to break these deep defences, which has now become the preferred mode of operation against them by lesser teams. Hodgson might want to shift back to 4-4-2 after seeing Joe Cole’s outing although he might want a few more tries considering Cole is new to the club and the role. Arsenal fans will be optimistic for a better central play and more convincing goals after the return of Barca-desiring/desired Fabregas and, tongue-in-cheek, the glass-house Van Persie.

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