Champions’ League: Liverpool 4 – Arsenal 2

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Football
April 9th, 2008 • 7:50 am

It was obviously more dramatic than anticipated, but the outcome was sadly predictable. It was the same old story of false hopes raised through flashes of brilliance, and then dashed by basic lapses in concentration.

Pretty much all the goals conceded in the past few weeks have been extremely poor goals to concede. None of them were brilliantly constructed or executed goals against which the Arsenal defense would have been powerless.

Yes, you can blame the referees for a string of decisions that obviously cost the Gunners dearly. Last night, it was a penalty that never was. But even Wenger had enough sense to stress that, while it was a dodgy decision, the defending that enabled the situation to occur was even dodgier.

There is simply no excuse for conceding so soon after scoring and retaking the advantage. Yes, Walcott’s run was fantastic and it was a terrific goal. But there were still 10 minutes to go, and this was the Champions’ League, this was Liverpool, at Anfield. They would try anything.

As it happens, they succeeded in the first thing they tried. And then it was truly over. Even before they scored the immaterial fourth goal, you knew that this was a team that would not fail after retaking the lead with less than 10 minutes to go.

I am obviously glad that Wenger “believes” in this team and believes that he will win the Champions’ League and the Premier League with them. But if he really think that his team will be able to regroup so quickly and get a result at Old Trafford, then he’s probably somewhat deluded. This is a team that results are slipping away from, and have been for a while now. It does not have the maturity and stamina required to go through an entire season and grind out results when the going gets tough.

This maturity and stamina might be developed over the years, but will probably require yet more painful learning experiences. Will everyone involved—including the players, the coaching staff, and the fans—have the required patience? Will they all be able to sustain this “belief” that results will improve, that we will soon reached the end of this trophy-less patch?

I for one believe that it will not happen without a substantial injection of new blood. Almunia has had a decent season, but he’s not an outstanding, world-class keeper. Gallas and Touré are not complementary and don’t really create a feeling of central solidity. Senderos is still too easily outpaced, and there is reason to fear that he’ll never become a great defender. Arsenal badly needs a world-class central defender or two.

In central midfield, Fábregas and Flamini are indispensable, but Wenger needs more options, with a world-class central midfielder of greater physical stature. On the wings, Éboué is completely and utterly useless and it is simply impossible to understand why Wenger persists in including him in his starting lineup. Clichy and Sagna are great full-backs and can combine well with whoever is playing on their wing to become creative wingers themselves, but Arsenal probably needs true wingers, players that can whip the ball in with perfect accuracy again and again.

Walcott is not a winger. He could still become a great forward one day. But he needs to be given more chances. Adebayor has scored more than his quota of goals this season, but cannot do it all by himself. There are too many key players on the perpetually injured list.

We need world-class players who are not just technically gifted, but strong physically and with great stamina and a quick ability to recover from knocks. We have far too few of those. And in a game with so many ultra-fit players, this is costing us dearly. We are just too lightweight.

Will Wenger finally alter his philosophy and break the bank and spend this summer? Or will he continue to “believe” and refuse to see reality?

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