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5 Talking points from Arsenal draw

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Liverpool were held to a 2-2 draw by Arsenal in an eventful game at Anfield on Sunday afternoon – a fixture that should have seen the Reds leave with all three points. Ben Twelves discusses the main talking points from the clash.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, December 21, 2014: Liverpool's Martin Skrtel celebrates scoring the second goal against Arsenal during the Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)


Liverpool 2-2 Arsenal, Anfield, Sunday 21st December

Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool rescued a thoroughly deserved point against an uninspiring Arsenal side thanks to Martin Skrtel’s powerful injury time header in front of the Kop from Adam Lallana’s well delivered corner.

It was nothing less than the ten man Reds – who saw Fabio Borini sent off for a second yellow card in stoppage time – deserved having fallen behind to goals from Mathieu Debuchy and Olivier Giroud, but where maximum points frustratingly evaded Rodgers’ men, a dominant performance certainly didn’t as Liverpool bossed the game for large parts.

The Reds improved once again on recent displays and there were an increasing number of positives from the 99 minutes of action alongside some continued negative aspects of Liverpool currently – and here are the discussion points from the eventful encounter that leaves Rodgers’ side languishing in 10th place – nine points from West Ham in fourth.


Sakho for Lovren

Coming into the side as a replacement for the injured Dejan Lovren, Mamadou Sakho demonstrated exactly why he should be the first choice option ahead of the Croatian defender with a solid performance.

The French international was strong defensively throughout – swarming opponents and taking the ball back off them with his brute force in 1v1 duels – and other than a couple of nervy moments, Sakho was composed and reliable in possession too as he looked to keep the ball at all times and rarely wasted a pass.

Entering the team for just his first start since September due to injury and being strangely frozen out by the Liverpool boss, Sakho produced an extremely reassuring display in the back three and certainly showed why he must become first pick ahead of the £20million Lovren.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, September 23, 2014: Liverpool's Mamadou Sakho in action against Middlesbrough during the Football League Cup 3rd Round match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)


Complete Coutinho

The Brazilian magician has certainly found his rhythm once again after a slow start to the season and he was central to everything the Reds did well on Sunday afternoon against Arsene Wenger’s side.

Coutinho’s superb movement off the ball into areas either side of the Gunners’ deep-lying Mathieu Flamini created a whole number of opportunities as he could be found in dangerous areas bearing down on the uncomfortable Arsenal back line, and combined with his exceptional footwork, the Brazil international was almost unplayable at times.

The 22-year-old’s opening goal a minute before half time epitomised the little magician – firing home into the bottom corner via the post after a drop of the shoulder left Debuchy completely for dead – and it was no less than his play deserved.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, December 21, 2014: Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho Correia in action against Arsenal during the Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

While he was excellent in his attacking threat, Coutinho grafted in a dominant Liverpool display too – winning the ball back more times than any Reds player other than the impressive Lucas Leiva – and he showed why it is essential for him to play in a central position where he really is an influential figure and joy to watch.


Borini blows his chance

OSLO, NORWAY - Wednesday, August 7, 2013: Liverpool's Fabio Borini looks dejected after missing a chance against Valerenga during a preseason friendly match at the Ullevaal Stadion. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)


Fabio Borini was handed a welcome chance to force his way back into contention when Rodgers turned to the Italian to swing the game back in Liverpool’s favour, but a silly – though harsh – red card saw any chances of that wiped away.

The 23-year-old was lively after coming on as he forced Wojciech Szczesny into an excellent save with a headed effort and from a powerful near post strike to compliment his endless work-rate but it all turned sour in stoppage time when he received his second yellow card from referee Michael Oliver.

Having been cast aside and disregarded completely, this was a huge opportunity for Borini to show he still has a role to play at Anfield, but any favourable angles on his attacking desire and intent after coming on are sure to be brushed aside as the red card overshadows any promise and could well signal the end of his career at Anfield.


Jones no Mignolet replacement

Brad Jones endured a largely quiet afternoon at Anfield against a lethargic Arsenal attack, but the Australian still managed to show that he is definitely not the answer to replacing Simon Mignolet for the time being.

As the benched Belgian watched on amongst the substitutes, Jones scuffed a number of straight forward kicks gifting possession to Wenger’s men, was indecisive throughout and unsettled a largely untroubled Liverpool back three.

To top off another uninspiring performance between the sticks, the new first choice ‘keeper conceded his sixth goal in three games – with the second raising question marks for the third game running over whether Mignolet would have pulled off a save.

Jones has shown nothing in his three games to warrant keeping the number 1 shirt and Rodgers should seriously consider reinstating a goalkeeper who may lack many characteristics, but has at least shown he can make saves.


Sterling as striker will struggle v top teams

Raheem Sterling started his third game in a row playing as a striker, and the 20-year-old struggled against the experienced Arsenal centre back pairing of Per Mertersacker and Mathieu Debuchy.

While Coutinho and Adam Lallana worked tirelessly to produce for the England man, Sterling’s card was marked tightly as he received very little space to operate and subsequently struggled to provide an outlet for the creative duo – often relying on latching onto a ball played in behind the opposition backline.

Sterling has shown his ability to play as a striker going forwards, but only as a makeshift option in certain games as he again came unstuck against one of the Premier League’s top teams which Rodgers recognised as he introduced Borini and moved Raheem wide.

If a natural striker was fit and available – Daniel Sturridge for example – and the result could have been quite different.

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