Don’t let Unai take your dog for a walk

Online Editorial: Holding onto a lead remains a huge weakness in Arsenal’s game

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It’s another of those where to begin? Write-ups of an Arsenal game. The quality of the attack, with a brace from Martinelli, a pearl from Joe Willock and a triumphant return for a motivated Mesut Ozil? Or the reality that Arsenal gave up a two goal lead twice, were in the lead going into injury time, and conceded five goals?

Let’s start with the entertainment factor anyway, as last night’s game Carabao Cup 4th Round tie at Anfield was further confirmation that, as box office goes, you cannot beat putting the Gunners on top billing. Because you are going to get something from your 90 minutes. Certainly, you can never predict exactly what, but there are certain things you can rule out. One of those is any semblance of defensive stability. Another is positional discipline. And of course, a 90 minutes without at least one mad moment.

Shkodran Mustafi provided the latter with a classic ‘Mustafi Moment’. Rather than making a suicidal challenge to concede a penalty, on this occasion it was a farcical own goal, not trusting his left foot to take care of what should have been a routine clearance, missing it with his leading right and then seeing the ball cannon in off his knee past a hapless Damien Martinez. This is why Unai Emery was trying to offload him in the summer. And this is why there were no takers. It’s still a mystery as to how he made Germany’s victorious 2014 World Cup squad. He was playing for Sampdoria in Italy at the time.

Still, no matter. VAR wasn’t in operation last night, which meant that Lucas Torreira’s equalizer stood, even though he should have been flagged off. Mesut Ozil played a significant part in the build up to this goal, with good play on the right flank. The home section went quiet, and I enjoyed hearing an “Is this the Emirates?” chant from the travelling support. 2-1 shortly afterwards, with a Martinelli goal after good work from Ainsley Maitland-Niles on the right. It seems that when the Brazilian starts a game, he will score. He’s had a brilliant beginning to his Arsenal career, and we await bids for him next summer that will test the resolve of the powers that be at the club.

Astonishingly, Emery’s side doubled their lead with Ozil picking the pocket after 16-year-old Harvey Elliot made the kind of risky pass we see all too often in Arsenal’s own back line. He set up Saka to cross to Martinelli for his second goal. He had two decent further opportunities to make it a hat-trick, but it eluded him.

3-1? At Anfield? It all felt too easy.

VAR might have done Arsenal a favour when they equalized, but I was struggling to see any sign of contact when Martinelli attempted to get the ball from Elliot in the penalty area. Referee Andre Marriner thought otherwise, and Milner made it 3-2 before half-time.

Who could predict the second 45? Arsenal unquestionably had a stronger bench, as Klopp stuffed his with youngsters rather than insurance policies, demonstrating the lack of real significance the competition holds for the Liverpool boss. And things looked rosy for an away win when James Milner underhit a backpass, Ainsley Maitland-Niles pounced, and Mesut Ozil kept the move alive with a delightful backheel in front of the Arsenal fans. AMN simply had to tap home into an unguarded net. Two goals clear for the second time, in the game, surely now they could control proceedings and get in the hat for the quarter finals?

Er, no. 3 minutes later, Maitland-Niles was a little too relaxed clearing a ball in front of his penalty area, and the immutable law of the ex (whereby former players score against their old clubs) became the immutable law of the Ox, as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain hit a good half-volley over Damian Martinez. Five minutes later and the scores were level – Origi taking a long range shot which Martinez should have really saved, rather than simply deflecting into the net. The keeper was highly rated earlier in the season, but now, he’s looking a lot less solid. He was questionable for both of Origi’s goals last night (Spoiler alert – he’s not finished scoring yet).

Ozil was taken off for Guendouzi at 4-4. I honestly think this was a pre-planned substitution, and it may have even been made with Saturday’s game v Wolves in mind. Is Granit Xhaka likely to play? Torreira also came off – so we could see a midfield minus Xhaka, and given the relative lack of creativity, perhaps the formation might include Ozil, with Emery reverting to a 4-2-1-3 formation. Time will tell, but it's really difficult to envisage Xhaka playing will aid an Arsenal win… then again, most people would say that even without last weekend’s controversial events.

Arsenal’s last win at Anfield was back in 2012. Remember that? A 2-0 victory with goals from Podolski and Cazorla. It was the third Premier League game after the signings of Cazorla, Podolksi and Giroud (Robin van Persie having departed that summer), and you felt that it was the beginning of something special, not least because the recently promoted Steve Bould seemed to have stiffened up the team’s defensive resolve. Arsene reputedly got a bit miffed at Bouldy getting credit in the press and the rest is history. This was the season when the League Cup saw Arsenal beat Reading 7-5 after extra-time. Under the current rules, that game would have gone to penalties at 4-4, the score on 90 minutes. With the score at 4-4 last night, another Arsenal visit to Anfield floated into the memory, the Andrey Arshavin game. Another when the team were incapable of holding onto a lead…

There was of course still time for them to blow another one. Joe Willock scored an absolute pearler from range after 70 minutes, and for a while, it looked like his team could actually hold out. It wasn't until deep into five minutes of injury time that Origi scored his second and his team’s fifth, with a scissor kick that as stated earlier, Martinez should have done better with.

So penalties, the lottery (then again, every Arsenal game feels like a lottery these days) and Dani Ceballos drew the losing ticket, his penalty strong, in the corner, but at a savable height.

In the greater scheme of things, it’s not hugely significant. The competition is an opportunity to give game time to those not getting starts in the Premier League, although the Europa League last season provided 12 ties to do that before things got more serious at the semi-final stage, and of course the FA Cup comes around in January. So there will be enough opportunities to retain match fitness.

As for last night, well, it felt like typical Arsenal at any time over the last decade. Some great attacking play, but a failure to control a game they have done enough to win, and giving the opposition too many opportunities to score. That isn’t going to change under Unai sadly, and in the end, will probably mean the difference between playing Champions League next season, or not. I’m not optimistic, because the current head coach has had time to correct the problems with the team’s solidity, but there is little sign of improvement.

At the end of the day, Arsenal’s second stringers were beaten by a team with even less experience, especially when you look at the involvement of the substitutes on the respective sides. They did what was required in attack to win the game – I mean, five goals at Anfield! But it wasn’t enough.

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28
comments

  1. itsRonagain2

    Nov 1, 2019, 23:31 #115345

    Hi Marky. Hindsight yes, but a fair comment. Used to know a couple of people who worked in Everton’s press relationship team thing/presentations etc. They used to comment on what an absolute gent Arteta always was. It doesn’t necessarily follow that being of that disposition prevents him being a good No 1 but he knew and still knows many people at AFC. Rather suspect he s perma No2 type really and if ever a No 1 , probably AFC isn’t a place to cut his teeth. Who knows though. There have been great managers down the yrs of gentle natures.

  2. markymark

    Nov 1, 2019, 23:00 #115344

    Wengerballs - there’s a theory that Gazidis bottled it at the last moment having originally gone for Arteta. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but looking back we could have pitched it as a year of development, no big signings and reduced pressure on the inexperienced manager. Trying to do the right thing they went middle ground and ended under with a guy who can’t quite do it

  3. Wengerballs

    Nov 1, 2019, 20:09 #115343

    What was the club thinking hiring a manager who never won a single away game in a whole season at Valencia, lost 5-6 on aggregate to Barca after winning 4-0 first leg, lost the dressing room there, hardly speaks English. A dumb appointment from the start. All the worst of Wenger defensively and away day wimps but with less to offer offensively than Wenger. And schizophrenic, apalling man management with the farcical Ozil and Xhaka situations. Pay him out and get shot of asap.

  4. itsRonagain2

    Nov 1, 2019, 13:05 #115342

    Without wishing to defend GX as i cant because i dont go to watch him, ive always been of the view that if a fan or a group of fans disgust, disappointment or disconnection with the product and performances reaches a point where it provokes anger and contempt for what theyre seeing, then its time to simply not go surely. As a 'customer' which seems to the accepted status of fans these days, if you were constantly getting coffee that tasted like pee water from Costa you simply wouldn't go and buy it. Like it or not GXs coach doesn't see as he is under performing or not pulling his weight. Football never used to be so serious for supporters and the level of hating in it now is chronic. The self appointed arbiters Neville and Carragher spouting off about whos good and who is nt doesn't help with their barbs and sniggers about certain players. Viewers views are idly shaped by oafs like those 2 (neither of who were very talented them selves). It then leads to the sheep who feed on TV football to go forth and spout the same drivel themselves. PS Neville and Carragher have reached the same level of ' we re both untouchable' arrogance as did Gray and Keys. The latter were sacked and so should those 2 go the same way in my view. How that thing Carragher is still employed there after his behaviour towards that teenage girl and her Dad in the car is a total mystery anyway.

  5. Ernie71

    Nov 1, 2019, 12:43 #115341

    John F there is a massive difference between internet trolling and fans booing at the ground.You dont even know if someone on the internet is an Arsenal fan. I have always been of the opinion that fans should have the right to boo players who are not pulling their weight. The club and players think the fans should just turn up and praise players and no one is accountable.Give us your money and shut up.As a paying customer it doesnt work that way.Thats where the club is now we had Wenger who was weak we know have Emery who is weak.There is no winning mentality at the club.It says everything that when the players choose the captain they choose Xhaka over Aubameyang and Lacazette.What sort of message does that send out.I just hope the new manager(Emery will be out by Xmas) brings a strong mentality back to the club.But with our owner i doubt it

  6. TonyEvans

    Nov 1, 2019, 12:29 #115340

    Cyril - fully agree with all you say. Shameful some of the abuse but he's burnt his boats now. Poor choice as captain anyway and just goes to show the lack of real leaders in the side. Talking of 70s wrestling a defensive midfield combo of Mick McManus and Tally Ho Kaye might be interesting!

  7. Cyril

    Nov 1, 2019, 08:24 #115339

    I think it right that he should step down from the captaincy of this club. Those actions were not leadership qualities. I was at the game and he was so slow walking off for what seemed like an eternity. The displeasure shown and believe me it was a loud crescendo of boos in my humble opinion grew due to his actions or inaction to hurry off the pitch. He reminded me of a bad guy seventies wrestler, almost miking it all in. I accept abuse is wrong and any comments about his family are unacceptable. He could have handled the situation a lot better . We needed a goal and the fans were frustrated. He cannot be the captain to manage this the way he did. A sense of balance is needed here.The Arsenal fans on the whole are a great bunch and I speak from many years of experiencing this and just like most fans can’t abide underperformance, especially at home.

  8. markymark

    Oct 31, 2019, 23:27 #115338

    there are internet trolls everywhere. UK is not any worse I suspect than most countries. A lot of trolls have personality disorders and obsess with multiple postings , tweets or other forms of social media. Unfortunately the internet is a magnet for dysfunctional individuals as well as being a money machine for celebs. It’s a viscous circle. So Ron’s point about the weak minded I think is right . Personally if I was a pro ( zero chance ) I’d do very little on social media apart from charity stuff. Players who seem to know how to manage it are Juan Mata for his charity endeavours and even Raheem Sterling for his ‘Woke’ stuff. Have to say on a personal level, doing my role I’ve been told to Die on a few occasions often via unpleasant diseases. I really don’t care a shit and enjoy seeing the mugs go all crestfallen when it obviously doesn’t bother me. It’s not nice name calling but it is sticks and stones. Xhaka really does need to turn off the media , have a look at his very healthy bank account and think to himself about what a very lucky guy he is. If it really isn’t working out then Switzerland on a huge salary is quite nice I hear .

  9. itsRonagain2

    Oct 31, 2019, 22:41 #115337

    A high proportion of them either on the web or in the ground are sheep. They’re weak minded who simply like the idea of jumping on the anti Xhaka bandwagon and I venture few have asked themselves why. Such is human nature and in my view , it’s a phenomena that’s particularly peculiar to this Country due poor education and the resulting high level of illiteracy here. I wonder how many who hammer him purely in a footie sense have ever actually seen him play? Perhaps very few. Putting aside social media bile, the most cranky and distorted worse variety of the barbs chucked at him both in here and other sites are from people who’ve never played football to any level I’m sure. Anybody who has wouldn’t smear him as they do because they d understand what it takes to get to the level he has and especially to play at international level so often. He s not been a roaring success at Arsenal yet for sure but some of stuff you read as spurted out about him is staggering. Be it Wenger or whoever, for him to be picked by a club at Arsenal’s level means he can play football well. If he has been a failure to the extent some posters say, it’s not because he can’t play the game. There are many other factors. All of this rubbish about him having played his last game because of the other day are just as stupid. Charlie Nicholas who is normally a decent measured pundit has fallen into the same bandwagon as them who bait Xhaka every day. I think a good few of those pundits decide what they’re going to splurge the airwaves with by reading sites like this and others. Xhaka has a lot of qualities. It’s just that his better ones haven’t been harnessed properly largely due to him joining a club who s recruitment has been appalling for donkeys years thus he s had to play in a disjointed mentally weak team ever since he joined. One thing he isn’t is mentally weak on a football pitch. This is just my take on him. I’ve never seen him play live.

  10. John F

    Oct 31, 2019, 21:07 #115336

    Xhaka has mentioned what drove him to breaking point ,threats to break his legs,hope his wife dies and his new born baby gets cancer.Dreadful and it is understandable that he got upset but as some people have said unfortunately such is the internet you really should stay off social media if you are famous as there are complete Arse holes out there who just enjoy spreading their bile and hatred.In a room full of a hundred people you will get at least one twat ,on the internet that multiplies into thousands.

  11. Pauljames

    Oct 31, 2019, 21:04 #115335

    Just read Xhakas statement and whilst he’s not my cup of tea as a player I can’t believe some of the abuse he has clearly had to put up with ... the culprits need to take a long hard look at themselves.

  12. CORNISH GOONER

    Oct 31, 2019, 19:30 #115334

    "Jaws" of course - not much "joy" around at present is there?

  13. CORNISH GOONER

    Oct 31, 2019, 19:19 #115333

    Defeat from the joys of victory ffs! Absolutely hopeless against a team whose manager really wasn't bothered because of his ongoing success & thereby hoping to reduce a fixture pile-up. Ah well, one down, 2 more to go & Dick could be history. I hope Raul is now seriously on the case & installs a proven winner because I think the fans deserve better than another unproven or tier 2 manager. But he is going to have hard job persuading Allegri. I know most on here despise Jose but is still only 56 ( only an old guy could have penned that!) but he wins stuff, seems ambitious still & so what if he creates a bit more chaos than that we are already in? Personally, I quite like the bloke & have always thought some of his remarks are made with tongue firmly in cheek. There can be no doubt that he is a hell of a lot smarter than Dick.

  14. JBatchelor

    Oct 31, 2019, 16:04 #115332

    I might be wrong Kev, but I seem to remember you penning a very similar headline when we went out of the Champions League up at Anfield in 2008. On that occasion we threw away an unlikely lead again after failing to see the game out. Symbolic that 11 years later we're doing exactly the same thing and seemingly learnt nothing !

  15. TonyEvans

    Oct 31, 2019, 14:15 #115331

    Colonel - much better to laugh at the farcical mess our club has become isn't it - all that rage, anger and frustration I felt in Wenger's latter years has long gone.

  16. Seven Kings Gooner 1

    Oct 31, 2019, 13:53 #115330

    You can almost read Klopp's mind, "4 - 5 what a great performance by our youth team but thankfully we are out and we can concentrate on the big stuff"

  17. Colonel Blimp

    Oct 31, 2019, 13:22 #115329

    Tony, loved that comment really made me laugh. With that in mind perhaps they can change the music at The Grove in time for Saturday. "Send In The Clowns" seems pretty appropriate.

  18. PETER59

    Oct 31, 2019, 13:20 #115328

    I think we found out our 2nd eleven is slightly better than there's. Unfortunately our 1st eleven is way behind their 1st team & no better than our 2nd eleven.

  19. TonyEvans

    Oct 31, 2019, 12:35 #115327

    We'll be playing under a Big Top soon, because when Arsenal come to town it's just like having the circus turn up. We've certainly got the clowns section nailed on, and the ringmaster, Emery, directs proceedings with aplomb - just needs his top hat and tails! The good thing is that most of us on this website can at least laugh along with everyone else now.

  20. itsRonagain2

    Oct 31, 2019, 12:21 #115326

    Colonel Blimp - you are quite right there too. The League Cup has always been the trophy of last resort but its level now is quite sad and embarrassing really in my view. Its certainly always been a heartbreak tourny for Arsenal. 1968 and 69 give memories that linger on for sure. Truth is that AFC needed to win that last night and picked a team to best do that, yet still lost to a team of carefree nippers. Ive never actually pitied AFC before, but i did last night seeing them as they trudged off and for Emery too. He looked at the very, very bottom end of the disconsolate scale.

  21. Pauljames

    Oct 31, 2019, 12:13 #115325

    Another day another shambles, and those of us who thought Bellerin, Holding and Tierney would tighten us up got our answer in no uncertain terms last night . There is a culture of defensive incompetence at AFC and Dick sure ain’t gonna rid us of it.

  22. itsRonagain2

    Oct 31, 2019, 12:13 #115324

    A game that encapsulated everything that AFC have become this last 12 years. At 4-2 up even, it was easy to see that they were unsafe and lacking confidence in their own ability to see it through. Lord knows what the score would have been had it have been a game that Liverpool were interested in and have fielded 2 or 3 senior players more. GR - im afraid you've got it the wrong way round mate. The free hit was Liverpool s. They couldnt care less about that CC or that game last night. Id go so far as to say that it was a team picked to assist their own exit. The last thing they need is quarter finals in that with their fixtures. Their team selection proved that. On the other hand, Asls team was a team picked to do their best to win it. Your right about Martinelli. With some players, the potential for being top class oozes from them at a very early age. Im thinking George, Kennedy, Rocastle and Anelka from our past. How long him at Arsenal though? Not long i suggest. Under this owner, they ll neither try nor be able to keep him very long assuming his trajectory remains as it is now and he maintains his fitness and approach.

  23. KC38

    Oct 31, 2019, 11:10 #115323

    At Gooner Ron, I admire your patience and optimism, sadly last night is a continued culture of diabolical defensive knowledge. It means every week the team is not setup with balance. Home or away everyone scores against us for fun, that undermines any good offensive positivity. It's a disease that will always result in failure. Totally agree with regard martinelli, looks an exciting talent.

  24. RobG

    Oct 31, 2019, 10:46 #115322

    I was following it on a live score update. We were leading 5 - 4 and up came five minutes of injury time. Sub consciously, I said to myself - I bet we concede. Yep ! Sure enough we did. And then blew it on pens' which I also thought likely. Assuming Emery is telling the truth, Josh Kronke might believe in him. But not too many of the rest of us do.

  25. GoonerRon

    Oct 31, 2019, 10:30 #115321

    Naturally I always want Arsenal to win but this was one of those kind-of free hit games where unless we get pummelled it’s relatively easy to compartmentalise a defeat and hope there are some positives in there. Bellerin getting 90 minutes, AMN and Willock doing quite well and getting goals after a tough few games and a redemptive performance from Ozil all fall into that category. Final word for Martinelli though - he looks to be a massive prospect and impresses me more every time I see him. Watching him up close last night, he reminded me so, so much of Luis Suarez.

  26. Paulo75

    Oct 31, 2019, 09:59 #115320

    A chronic lack of any defensive nous yet again - groundhog day at the Arsenal. Regardless of Liverpool's weakened side, the first rule of playing away at any of the top sides is to begin solidly - So what does the brainless Mustafi do? Have the coaches not told him to stop needlessly going to ground? Jesus! Saying that he wasn't alone. On the plus side, I'm not his biggest fan but Ozil put in a shift last night and displayed the creative streak that our midfield recently just hasn't possessed. Agreed, Emery isn't the answer. While we are still on the periphery of the top four I just don't see the club acting decisively during the season.

  27. Colonel Blimp

    Oct 31, 2019, 09:45 #115319

    That wasn't a spectacle last night, it was like a testimonial. Complete rubbish from both sides and I would have said the same even if we'd come through it.

  28. KC38

    Oct 31, 2019, 09:43 #115318

    Do we disconnect until the club sack Emery. I for one find us an embarrassment to score 5 goals and not win sums us up. Somehow Emery has made us defensively worse than wenger managed incredible. How can these managers be so incompetent? How can they not understand that you will never be a complete football team when you are so poor defensively, you cannot challenge at the top level, the fact that Emery is taking us backwards means it's just a, waiting game. Let's hope the next manager is the correct manager. Allegri should be approached. Will he?