There is only one word that can describe what happened at Anfield yesterday — mayhem.
Premier League leaders Arsenal traveled to Merseyside with Liverpool trying to rise from the midtable by beating the Gunners. When the two met at the Emirates in August, they played a 0-0 draw that was deceptive in its scoreline, as non-stop action graced the pitch in London that day.
Yesterday, it was quite the same, only both teams were able to put the ball in the net, providing an incredible football viewing in what was perhaps the best Premier League game thus far in 2015/2016.
Liverpool will certainly feel as though they could have won, squandering the lead twice, but in the end they’ll feel fortunate to have gotten a point, with unlikely saviour Joe Allen coming to the rescue. Here are some conclusions from the performance put forth by the Anfield outfit.
1. Roberto Firmino is Liverpool’s best chance to score goals
Roberto Firmino has been shockingly bad at times this season, but when put at the front of the line, he put forth a brilliant performance, reminiscent of his play against Manchester City in November.
It’s clear where Firmino’s best position is… Playing as a number 9/striker – 4 Games 3 Goals 3 Assists #LFC
— – (@Rated_Red) January 14, 2016
With Daniel Sturridge being out injured despite declaring himself fit for Boxing Day, the other attacking players being on the mend, and Christian Benteke still not quite doing it for Liverpool, Firmino is Jurgen Klopp’s best option to lead the attack.
His movement and intelligence were on display against Arsenal, and coupled with magnificent finishing that we haven’t yet seen, he looks to be the deadly attacker Liverpool supporters were hoping for. Klopp should look to set up in a similar way against Manchester United on the weekend, and Firmino will hopefully continue to look the way he did yesterday.
2. Simon Mignolet is Liverpool’s best chance to concede goals
Perhaps a little exaggerated, as Adam Bogdan has proved much worse. Still, Mignolet was at it again against Arsenal. He was weak when Aaron Ramsey beat him to his near post, and should have done better on yes, you guessed it, the corner kick where Olivier Giroud redirected it past the Belgian.
— Anfield HQ (@AnfieldHQ) January 13, 2016
He was lucky to be bailed out by his attack, as we haven’t seen them consistently help him out since 2013/2014, but Mignolet must be better or the axe is coming soon. Klopp has remained adamant about being comfortable with his keeper situation, but keep in mind that the German recalled Danny Ward from his loan at Aberdeen. Just food for thought.
3. Jordan Henderson deserves more praise
Liverpool’s skipper has been unfairly treated by non-Liverpool supporters for a few years now, and it’s time that it stops. He’s had an awful year thus far with the diagnosis of a chronic foot injury after a few months out, but when he’s been on the pitch he’s been the leader Liverpool need.
Against Arsenal, he did nothing pretty, but that was what the Reds needed. Henderson was all over the field, intercepting passes and setting up Liverpool’s attack. His long balls and diagonals have been great, as evidenced by the one that gave Benteke the opportunity to set up Allen’s goal.
— Anfield Express (@AnfieldExpress) January 14, 2016
Henderson is a hard-working, talented footballer who has learned a lot about leadership from his predecessor Steven Gerrard, and is applying it well. A lot of people didn’t seem to realize how important he was until he was gone, and now that he’s back, he deserves high praise for his performances.
4. Defensive struggles continue, and must be stopped
The last thing Liverpool can do is allow Manchester United to score. The Red Devils may have scored three goals against Newcastle this week, but they still have plenty of issues scoring, and Liverpool must expose them.
The defense was shaky against Arsenal, and a shaky defense in front of a shaky keeper is a recipe for disaster, even against a club that has as much trouble scoring as United. Liverpool’s fullbacks continue decent defensive work, but it’s the center that’s worrying. Injuries have ruled out Martin Skrtel and Dejan Lovren, and that was especially evident when Giroud overpowered Mamadou Sakho and Kolo Toure, as Liverpool just didn’t have the strength to contain the Frenchman.
Steven Caulker was brought in to help, and Lovren could be back against United, but the defense presented against Arsenal did not work, and likely won’t work in the future.
5. Despite all the mayhem, Liverpool can compete with top English clubs
Conceding three goals is never something to be proud of, but Arsenal are league leaders, and it’s encouraging that Liverpool were at least able to match them. Liverpool have beaten Leicester, Chelsea and Manchester City, drawn Arsenal twice and Tottenham once, and will look to avenge a bad loss to United earlier in the season on Sunday.
These clubs are the ones above Klopp’s men in the table, and although Liverpool’s midtable standing shows that they haven’t taken advantage of some good performances, these results show promise that Liverpool can compete if they find some kind of consistency. That’s a big “if,” but under a proven manager like Klopp, it’s not very farfetched.
And, hey, don’t forget. Allen scored a goal while Caulker played striker. Anything can happen as the second half of another wild Barclay’s Premier League season unfolds.