Arsenal and Liverpool kicked off the festive season fixtures, with a thrilling 3-3 draw at the Emirates Stadium on Friday evening.
LONDON — Here are three thoughts on Arsenal and Liverpool’s gripping 3-3 draw in Friday’s Premier League clash at the Emirates.
1. Game of the season or a comedy of errors?
It was a game that perfectly summed up the appeal of the Premier League and the flaws of the two teams that shared six goals in a thriller at the Emirates. There were goals, breathtaking counterattacks, missed chances and, most of all, awful defending. Arsenal and Liverpool once again scored a perfect 10 in the entertainment stakes, but when Arsene Wenger and Jurgen Klopp sit down to assess why their teams will not challenge for the Premier League title, they will see it in the defending that could have seen this game end as a 7-7 draw.
The problem for both clubs is that neither Wenger nor Klopp seem too concerned about the defensive naivety that continues to plague both sides. Going forward, they both have devastating quality, but the defending was nonexistent at times, with the brilliance of both teams in an attacking sense only being aided by their respective inability to sense danger in the defensive third.
Philippe Coutinho’s opener for Liverpool was the result of Arsenal failing to stop the smallest man on the pitch winning a header in the 6-yard box, while Mo Salah was left to run unchecked in the middle of the pitch before curling a shot through the huge gap between Arsenal’s centre-halves for the second.
Arsenal responded, with Alexis Sanchez punishing Joe Gomez for failing to spot his run at the far post before Mesut Ozil made it 2-2 with an easy chip over Simon Mignolet. Then came Granit Xhaka’s 30-yard strike that put Arsenal 3-2 up, a swirling effort Mignolet should have saved but didn’t. Roberto Firmino’s goal for 3-3 was another example of bad defending, with Arsenal giving him time and space to shoot before beating Petr Cech.
It was great to watch, no doubt about that, but for the purists who enjoy defending? Forget it.
Liverpool were predictably brilliant and brittle in Friday’s 3-3 draw at Arsenal. Catherine Ivill/Getty Images
2. Klopp must solve Liverpool’s goalkeeper problem
There can be no fun in being a Premier League goalkeeper nowadays. Everything is stacked in favour of the attacking players, to the extent that even the balls are more difficult to keep out of the net because of their design. The difficulties and challenges that keepers face make it even more remarkable when the likes of David de Gea produces 14 saves in a game to earn a victory, as the Manchester United keeper did against Arsenal earlier this month.
But during this pulsating clash at the Emirates, both Simon Mignolet and Petr Cech displayed their frailties as they allowed their opponents to score.
Cech should have saved Firmino’s strike, which looped over him for Liverpool’s third goal, after getting his hands to the shot, but the former Chelsea keeper misjudged the pace of the effort and still allowed it to beat him.
Mignolet, meanwhile, was exposed by Arsenal’s second goal when he was beaten far too easily by Granit Xhaka’s 30-yard strike. (Said Klopp after the match, “Mignolet saves these balls in 99.9 percent of those situations, but not tonight.”) Yes, the ball dipped on its way to goal, but Mignolet’s timing was all wrong, and he was pretty much waving to the ball as it flew into the net.
Mignolet could argue that ball moved in the air, but he is playing for one of England’s biggest clubs and should be good enough to deal with that.
Too often he has proven himself to be unreliable, and Jurgen Klopp really must find a better solution than either Mignolet or his error-prone understudy, Lori Karius.
Mesut Ozil gave Arsenal a second-half lead, albeit one they could not hold. Adrian Dennis/Getty Images
3. Wilshere gives Arsenal cause for optimism
Jack Wilshere’s Arsenal career appeared dead and buried last season as he toiled away on loan at Bournemouth, struggling to make an impression with Eddie Howe’s team before eventually losing his place. If he couldn’t cut it on the south coast, what chance did he have of fighting his way back to the first team in north London?
It has certainly been a long road back for the England midfielder, with injury problems and an early season suspension not helping his prospects, but he started his third successive Premier League game against Liverpool and emerged as arguably Arsenal’s best player.
Wilshere is 26 on Jan. 1, and his contract is due to expire at the end of the season, so Arsenal have a big decision to make about the homegrown player. If he can stay fit, Wilshere has the talent to be a central figure in this Arsenal team. He has tenacity, desire and the ability to pick a pass: three crucial qualities in any side. But Arsenal have allowed his contract to run dangerously close to the line, and they risk losing Wilshere as a result.
For all of his injury problems, he retains admirers at Arsenal’s rivals, with Manchester City holding a long-term interest in him. Arsenal have the chance to end all the uncertainty by handing Wilshere a new deal now.