Five areas where it is going wrong for Arsene Wenger's team
Published 09/02/2014 | 14:10
Mesut Ozil has gone missing, Jack Wilshere is out of form, there is no back-up for Olivier Giroud, Arsenal manager is outfoxed and central defence suddenly looks shaky.
1 Ozil has gone missing
The £42.5million record signing had a shocker. It was not just that Mesut Özil appeared tired; he appeared disinterested. The Germany international provided a huge lift for Arsenal when he signed from Real Madrid but he needs to be taken out of the team to recharge his batteries. That is a tough call for Arsène Wenger given the games Arsenal have coming up – not least the Champions League encounter with Bayern Munich – but Özil is contributing little at present at a key point in the season.
2 Wilshere’s petulance / fitness
It will be argued that the England midfielder took the fight to Liverpool in the second half but, by then, the damage was done. Arsenal’s midfield of Wilshere and Mikel Arteta was overrun. Worryingly Wilshere (below) allowed himself to become embroiled in disputes and petty arguments and appeared petulant. He was booked and could have been dismissed and did not appear able to influence matters. Has he ever recovered his fitness after his long injury lay-off?
3 No back-up for Giroud
Everyone said Arsenal would struggle without adequate backup for the French striker and, as each game passes, Olivier Giroud is looking increasingly tired and jaded. Can he go again? He was taken off after an hour with Lukas Podolski asked to play through the middle but he does not have the same presence or ability to hold up the ball.
4 Wenger’s failure to react
Interestingly, the Arsenal manager blamed himself for Saturday’s defeat and, when he analyses this performance, he will realise that he was tactically undone by Brendan Rodgers with a simple tweak that exposed Nacho Monreal. Wenger did not react and it has been an accusation levelled against him – his team plays the way he wants them to play and he will not change. It is also earning them the reputation, perhaps, of being flat-track bullies who struggle when the opposition are stronger and have a game plan for them.
5 Central defence dismantled
Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny have been hailed as the new Adams and Bould and they went into Saturday’s game with an incredible record of not having lost when they both completed 90 minutes. A record that last lasted 31 matches stretching back two years but which was undone yesterday. It is now how they react, also. Mertesacker has proved to be a defensive leader but no one appeared to be listening as he and his central defensive partner were beaten by Liverpool’s movement and pressing game. It could be a crucial moment.