Arsenal: Cech, Bellerin, Chambers, Gabriel, Monreal, Coquelin, Cazorla, Ramsey, Ozil, Alexis, Giroud
Subs: Ospina, Arteta, Debuchy, Flamini, Gibbs, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott
An “interesting” last minute twist looked likely to give this match a different feel. Both Mertesacker and Koscielny were left out of the squad for this encounter due to illness and injury, meaning Chambers and Gabriel would line up to face Benteke & Co. And with Cech a new keeper to Arsenal, it meant the center of defence fielded 3 players unfamiliar with each other.
Other than that, the boss kept the line-up the same as faced Crystal Palace the week before.
For Liverpool’s side, Jordan Henderson was out injured, and so their midfield comprised Lucas, Can and Milner.
After an edgy start by Arsenal, Liverpool had 2 quick chances within the first 3 minutes with Coutinho hitting the bar, the goal at his mercy.
2 minutes later, a great cross whipped in by Monreal towards Giroud and Sanchez on the edge of the 6 yard box flashed just over from Sanchez’ head. Moments later, Cazorla and Sanchez one-two-ed to put Ozil through on goal.
And then a minute later Cazorla put through Ramsey who beat Mignolet only to be called back for offside. He wasn’t. How costly would that be? (Very.)
This would be a nail-biter. Could we score more than we conceded? (No.)
After a really bright 10 minutes, Arsenal conspired to drop themselves in it by playing out from the back and twice turning the ball over, giving Liverpool 2 great looks in a row with one stopped by a critical Coquelin tackle in the box which had to be inch perfect.
Shaky would be a kind description of our defence with Chambers in particular looking lost and it seemed to be spreading to any player who joined in our defending with players like Cazorla failing to play it out of danger leaving Coquelin to make another goal saving recovery tackle on Benteke.
This felt like a Capital One Cup defence grafted onto an Arsenal attack in decent form.
On 33 minutes, Coutinho beat our offside trap from a high line, and Gabriel got to show his pace by running him down in our box.
Exciting, end-to-end and high-risk.
After Arsenal gave the ball away twice more by attempting to play it out, Benteke went clear through on goal with only Cech to beat from the edge of the 6 yard box. The keeper got down quickly to turn it wide for a corner which led to another Cech goal-saving block.
On 45 minutes Coutinho turned Bellerin inside out and only a finger-tip save from Cech turned a brilliant “goal” onto the post and away. Thank God that will never haunt us as a vine.
Rodgers would have been delighted by the performance as the halftime whistle blew while rueing his missed chances. With how poorly Arsenal defended, only Cech, the woodwork and some saving tackles kept Arsenal level. Arsenal should have had 1 goal but Liverpool should have had 3.
An early chance in the 2nd half came to Giroud at the near post off a well worked cross from our right side as Arsenal started better, much better, maintaining some control. Yet our attack was over-elaborate as Liverpool sat back to hit on the counter.
A brilliantly worked move down our left on 58 minutes via Cazorla, Ozil and Giroud had Sanchez through to hit the post, then quickly followed by an exchange of counterattacks. But Arsenal definitely had the upper hand at this point.
On 62′, Liverpool brought on Ibe for Firmino.
Giroud had 2 chances to get his foot on crosses across the 6 yard box. Soon after, he found himself one one one with the keeper after a clever series of passes up the middle only for Mignolet to palm it away.
On 72 minutes, Theo entered the fray in place of Giroud to try and take advantage of this period of superiority. But if anything me lost our edge from there on.
Coutinho again turned Bellerin to get off a shot for Cech to parry and a penalty area scramble followed.
Wenger played the Chamberlain for Coquelin gambit on 82 minutes, and soon after he flashed a brilliant cross which Skrtel almost turned in.
This was the period that Arsenal needed to turn the screw but instead they struggled to generate the required pressure, as stray passes dissipated momentum time and again against a Liverpool that sat deep.
A long drive by Chamberlain was turned out for a corner which led to a cross that both our centerbacks rose to meet, only to head it over as the final whistle blew.
A match that might have ended 4-4 wrapped up as a scoreless draw. It was a game of two halves that left both teams feeling robbed and relieved. But Rodgers will be the happier manager tonight.