Arsenal: Cech, Bellerin, Koscielny, Monreal, Maitland-Niles, Xhaka, Wilshere, Iwobi, Ozil, Alexis, Lacazette
Subs: Ospina, Mustafi, Coquelin, Elneny, Kolasinac, Welbeck, Walcott
Arsenal and Liverpool produced a genuine Christmas cracker with a 3-3 draw at the Emirates tonight.
Arsene Wenger kept the back four, and Ainsley Maitland-Niles at left back, a brave move considering his relative inexperience and the quality of the opposition he’d be facing.
Arsenal had the first two efforts on goal, a Sanchez shot blocked on the edge of the box and Xhaka following up couldn’t find enough power with his sidefoot.
The visitors were forced into an early change when Jordan Henderson pulled a hamstring in the 9th minute, and he was replaced by James Milner. Coutinho had their first attempt, curling wide with his left foot, before Koscielny had to make a superb intervention after a dangerous low cross from the left came skidding towards our six yard box.
Petr Cech was forced into a save at his far post when a Robertson cross found Firmino but the Arsenal keeper was equal to the header. A smart touch from Lacazette then almost created something for Sanchez, and almost straight away a repeat of the back post cross saw Firmino head just wide.
The warning signs were there, and a minute later Liverpool were ahead. Maitland-Niles got dragged into midfied, Salah ran off the back of him, and although he was faced with Koscielny he got a cross in which deflected off the Arsenal captain, and Coutinho reacted first to nod over Cech in the 26th minute. 0-1.
The Gunners looked to respond, but Lacazette’s shot was blocked after his quick turn. Mane had a shot deflected into the arms of Cech, and the lead was almost doubled when Firmino cut inside and curled a stinging shot just over the bar. A clever free kick opened us up but Lovren couldn’t find the right touch, and Jurgen Klopp’s team were very much on top.
An opportunity from a free kick came to nothing when Ozil’s shot deflected wide off the Liverpool wall, before a mix-up at the saw Coutinho almost get all the way through until Koscielny and Cech mopped up.
Wilshere almost set up Lacazette but the striker was crowded out, and at the other end Cech pulled off a huge save to deny Salah after Koscielny slipped, and the rebound was acrobatically put just over by Mane. Arsenal were at sixes and sevens, and were let off again when Salah kicked air rather than the ball when fed in the box by Mane.
That the first half ended with Liverpool only having a one goal lead was something of a miracle, and the second began with a change as Shkodran Mustafi replaced Nacho Monreal who had picked up a knock during the first period.
A terrible Sanchez corner provided the Mugsmashers a glorious counter-attacking opportunity which ended with a Salah shot that Cech saved. The Egyptian wasn’t to be denied though. Arsenal lost the ball high up the pitch, Liverpool came steaming forward, Firmino played in Salah whose shot took a deflection off Mustafi and nestled perfectly into the bottom corner. 0-2.
It needed a quick response from the Gunners and we saw just that. Arsenal shifted it wide, Bellerin crossed to the back post and Sanchez attacked the ball beautifully to get ahead of the defender and nod home from close range. 1-2.
Amazingly, Arsenal got level just moments later. Xhaka picked the ball up in midfield, and unleashed an absolute screamer right down the middle, and while the shot was powerful Mignolet should have done better but who cares about him? 2-2.
Iwobi picked up a yellow card for a foul on Mane, and then incredibly we scored again. Ozil combined with Lacazette, the Frenchman slipped the ball behind the keeper for the German to run onto, and he pulled off that special finish, knocking it into the ground and over the keeper to make it 3-2.
Cech was the hero again when Mane was left free at the back post, but the keeper made a good save. Another Bellerin cross provided Lacazette with a chance but great defending saw some twat poke the ball over before he could finish.
Liverpool still looked dangerous on the counter, but poor defending allowed them back into it. Alexis lost it needlessly to Salah, nobody closed down the player outside the box, Koscielny stepped out of position and Firmino’s shot was too powerful for Cech, despite getting a hand to it the ball rebounded up and into the net. 3-3.
Bellerin forced Mignolet into a save before a second substitution was made with Danny Welbeck replacing Iwobi in the 78th minute. Alexis almost caught Mignolet out at his near post, and with 7 minutes Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain returned to the Emirates pitch to a crescendo of boos.
Salah fired wide again, Walcott came on for Alexis with two minutes left on the clock, and the game entered four minutes of added time at the end with the scores still level.
In spite of both teams having late corners there was no real danger, and Ozil’s flashing drive was the last chance.
It was hard to complain about a point all things considered, and while it was good to see a reaction, the problems we have are obvious.
Anyway, happy Christmas everyone.