Saturday, February 8, 2014

A good response is the only option

There are literally no good words to say about Saturday’s 5-1 defeat at Anfield. What’s worse is that I don’t think Liverpool were that good. In the first 20 minutes, Arsenal were just that bad.
Heartless, gutless, hopeless, the list of words could continue.
It was worse than the defeat to Manchester City earlier in the season because at least on that day, the Gunners looked up for it, but just weren’t focused defensively. They didn’t look up for it at Anfield.
I’m not going to over analyse the game because, frankly, it was painful enough watching the 90 minutes so I don’t want to spend too long writing about it. I don’t think it was an issue with tactics or team selection or a lack of January signings, as it was a similar set-up to the 2-0 win at the Emirates earlier in the season. The whole team just didn’t look interested, or like the team that has spent most of the season at the top of the league.
I also don’t buy into the argument that one or two looked up for it and are exempt from criticism. The team lost 5-1 and conceded four in 18 minutes. None of those Arsenal players can have walked off the Anfield pitch happy with their performance.
At the start of the period of games that many are building up to be season defining, I can’t imagine how the Gunners could have started any worse. I can only hope that the defeat was as painful and as embarrassing for the players as it was for the fans.
The only good thing is that Arsenal have an immediate chance to gain some sort of redemption and get back on track. The team have generally recovered well from set-backs this season, so now there is no option but to do the same again. Manchester United will be buoyed by seeing Arsenal lose before they come to the Emirates on Wednesday, however the Gunners will know that this is their best chance in years to get a good result against United.
Manchester United are reminiscent of the Arsenal from the last few seasons with their erratic form and top four fight. Rather than just looking to assess the situation in the first half and keeping things tight, the Gunners have to look to attack Manchester United. They need to send out a statement to the fans that they are determined to right the many wrongs of Anfield, and even if the 5-1 defeat could be significantly damaging to title hopes, it won’t derail the season and stop Arsenal fighting for all three trophies they can still have a say in. The home form has been good for the Gunners, so whilst the run of big games is unwelcome given the annihilation at Anfield, at least Arsenal now have four home games to get back on track.
Of course the second of those home games is against Liverpool. Arsenal shouldn’t be scared of playing a team that’s just beaten them 5-1, they should relish it. If they do, I can’t see why Arsenal can’t gain revenge. At the very least, Arsenal have had a horrible experience of what can happen if you allow this Liverpool team time and space.
Saturday at Anfield was horrific. There’s no other way of looking at it. The game shouldn’t end Arsenal’s season though. With the big games coming up, the players have no option but to improve and remember what got them to the top of the table in the first place.