Raheem Sterling would not play regularly at Arsenal - Five things we learned from the Emirates
German playmaker Mesut Ozil was at his imperious best at the Emirates - and other lessons from Arsenal's 4-1 Premier League victory.
Mesut Ozil does deliver in the big games.
To accuse someone who was one of Germany’s best performers in the World Cup final of not being a big game player might seem strange but that is the charge often levelled at Mesut Ozil. The truth is actually that he is not generally an eye-catching player.
You do not seem him charging around the pitch and flying into tackles, you do not seem him attempting extravagant 40-yard passes but, watch carefully, and what you do see is someone who only very rarely loses possession and who is invariably involved in Arsenal’s best football. This was an occasion, however, where Ozil not only added his usual fluidity to the Arsenal team but also the finishing touch with a wonderful first-half free-kick into the top corner of Simon Mignolet’s goal.
Philippe Coutinho is becoming the main man at Anfield
It happened almost without anyone noticing, certainly in contrast with the saga that currently surrounds Raheem Sterling, but Liverpool did complete one very important piece of contract business this year.
They persuaded Countino to sign up for another five years. The Brazilian has been their best player this season and, with Steven Gerrard leaving this summer and Sterling’s future so uncertain, is becoming the one real star player that Brendan Rodgers can count upon. His impact was limited by how Arsenal sometimes overwhelmed Liverpool but the quality of his passing still shone through.
He created an excellent first-half chance from which Lazar Markovic and Sterling should really have combined to score.
Arsenal should contend to win next Premier League season’s title
A sequence of 21 wins in 26 matches should be a source of both hope and frustration to Arsenal. The frustration surrounds what might have been possible had they not started the season so sluggishly. The hope relates to what should be possible next season.
This is unquestionably Arsene Wenger’s best squad since Fabregas, Van Persie and Nasri were all playing together in 2010-11 but quite possibly even since the days of Bergkamp, Henry, Vieira et al. There should be no major departures in the summer and, if Wenger can make two or three of the right signings – say Petr Cech and Morgan Schneiderlin – he will have everything to compete not just to finish in the top four but actually win a first league title since 2004.
Raheem Sterling would not play so regularly at a club who would pay him more
Sterling could not have been clearer in his BBC interview this week. It is not about the money, it is about doing the best thing for his footballing development. In which case he would be taking an enormous gamble to move somewhere willing to improve upon Liverpool’s offer of around £90,000 a week.
He won Liverpool’s penalty here and was one of their more lively attackers but would he have got into the Arsenal starting team above Ozil, Sanchez, Ramsey or Giroud? No. It would be similarly difficult at Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid or Barcelona. He can still grow with Liverpool over the next few years.
Hector Bellerin proves the value of regular football
For an example of the importance of regular first-team football in a player’s development you only have to look at Hector Bellerin. Yes, he is rash and makes mistakes. The challenge on Raheem Sterling to concede Liverpool’s penalty proved that beyond any doubt. He was similarly exposed when he first came into the team, especially when Arsenal were so easily beaten by Borussia Dortmund earlier in the season.
But he has only just turned 20 and clearly has vast potential, as he also showed in scoring yesterday. He has developed enormously in the past six months and proof that one of Arsene Wenger’s most admirable characteristics is a willingness to gamble on youth.