A point gained as Gunners put safety over style

A point gained as Gunners put safety over style
Liverpool's Martin Skrtel (2nd L) scores a goal against Arsenal during their English Premier League soccer match at Anfield in Liverpool, northern England December 21, 2014.

From a winning position, Arsenal conceded a late equaliser in a 2-2 draw at Liverpool but while Gunners fans may think it is two points lost, I feel it was one point gained for the London side.

I am sure if you offered Arsene Wenger and his depleted squad a draw before the match, they would bite your hand off.

Liverpool were extremely fired up for this game and you can see it from the way they swarmed all over the Gunners. And they deserve credit for the way they fought till the end.

But what I found significant was the way Wenger set up his team for this clash.

The Frenchman eschewed his usual attacking style and concentrated on being solid defensively.

Previously stubborn for his devotion to playing attractive passing football combined with flamboyant individual skills, the manager showed he is willing to place the result above performance.

His hand was also forced by the litany of injuries in the squad with record signing Mesut Oezil, captain Mikel Arteta and key midfielders Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere all ruled out for the fixture at Anfield.

Their bench had Francis Coquelin, who was recalled from a loan spell at Charlton Athletic, and 17-year-old Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who has only one league appearance to his name.

From the start, the Gunners were on the back foot. By the time referee Michael Oliver blew the final whistle, Wenger's men had allowed 27 shots, and had only 36.5 per cent of the ball.

It was the most shots Arsenal had allowed the opponents to take and least possession they have had since August 2003.

In fact, from the ninth to 18th minutes in the first half, Arsenal had only 13 per cent of possession, a far cry from the stylish football typical of a Wenger team.

But, on the bright side, they were two minutes away from beating the Reds in front of the Kop, and had also done brilliantly to come back from 1-0 down.

In times like these, it is better for the team to be practical.

The games are coming thick and fast - Arsenal have four matches in 10 days starting on Friday.

With the number of injuries, the players are just not getting enough rest. The fit ones will also lack motivation since they know they are virtually guaranteed a starting spot.

The January transfer window will bring some respite when Wenger can bring in some reinforcements, especially in defence, where they are sorely lacking cover.

But, for now, it is only right that Arsenal focus on not losing and on picking up as many points as they can, and staying close to the teams at the top - even if it means sacrificing style for steel.

stsports@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Dec 23, 2014.
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