Monday, 3 September 2012

Seven conclusions from Liverpool 0 Arsenal 2

Liverpool 0 Arsenal 2

1) If we insist - rightly - on giving new signings a chance, then it's pretty inconsistent to jump to extensive conclusions too quickly. Have Arsenal looked better defensively in the first three games of the season? Yeah, absolutely.

But to argue that this mean we now have the best defence in the League is not so much over-egging the point as scrambling it (if you'll forgive the terrible metaphor).

On two counts it seems a little presumptuous. First, Sunderland didn't even attempt to attack, and yet Szczesny had to save us early on from arguably the clearest chance of the game. Against Liverpool, we conceded 15 shots on goal - one fewer than in the corresponding fixture last season, when we were completely outplayed. Granted Borini did seem to want to shoot from any position, but even so those are high numbers.

On top of the number of shots conceded, some of the distribution in the opening half an hour from Mertesacker and Jenkinson was truly calamitous. I'm not saying the team is poor defensively - it's not; but equally, we shouldn't rest on our laurels.

And this hints at the second point: let's wait until we play a strong attacking team before getting too excited.

2) Talking of Liverpool's attack, it can't be long before attention turns to Luis Suarez, again. His goalscoring record isn't bad - one every three games - but his chance conversion rates are absolutely dire. He's been protected from criticism for his footballing performances by Andy Carroll's price-tag, but Suarez was signed for a hefty 23 million pounds, and really needs to deliver more. The chance he missed late on - while unlikely to have changed the result - was really one he should have taken.

3) Considering how often I complain about decisions going against us, it's worth emphasising how lucky we were not to concede a penalty early in the second half. Yeah, Suarez has a reputation for going over easily but Mertesacker was all over him in the box. On another day, Liverpool would have had a penalty and it might have been a completely different result. Football rests on these small margins.

4) As obvious a point as this is, Abou Diaby was absolutely outstanding yesterday. There are few finer sights in football than watching him stride forward imperiously with the football, and he had ample opportunity to do this, creating several chances in a man of the match display.

Raphael Honigstein tweeted last night that three years ago Wenger said Diaby was the most talented player in the squad. That might be an exaggeration, but I'm still delighted to have Abou back and playing like he can.

5) What next for Theo Walcott? It's hard to believe that Arsenal kept him unless he will sign a new contract, but can the increased terms really be countenanced? His record last season was inflated by playing with a striker as good as Van Persie, and few would suggest picking him currently ahead of Chamberlain or, dare I say it, Gervinho.

I've long failed to 'get' Walcott, and while he's clearly a useful player, I certainly don't think he should be one of - if not the - highest paid players at the club.

Also, as long as Sagna remains injured, Jenkinson doesn't provide the overlap Theo desperately needs to take on a full-back - which could deter Arsene from picking Walcott in the short-term. It's certainly a situation I'll watch with interest.

6) A couple of weeks ago, I thought that Liverpool looked like they could challenge for the top four if they kept their squad and brought in some attacking talent. Instead, they let Andy Carroll go, signed nobody, and look bereft of ideas. Good news for Arsenal in the race for fourth place.

7) Outside Anfield, there is a statue of Marouane Chamakh - the invisible man. When the other two senior strikers at the club start and Chamakh can't even get in the match squad, I do wonder what that says about Wenger's appraisal of Chamakh's talents. And yet, surely, we'll need him to play 15 games this season. Distinctly odd.


Anonymous said...

Some players make other players better.

Walcott plays better in front of Sagna. He tracks back more, and as you point out, the overlap with Sagna/Walcott works well. I think it may be down to simple respect. Walcott respects Sagna. He's not going to leave Sagan hanging.

Adam said...

Okay, but Walcott should respect everybody in the squad...

Tabs said...

Interesting points Adam.

1. Agree with your general point that we can't draw too many firm conclusions about the Defence at this early stage,but the stat about Liverpool shots serves no purpose other than to highlight that Football is not a stat-led game.Liverpool were well shackled whether they had 15 shots or not.


3. I've certainly seen them given, but I don't think it was as clear cut as your piece intimates.A case of the Uruguayan's reputation going before him perhaps.Long may that continue.

4.Wonderful to see Diaby back and playing so well.

5.You detail the conundrum well, hence the stand off.Difficult to predict how it will all pan out, but my view is that the Ox will make the position his own and Theo will be off in Jan.

6.Liverpool won't get anywhere near the top four with or without a new centre-forward.They will do well to finish top 6.

7.Not sure I agree that it was "odd". There may have been moves to move him on in the lead up to the game.I would also argue that with Gervinho and Theo on the bench,Arsene had enough attacking options if he wanted to change things.

Just my twopennyworth.

Adam said...

Agree with you re. Theo, and think few will be too sad.

On point one, something you might be interested in was how short Liverpool were in the betting for the match - on Betfair, they were odds on to win, a pretty ludicrous price.

The reason for this was that one stat a lot of traders use in evaluating a team is the number of shots they have. A team with Liverpool's number of shots last season should have (if you look at anywhere near normal conversion rates) have accrued a points tally similar to Man United. It's in this context that I felt Liverpool could finish in the top four, as last season could (at least a few weeks ago) be viewed as a statistical outlier.

So i guess I didn't put it very well - what I meant was less that Liverpool posed a big threat, and more that if you concede that number of shots on goal regularly you can't win the League.