Defence clicks as Arsenal fire warning to United

Arsenal sent out a warning to their title rivals that they absolutely mean business by coming from behind to draw 1-1 with Liverpool at Anfield overnight.

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard opened the score in the 8th minute with a well-struck free-kick from the edge of the area but Arsenal snatched point after Cesc Fabregas finished cleverly following some excellent play from Alexander Hleb. A draw was the least that the visitors deserved after largely dominating the play and hitting the post twice in the second half, but they also relied on some great defending from William Gallas and Kolo Toure and some smart goalkeeping from Manuel Almunia to ensure they returned to the top of the table.

Fabregas celebrates his clever equaliserArsene Wenger made one change to the side that destroyed Slavia Prague midweek, surprisingly dropping Theo Walcott to the bench in favour of a five-man midfield that featured Emmanuel Eboue on the right and Alexander Hleb playing centrally behind Emmanuel Adebayor up front. Eduardo da Silva was left out of the squad completely with Nicklas Bendtner, Gilberto Silva, Lassana Diarra and Jens Lehmann joining Walcott on the bench.

Arsenal could not have got off to a worse start after Gerrard fired home after Xabi Alonso was fouled by Fabregas just outside the penalty area. John Arne Riise tapped the ball sideways to open up the angle and the Arsenal wall simply fell apart as Gerrard’s shot was hammered home, leaving a furious Almunia with no chance. It was the second free-kick that the Spaniard has conceded this season but unlike Gareth Bale’s effort at White Hart Lane, on this occasion he was totally blameless.

Liverpool almost doubled their lead when Gerrard took aim with a volley from the edge of the area but Almunia was equal to the task, turning the ball acrobatically over for a corner. Arsenal then preceded to dominate posession and should have equalised when some good play on the left saw Emmanuel Eboue volley wide after Tomas Rosicky’s cross left Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina in no man’s land. Neither side really threatened after Eboue’s chance and despite Arsenal’s territorial dominance they worringly ended the half without a shot on target.

Nicklas Bendtner’s introduction made a differenceChanges force the turnaround

The second half began with Liverpool striker Fernando Torres having to be substituted after incurring an abductor injury. Torres was replaced by Peter Crouch and he immediately got involved, testing Almunia’s agility with a fine long-range strike. Arsenal then should have scored after Eboue was released down the right and he cannoned a shot against the right post with Reina well beaten. The rebound fell to Fabregas but his first-time shot was mishit completely and the ball flew over the bar with Reina stranded. Fabregas’ reaction said it all; he really should have scored.

Arsenal then began to fade out of the game as Liverpool created a couple more half-chances but the ascendency turned when Andriy Voronin and Xabi Alonso were replaced by Yossi Benayoun and Arlvaro Arbeloa and Rosicky, Eboue and Gael Clichy were substituted for Walcott, Bendtner and Gilberto. Arsenal began to run their opponents off the pitch and the equalising goal came through Fabregas after he poked home Hleb’s delightfully weighted pass in the 80th minute.

Fabregas then preceded to almost win the game single-handedly after his stunning long-range effort smacked against the same post as Eboue’s shot earlier in the half. As with Eboue’s effort the ball again fell to an Arsenal player and this time it was Bendtner who wasted a golden chance, firing his first-time shot over the bar. As with Fabregas’ earlier miss the big Dane really should have scored and would surely have been kicking himself after the match. Even after Bendtner’s miss Gerrad could have won the match, but Gallas’ excellent block ensured it ended 1-1.

As you can probably gather from the summary above, this was an absolute cracker of a match. I predicted yesterday that Liverpool would be the biggest test that Arsenal have faced this season and it certainly turned out to be the case. Although the boys failed to win the match the result was still positive and they will go into the match against Manchester United next weekend with the knowledge that they have what it takes to challenge for the title, a notion that Wenger agreed with after the match.

“We have come out of our first big test this season stronger. We will go into the Manchester United [game] much stronger. There is a long way to go, but we have the talent to fight right at the top for the Championship.”

William Gallas was sensational late on for ArsenalDefence outshines attack

Despite a strong performance overall from the team a number of players were not at their best against Liverpool. Up front, Adebayor seemed a little off the boil despite his hard work, failing to fashion a single effort on goal (Edit: Adebayor had one good chance, saved well by Reina). Despite his brilliant piece of play to set up Fabregas’ goal, I thought Hleb was very, very quiet and lacked the directness that he has been showing in recent weeks. Rosicky was largely ineffective and Fabregas himself seemed out of sorts, at least until he caught fire in the last fifteen minutes.

On the plus side, this was one of the best performances from the Arsenal defence this season. Gallas and Toure were sensational at the heart of the defence with the former in particular making a number of crucial late interventions. I thought Flamini had an excellent game just in front of the defence and despite Arseblogger’s contrasting opinion, I felt Eboue was very creative despite a tendency to give away posession a little too cheaply at times. Walcott was good when he came on and Bacary Sagna and Clichy were as solid as ever, easily containing a very narrow Liverpool side and getting forward with good purpose.

I felt that one of the biggest areas that the boys fell down against Liverpool was their reluctance to cross the ball into the penalty area early. There were a few too many cute passes being attempted in and around the area and at times it really felt like watching the Arsenal of last season. While it was good to see the team remain patient after going behind the reality is that a lot of the goals this season have come from early balls into the area and this avenue was explored enough by the wide players. Adebayor was making good positions in around the penalty spot but the fact that he failed to test Reina all evening was a sign that Eboue and Rosicky were not always doing their job.

My personal reaction is that this was a very positive result for Arsenal. Although I am slightly disappointed that Bendtner couldn’t keep his shot down to grab three points I really feel that Wenger’s side will go into the match against Manchester United full of confidence after outplaying one of their major title rivals in their own backyard. If Arsenal can retain their fearless approach and cut out a few of the cute passes then I really feel that they will beat Manchester United on Saturday. Regardless, Wenger can sleep easy knowing that his side’s build-up to the match has got off to a satisfactory start.

What do you think?

Have your say on Arsenal’s draw with Liverpool by leaving a comment.



  1. I hope Eboue doesn’t play against Man Yoo as I fear the worst, our defence didn’t have THAT much to do with an unfit Torres and a couple of long shots by Crouch, it will be a different story from Man Yoo with Rooney, Tevez and Ronaldo. I hope Bendtner starts up front with Theo or Eduardo, also there was no point in crossing the ball when Liverpool had 11 of their players in the box with only Ade standing there surrounded by 5 Liverpool players. We should have played counter attacking football, let them have the ball and bring them onto us and wait for them to eventually give it away (not a long wait) then hit them on the break with our pace, they tried doing that to us but their players are as slow as shit, unlike ours. At least I won £30 from the match.

  2. I don’t think it’s fair to criticize Bendtner and Fabregas for missing those rebounds off the post. They came back with such speed, I think it’s pretty impressive that they made contact at all, much less sending the ball approximately towards goal. Yeah, they would have done better to control it first, but I don’t think they even had time to consider it, it seemed to be pure reaction at the time. They’ll be kicking themselves in retrospect, though.

    Overall, great game, and we passed this “test”. Now, we only need to hear from everyone how this actually wasn’t the big test, and THIS weekend will be the big test.

  3. I hope Eboue plays against Man Yoo. If the past is anything to rely on, then i think him and Clichy are the ones to contain Ronaldo and Giggs, at the back we should have Gallas and Toure to contain Tevez and Rooney. I hope Gilberto and Flamini plays in the middle to deal with either Nani or Anderson. I would be happy if we can lead the attack with Theo/Eduardo and Adebayor with Cesc in the midfield. This would be my proposition

    Adebayor Theo/Eduardo


    Flamini Gilberto Eboue

    Clichy Gallas Toure Sagna


    I’m not sure if Sagna will be able to deal with the trickery and speed of Ronaldo yet, but Eboue and Clichy passed the test last season(If you watched the prevoius FA Cup that we won but didn’t ‘deserve’ then you would understand). Its rather defensive but i feel it would be the best formation.

  4. Arselicked –

    There’s no way we can play defensively against United. That’s simply not our game, and destined to failure. We win by controlling the pace of the game, if we’re reacting to them all game, they’ll walk all over us.

  5. I feel that we can still have Clichy and Eboue bombing forward to support the attack, whilst Flamini and Sagna remain to cover us from a counter, Flamini will also be there to assist Gilberto and support Cesc in midfield.
    Around the 60min, when they begin to tire and we are show that Sagna will be able to deal with either Ronaldo, Giggs or Nani, you can make your substitutions.

  6. Total class, a game in hand, its going to tough but Id put money on now with the bookies for Arsenal taking the Premier League, Utd still not looking as confident as last season and we’ve already seen how bad they perform without Rooney and Ronaldo and now they have lost Paul Scholes for 3 months. Fabregas, Walcott and Rosiky 3 key men this season

  7. Spanish Fry – I should say that I did make it to that Bolton game. Good times.

    The Arsenal have been on a good roll. After last night, I was disappointed with the result, dropping two points, but pleased with the performance. After reading your blog and a couple of the others, I’m more satisfied with the result. It’s a long season and if Arsenal stay on track to finish with 80+ points, they’ll have a very good chance to win the title.

    I have to say thank you to the lads and the boss for putting together such a fantastic footballing side.

  8. watch out arsenal……united are coming to get ya !!!

    cant see arsenal stepping it up against the best club in the world…united just have the better side…..better defence, and attack….only thing arsenal have is Fabregas, but im sure owen will take care of him

  9. Adam – I think at this level you expect them to score those chances. It did come off the post at pace but the reaction from the players said it all – Bendtner and Fabregas could not believe they’d missed. Agreed about your comment about Arsenal needing to remaining attacking against United though.

    433 – Good to hear back from you. Like I said, there’s not many tougher places to go and get a result than Anfield and I think the boys did a fine job. A win would’ve been the icing on the cake but it was not to be. How was the atmosphere at the Bolton match?

    Ronaldo7 – Sigh – “The only thing Arsenal have is Fabregas”. Have you not been watching Hleb, Adebayor or Flamini this season?

  10. guys, did ade stunk it up or what?! he missed easy shots, tumbled a lil too easily, and passed some of the worst easy passes I’ve seen.

    I thought Hleb was just class in this match! This guy has been a revelation, lately.

    With Fabre, I thought he was a bit confused in the first half, probably still feeling guilty about the Xabi foul. A foul that I wasn’t so amused about, it was Cesc’s ball! Xabi merely came close to it before Cesc was about to get a control of it. But he got hit, and is automatically seen as the victim. Anyway, in the 2nd half, I thought Cesc put more effort and determination. There was so much release from him after the goal.

  11. I wondering whether wenger will allow cesc 2 play 2moro, but it’s better if wenger put the usually team for league cup,as those lighties deserve 2 play that game,surely at the same time wenger boys will be warm up 4 the big one, expecting goals from bentner, eduardo and walcott and maybe a few from other boys.

  12. league cup
    definitely not lehman, fabianski
    eboue, senderos,song,denilson
    diaby,gilberto silva,cesc,walcott
    bendtner, eduardo

  13. Fabregas will definitely not play tomorrow. Diarra will start in the middle, probably alongside Gilberto. Also, Senderos is injured at the moment and probably will not feature. It will be interesting to see if Nordveit gets an opportunity to start.

  14. hmm…i think lehmanns gonna get chance tomorrow, its probably hes last season before he retires.

    i hope a few new players get their chance to shine, just like fabregas.

  15. Spanish Fry – About the atmosphere at the Bolton game: It was good. I was around a bunch of fans; we were up high, behind the goal; when songs would start up, the fans around me would join in for one verse, and then they’d all go silent. They’d never go for a second verse. Fair play to them – I myself am a loud mouth and would sing all game long left to my own devices, but these Gooners wanted to focus quietly on the game first, but would join in for a verse if a good one made it up their way.

    The atmosphere was excellent – good size stadium (in the US, stadiums are quite large, so the Emirates is just good size to me, not huge), and Gooners everywhere, which is fantastic, because I normally watch Arsenal games where you can count the Gooners with one finger, that’s yours truly, and my disapproving wife wants to know when the game will be over so she can get on with her day – compared to that, the atmosphere at the stadium was absolutely BRILLIANT.

  16. team to start against man u


    sagna toure gallas clichy

    rosicky flamini fabregas hleb

    edu ade

  17. […]The second half began with Liverpool striker Fernando Torres having to be substituted after incurring an abductor injury. Torres was replaced by Peter Crouch and he immediately got involved, testing Almunia’s agility with a fine long-range strike. Arsenal then should have scored after Eboue was released down the right and he cannoned a shot against the right post with Reina well beaten.[…]
    Yes, sure!

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