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5 Talking points from Arsenal defeat: Same problems occur again

Following Liverpool’s miserable 4-1 hammering at the hands of Arsene Wenger’s Gunners, Ben Twelves picks a number of discussion topics from another terrible outing at the Emirates Stadium.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, April 4, 2015: Liverpool's Joe Allen, Lazar Markovic, Lucas Leiva and captain Jordan Henderson look dejected as Arsenal score the third goal before half-time during the Premier League match at the Emirates Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Liverpool’s hopes of a top four finish were dealt a crushing blow as Brendan Rodgers’ team endured a torrid afternoon against a rampant Gunners side.

Three well taken strikes in the last eight minutes of the first half from Hector Bellerin, Mezut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez handed Wenger’s side a comfortable lead at the interval which had the game already wrapped up.

Jordan Henderson’s penalty 14 minutes from time gave a glimmer of hope to the marginally improved Reds, but the misery was compounded for Rodgers’ side in stoppage time when Olivier Giroud’s superb strike left Mignolet with no chance.

The thrashing leaves the Reds trailing fourth place by eight points with only seven games left to play and here are the talking points from the match.

 

Appalling Defensive Display

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, April 4, 2015: Liverpool's goalkeeper Simon Mignolet looks dejected as Arsenal score the opening goal during the Premier League match at the Emirates Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

In a game that the Reds needed a result from to keep genuine top four aspirations alive, a strong defensive performance was required, but completely failed to materialise.

Martin Skrtel’s presence in the back three was badly missed with the incoming Kolo Toure turning in a woeful display which unsettled a previously solid back line, and the Ivorian contributed to keeping the Reds on the back foot early on as he gave away the ball numerous times alongside failing to clear his lines convincingly.

The Reds contributed heavily to their undoing for all three goals, the first of which saw Alberto Moreno allow Bellerin to ghost inside him far too easily and slot into the far corner of the net, which was followed three minutes later by Mamadou Sakho uncharacteristically giving away a needless free kick that Ozil bent into the far corner.

Toure then completely dived in at Alexis Sanchez failing to take the ball off the Chiliean, who proceeded to skip inside and lash home an unstoppable drive to kill the game all in the first 45 minutes.

While the home side deserve credit for their excellence in the final third, Liverpool’s defending was almost embarrassing at times.

 

Lack of Ruthlessness in Final Third costs Reds Dearly

After weathering an early storm in the first 15 minutes thanks to Mignolet’s superb stops, the Reds created chances of their own but failed frustratingly to capitalise.

Lazar Markovic’s carelessly over-hit pass to Raheem Sterling proved the most costly of them all when Liverpool looked nailed on to take the lead, and Sterling himself then wasted a chance to fire the Reds ahead by shooting too early and wide, instead of creating a 1v1 opportunity against David Ospina.

The 20-year-old also turned provider on a number of occasions but the quality of his final passes was disappointing at a time where the Reds enjoyed a rare spell of control in the game – including one to Henderson in particular which forced the energetic captain wide to chase the ball when he could have shot for goal with a better delivery.

Though undoubtedly second best throughout, had Liverpool taken one of the clear chances presented to them before falling behind it could have been a different story.

 

Returning Duo Endure Woeful Afternoons

Though three players came into the starting XI, it was the performances of the entering experienced duo on the day that proved hugely disappointed.

Replacing Skrtel in the central role of the back three, Toure turned in a dreadful showing which started with the Ivorian clearing hopelessly into touch with just two minutes on the clock, and that early lack of composure set the tone for the afternoon defensively.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, April 4, 2015: Liverpool's goalkeeper Simon Mignolet makes a save against Arsenal during the Premier League match at the Emirates Stadium. (Pic by Chris Brunskill/Propaganda)

Poor in possession and giving the ball away non-stop on top of failing to clear and generally defend, Toure’s uncertainty caused panic in a usually settled defence that hadn’t conceded away from home since December’s 3-0 defeat at Old Trafford.

The 33-year-old was woeful, but his afternoon certainly wasn’t helped by the lack of protection afforded by those ahead, with Lucas Leiva failing miserably in his duty on the day to offer protection to an exposed back three.

The unfit Brazilian’s immobility was shown up badly by the fluid Gunners midfield who ghosted around him like he wasn’t there, and the 28-year-old was unproductive and uninspiring with his passing, failing to create any attacks with his distribution from deep.

Lucas’ inclusion sucked all energy level from the middle of the park with Henderson being shoved wide, which allowed the home side to run riot in midfield and enjoy an easy afternoon.

 

Simon Mignolet Performance a Positive Despite Shipping Four

The Reds were once again on the receiving end at the Emirates but the score-line could have been a whole lot worse without some superb work from the Belgian.

Rodgers’ men would have conceded twice in the first five minutes had it not been for two superb stops to deny Santi Cazorla then Aaron Ramsey, and with the Reds on the back foot and showing no sign of life going forwards or defensively, it was only Mignolet’s heroics that kept the Gunners at bay for longer than expected.

The much-maligned Belgium international deserves credit for keeping his side in the game – in which they could have taken the lead – and with little help from his team-mates, the 26-year-old could do little about Bellerin’s opener.

Mignolet could perhaps be questioned for his positioning on Ozil’s well struck free-kick getting beaten on his side of the goal, but he could nothing about Sanchez’s powerful drive, before yet more saves from a Giroud header and half-volley ensured that when the Frenchman netted in injury time it ‘only’ made it four.

Mignolet has rightly received criticism at times this season, but today he deserves praise for three superb stops that kept embarrassment down.

 

Sterling Responds to Negative Press with Decent Display

The 20-year-old had the eyes of the footballing world on him having been in the headlines this week, but there was little sign of his performances suffering as he turned in a decent showing.

Leading the line in the absence of Daniel Sturridge in the first half of the match, Sterling worked hard and caused issues for the home defence as he made intelligent runs and linked up well with Markovic throughout the first 45, with the pair Liverpool’s only hope of scoring.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, April 4, 2015: Liverpool's Raheem Sterling is brought down for a penalty by Arsenal's Hector Bellerin during the Premier League match at the Emirates Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Despite his busy work up front, the youngsters’ finishing and shooting proved problematic again when presented – shown as he failed to register a shot on target – but even after moving wide in the second half, the 20-year-old was still Rodgers’ side’s biggest attacking threat.

Out wide he continued to caused problems with his direct running, this time for Bellerin who fouled Sterling for the penalty after an excellent change of direction and though very few come out of the game with any credit, the young attacker is one who does.

Next up for Liverpool is a trip to Ewood Park to take on Blackburn on Wednesday night for the FA Cup quarter-final replay.

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