Good Morning Positivistas,
Having looked forward to the opening fixture since the game was announced in mid June the afternoon did not disappoint and will certainly be one of the ‘opening days’ that are carved in the memory of games worth watching.
Clearly to be on the wrong side of a seven goal contest, and to drop three points that I fancied we should collect before the kick off, is a disappointment. A few hours reflection, sober and at times less sober, has however brought that disappointment into perspective, and allowed a drawing apart of the footballing strands of the afternoon.
Of the game itself both Arsenal and Liverpool struck me as rusty in the first half, with passes being hit a little aimlessly and no fluidity our movement compared to our Maytime/end of season smooth run through the gears. Liverpool were scrappy in front of the nervy Mignolet. Holding and Chambers looked fine. Monreal spent the first half hour leaping as high than an elephant’s eye, given any opportunity! A goal I sensed was coming from an error and, lo and behold, it was provided by the ridiculously top-knotted Albert Moreno.
First, his clumsy penalty challenge, then a charge up field to leave Theo unmarked who coolly slotted home our opener. “Theo, Theo, Theo”. A considerable relief for our new right winger and we were on a roll, surely ?
(I do not know if you were watching on Sky like me but the word “assassination’ was used by Neville to describe his own comments on the young Spanish wing back – for once Gary had exactly the right word).
Moving swiftly on however, as we all saw, having forced ourselves in front we did not follow up on the advantage. The Scousers managed to get a foot in the game and took advantage of a soft free kick award to slot an unstoppable rocket into Cech’s corner pocket. Bloody hell.
And then, and then, and then ….. the first fifteen minutes of the second half.
We stumbled out after half time as though under the influence of a mighty jab of dental pain killer. Our minds were as numb as our bodies, we did not appear to know how to keep the ball, or have the individual or collective wit to resist. I have no idea where it came from. I have seen it before, at Stamford Bridge, at Anfield, at the Etihad, even St Marys. One goal deficit becomes two, becomes three, becomes four etcetera. It was not, in my opinion, the second goal that rocked us on our heels. We were already stunned before that went in. But after that excellent finish by Lallana, and it was a very good finish btw, we had ten minutes of team wide, hollow eyed confusion. I have no idea why during this period of confusion in the game two players went down injured, and both had to leave the field ? Cause and effect perhaps.
We suffer from a collective mental malaise. It is not down to individual players, to signings, or to injuries. It is not even down to dodgy refereeing and Oliver was excellent yesterday, imo. We require composure when a game turns against us, and when we look in the basket we have none.
Can I explain why experienced, reliable players, suddenly switch off ? No I can’t. No doubt the experts will have a ‘000 plausible ideas. I shall however call what I cannot explain the meringue.
Much focus in the media, mainstream and social, has been in Chambers and Holding and the ‘weakness’ that they created at the heart of the AFC defence. I am not convinced, not remotely convinced. For goals two and three we were undone by very slick, fast passing and good finishing. Hector was taken out in the move for the second Liverpool goal, Nacho beaten by an excellent Clyne cross for the third. I doubt very much Kosc, Per or Gabby, or the unnamed and newly signed ANOther would had done any better. They certainly did not at Stamford Bridge, Anfield and the Etihad etc.
As Mane’s fourth went in I admit I was heading for the metaphorical exit on my armchair as I stared toward what appeared to be turning into rout. Jurgen Klopp, foolish man, celebrated with his players. Nevertheless that strike proved the difference in the end between the teams.
And then, somehow and against my and Jurgen’s expectations, the Ox twisted his way toward Mignolet who duly obliged with a howler to allow the shot to squirm in. Chambo’s glancing header brought us to within touching distance with about 20 minutes to go ……….
Could we ? Would we ? Should we ?
Well after those excruciating minutes Mr Oliver put us out of our misery, we never really looked like we would grab that fourth and probably did not deserve it. No clear chances created. The nearest we got was Theo standing on the ball on the 92nd minute. During that final phase Le Coq was fortunate to stay in the pitch, as I said the referee was in a forgiving frame of mind. LFC were better than us on the day, creating chances and tucking those chances away. Hard work required. I shall welcome Giroud back like along lost son.
So off we go, sunshine bus loaded, destination Leicester.