Reds Held At Anfield
This was an opportunity missed for Liverpool, a mere week after that disappointing draw against Manchester United. With four points now dropped in the space of a week, Christmas Day proceeds with the reds one point off top spot, instead of being four points clear of the chasing pack. Ultimately, every fan would have taken this festive predicament at the outset of the 2023/24 campaign, given the largely disastrous season which was endured prior. A summer regeneration fell short of the absolute requirements (in recruitment), which has probably caused the stagnation of the midfield and attack.
Below is how the team lined up, with match details following.
The Starting Eleven
Trent Alexander Arnold
Virgil van Dijk (c)
Joe Gomez – Kostas Tsimikas (35 mins)
Harvey Elliott – Luis Díaz (67 mins)
Ryan Gravenberch – Curtis Jones (67 mins)
Darwin Núñez – Cody Gakpo (67 mins)
Arsenal 1 – 0 Liverpool
Gabriel Magalhães (Martin Ødegaard) 4 mins
Arsenal 1 – 1 Liverpool
Mohamed Salah (Trent Alexander Arnold (29 mins)
Important Match Stats
Liverpool 51% – 49% Arsenal
Liverpool 13 – 13 Arsenal
Liverpool 25 – 19 Arsenal
Liverpool 8 – 5 Arsenal
Liverpool 8 – 5 Arsenal
🇭🇺 Dominik Szoboszlai’s work off the ball was immense for #LFC tonight.
– Made the joint most recoveries (9) on the pitch
– Won the joint second most duels (6)
— Bence Bocsák (@BenBocsak) December 23, 2023
The First Half
The opening period of this game produced a very quick start by the visitors, leading to an impressive early goal. Mikel Arteta had evidently instructed his title chasing men to take a fight to their Anfield inspired adversary, something which enabled a well taken header from the angled free kick. The infamous high line approach to incoming set plays, did not work on this occasion, as the home defence were left flat footed to the goal scorer, Gabriel Magalhães. Luckily for Jürgen Klopp, his side is now accustomed to conceding that first painful goal, before showing the character to bounce back. As the game state travelled from end to end of the world-famous turf, several good openings emerged, one which finally allowed Mohamed Salah to torment his marker, Oleksandr Zinchenko, before firing his shot inside the upper near post of the Arsenal goal. A very controversial VAR decision ruled against a blatant hand ball by the gunner’s skipper, Martin Ødegaard, something which even William Saliba marked down as a clear penalty in his post-match interview. Shortly after the Egyptian King had levelled the contest, Kostas Tsimikas had been bundled off the pitch and into his manager, causing both to land heavily. An immediate substitution was required (due to a suspected shoulder injury), with post-match details pointing to a long injury lay off. The highlight of the half (apart from the brilliant goal), was the defensive power of Ibrahima Konaté, who almost single handedly pocketed both Gabriel Martinelli and Gabriel Jesus, whenever they dared to enter his vast area of the ground. The half ended with each side having scored their goal, yet the Merseyside team were unlucky not to be leading.
The Second Half
On resumption of the second half, the consideration of changes must have been on the mind of the reds German manager, however, no further changes were made in the break. Both Cody Gakpo and Luis Díaz had been poor in their endeavours, though it was not until the 67th minute that further alterations were made. Up until that point, moments of good opportunity had presented themselves, yet the final ball or decisive action had been underwhelming. Mohamed Salah was not the same entity which had caused so much trouble in the first half and the timing of the changes were on point. The introduction of both Harvey Elliott and Darwin Núñez were logical, given the misfiring antics of the forwards they were replacing. The key issue was one which took away much of Liverpool’s drive, being the introduction of Ryan Gravenberch, in place of the workhorse, Curtis Jones. The midfield in the weeks prior had been lacking so much intensity and steel in the Premier League, until Jones had gotten back up to full match fitness.
He and Wataru Endō had been out working their middle ground opponents, allowing Dominik Szoboszlai to join the largely misfiring attack. The hit and miss hybrid initiative was working well, as Trent Alexander Arnold controlled much of the possession from a deep and central position. One moment of brilliant counter attacking should have sent the reds into a deserved lead, as Salah galloped at a stranded Arsenal backline, before squaring to his on-rushing vice-captain. Despite the second goal needing only a shot on target, Liverpool’s number 66 crashed his shot onto the bar, to the amazement of an expectant crowd. The match continued to sit in the balance as each team fought to gain an advantage, one that would not avail itself to either team.
— AnfieldIndex (@AnfieldIndex) December 23, 2023
What Are My Final Thoughts…?
This was a good result, considering the poor league form that had preceded Liverpool’s top of the table encounter. Despite continuing to gain wins and draws in the month of December, there is no doubting that the disjointed attack is a growing concern to a frustrated fan base. To have been able to field the world’s most successful forward line for so many years (Mo, Bobby, and Sadio), means the integration of a new and vibrant group would bring unjust comparisons. Over the second half of the season, huge decisions will have to be made about every member of the attacking group, as the correct answers must be attained if success is to be achieved in the long term.
This game saw some very good performances undertaken by the reds, which must now be built upon as the chance for an unlikely title challenge is somehow still alive.
Liverpool 3 – 2 Arsenal