Did Emery replace our defence with a sieve?
This may surprise some, but I think our display wasn’t all bad at Anfield.
This ground is an odd one for us – we’ve had some immense highs (1989) and deep lows. This has to go along with the lows.
We created chances in some measure. But then we suffered from the same old issue – our defence.
We started the game pretty well. Ainsley Maitland-Niles didn’t do well in recent games, but he scored from a breakaway after he found space at the far post.
However, soon after this, we let Liverpool equalise, via some comical ricochets. Roberto Firmino then pounced on the loose ball, and it was 1-1. The Brazilian then got another, as he just ran through our defence to slot past Leno.
It was then three, as Salah and Mane combined for the Senegalese to get in at the far post.
Salah was quiet up until then but managed to dribble in the area, with Sokratis clumsily bringing him down. He converted from the spot, as it was a clear penalty, and we went into half-time four-one down.
The second half was more of the same, though Auba and Ramsey fashioned a chance which Auba missed by virtue of being offside.
But Firmino got his hattrick from the spot, and it was a repeat in some form of the 2014 defeat, and another heavy smacking at Anfield in successive seasons.
Now, I think anybody who is “Emery Out” needs to re-evaluate their thinking. We’re fifth, albeit close to United and Chelsea.
However, there has been an improvement, compared to the latter Wenger tenure.
Emery is being more tactically able. He is analysing opponents and devising plans to meet them. He has made some mistakes, granted, but this is natural. But then boons have outweighed the negatives.
Emery also is correcting things that we’ve demanded for years. Torreira has added some midfield bite we’ve lacked for years. And Sokratis is not slow at all and has been Bould and Adams-esque in his roughness and enjoyment of physical battles.
But then despite these positive changes, he’s yet to sort out our defence. Scoring goals is and never has been an issue. It won’t be in the near future. But then it’s not a matter of personnel – it’s about positioning, organisation, and communication.
And what’s more is that club legend Paul Merson was right – he was just talking about the Anfield game and not the Emirates match….
Looking at the goals we conceded, all were in some form down to defensive errors.
Firmino’s hat trick was down to this.
Salah’s penalty was uncharacteristic buffoonery from Sokratis. And Mane’s goal was down to poor tracking and marking.
But then we’ve seen this before, and even in our unbeaten run. The Everton, Watford, Leicester, and Man United games were characteristic of bad defending, which we were lucky to escape and not be affected by. Even the Spurs win had some calamities in some part. Our most recent win, vs. Burnley, had another, despite the victory.
I often think that patterns don’t happen by accident. If the same thing occurs time and again, then it shows an underlying problem. Or something that needs correction. If most of our goals are from defensive errors, and not necessarily opposition brilliance, then it’s very telling of something deeper.
Emery is not a god; he needs time to correct the issues. And we have benefitted from his changes.
But then clearly we need off the ball work. I don’t think we need more defenders, nor better ones. Yes, Koscielny has been a good servant, and is in his career twilight. Sokratis has been good, but is 31. And Holding is still young. But then even with the injuries, and without, we’ve been crap defensively. As patterns don’t happen by accident, then something has to change and to give.
It could be the difference between 4th, or 6th.
Our goals for tally in the league is grand. But our goals against? Well, it’s not pretty reading, especially vis a vis the other top five.
If there are positives from this game it’s that:
- Liverpool is streets ahead of us, and could well win the league and equal our unbeaten record.
- We know we hold strong attacking prowess. And the addition of Torreira has boosted things, as has Guendouzi. But the defence and off the ball structure are woefully, nay laughably, poor and this needs correction.
- We’ve suffered some bad defeats at Anfield lately since they’ve exploited our defensive weaknesses. If a strong attack meets a bad defence, then what else does one expect? It’s why we got hammered in 2014, 2017, and in this game.
- Iwobi was progressive, and Maitland-Niles improved vis a vis his Spurs and Brighton performances.
I’m not even angry. I don’t think I have good cause to be. If anything, it shows what we need to do to progress. It’s like we’ve travelled down a long road, and we’ve moved over obstacles. There is just one big log in the middle of the road, which we need to circumvent it and find a way to do it.
Until we do, then we’ll stick be stuck with a bad defence.
Would Ozil have been a difference? I don’t believe so. I don’t buy the negativity towards him, but then no matter who we would have had, it may have been the same outcome.
The only way is up, at least defensively, and maybe we needed this humbling. If we’re hesitant in correcting our defence, then NOW of all times IS the time to do it.
The tactical set-up made sense. The back three and Ramsey’s addition were solid in theory. But the defence – if nothing is done, it could be two sixth-placed finishes in a row.
Leno – 6
Lichsteiner – 3
Sokratis – 4
Mustafi – 5
Kolasinac – 6
Xhaka – 5
Maitland-Niles – 6
Torreira – 5
Ramsey – 5
Iwobi – 6
Aubameyang – 5
Lacazette – 5
Koscielny – 5
Guendouzi – 5
Man of the match
Leno – He made some good saves in this match, and none of the goals we conceded were his fault.