‘How many football fans have just bet on Steven Caulker to score the equaliser then?’- this tweet- what I thought to be gold dust at the time- was just about ready to be posted after Liverpool’s centre back took his place alongside Christian Benteke upfront in his first appearance for the club.
The newspapers must have had the headlines on standby as the former Queens Park Rangers defender came on to try and help his side salvage a point against Arsenal.
Joe Allen, little did we know, had other plans as he found himself in unfamiliar territory to volley home from close range in injury time after Christian Benteke’s knock down. It was just about the most stereotypical Joe Allen volley you will ever see- side footed and neatly directed into the bottom corner.
His explanation of how he ‘took a risk’ to get himself in the box just about sums up his level of attacking prowess, making it an even greater last minute leveler for Liverpool fans to celebrate.
A rocking Anfield played host to a superb advert for the Premier League team as two English giants put on a six goal thriller. While both sets of fans will be disappointed with conceding three goals, few can criticise the attacking display from their players.
Roberto Firmino could be on his way towards being labelled the ‘big game player’ after he scored two goals in an impressive outing against Arsenal to add to his strong performances against Manchester City and Chelsea. The ability he showed last night recognises just how much Liverpool need him to turn up in the supposedly smaller games though.
The Brazilian’s first goal was a real striker’s finish as he made a great touch to get the ball out of his feet before striking past Petr Cech with a powerful left footed shot.
As for his second- wow. I have watched it about 10 times now. It was as sweet a strike as you could wish for, dipping with pace and power over a helpless Cech. You have to admire the build up to the goal as well. Liverpool’s pressing, led by Joran Henderson, made it impossible for Arsenal to get hold of the ball, resulting in Firmino picking it up on the edge of the box before quickly getting it out of his feet and taking his chance expertly.
He could have even had a first half hat trick after his left footed effort skimmed the top of the cross bar. Jurgen Klopp needs to see more of the same from the former Hoffenheim man.
Aside from Firmino, Jordan Henderson and Emre Can were excellent throughout and were vital in leading Liverpool’s pressing game. It came down to two silly defensive mistakes that cost the home side three points last night.
Liverpool fans must be wondering what has warranted the newly proposed five year deal for keeper Simon Mignolet. The Belgian should have done far better for the first goal after Aaron Ramsey scored at the near post with an effort that looked easier to save than to not.
He was at fault again for the second goal. Reds fans must be wondering why on earth he decided to take two steps away from his goal line just before the corner came in. His dreadful positioning resulted in the ball practically finding its way directly into the back of net, bar a minor touch from Olivier Giroud.
Mignolet is not the man to be Liverpool’s number one keeper for the next five years. Not only does he fail to dominate when dealing with crosses, he puts his teammates in danger every time he has the ball at his feet. His distribution is extremely poor and he is more often than not guilty of giving his defenders passes they do not want having taken too long to decide what to do with the ball.
Arsenal deserve praise…
Credit to Arsenal, they not only proved they could match the work rate of their opponents but also that they were still a threat without some key players.
Joel Campbell stood out in particular. He carried out his defensive responsibilities whenever called upon and also ensured that Alberto Moreno was kept busy at the other end of the pitch. His touch was great throughout the game and he worked well with Aaron Ramsey, feeding the overlapping Welshman on several occasions, one of which led to Arsenal’s first goal. The Costa Rican also played his part in the build up to Giroud’s second goal and troubled the Liverpool defence every time he cut in on his left foot.
Similarly to Liverpool, it was a game Arsenal could have so easily won. They were just short of the fight needed in the dying minutes to hold onto their lead. Having said that, this was a game that had draw written all over it from the minute Arsene Wenger and Jurgen Klopp started to throw compliments at each other in the buildup.
Olivier Giroud will have had nightmares over his unbelievable miss from six yards out knowing it was one of few big chances for the Gunners. His sharp finish for his second goal again forced the question as to whether he is unfairly underrated. For me, he is just short of being a world class striker but he is a perfect fit for this current Arsenal team.
The likes of Ramsey and Ozil seem to thrive off of the way he makes himself available for them to play the ball into him, knowing he is capable of joining in with the intricate build up play on the edge of the box.
Wenger will certainly come away happy with a point when he considers the pressure Liverpool put on in the final third of the game.
Klopp, on the other hand, has the right to be quietly disappointed that his team couldn’t make it an even greater night the under the Anfield lights and in the snow by securing all three points.