ULTIMATELY, Liverpool FC left North London deflated after throwing away a two goal lead against Arsenal but several positives could still be taken from the game. Liverpool’s performance in the first hour was excellent and Brendan Rodgers has much to be encouraged by going into Sunday’s clash with Manchester City.
Here are five key talking points to discuss from the Emirates:
Carra still has worth
His legs may not move as quickly as they once did, but given Martin Skrtel’s patchy form, it was encouraging to see that Liverpool could still rely on their vice captain to step in and do a job in a game of real importance. Of course, Liverpool’s deep line (or ‘block’ if you are Brendan Rodgers) made things easier for him as there was little space for Arsenal to exploit in behind him, but his last ditch tackles and blocks were vital as the Reds hung on to earn a point.
Up against the physical Oliver Giroud, Carragher marshalled Liverpool’s back line effectively and his positional sense was marvellous. Manchester City’s more mobile front line may lead Brendan Rodgers to recall Skrtel on Sunday but Carragher did his chances of retaining his place no harm last night. Another contract may yet be offered to Liverpool’s marathon man.
Henderson cementing his place
Jordan Henderson has turned the corner in his Liverpool career. All season he has acquitted himself well when given the opportunity to play in central midfield and he is now deservedly starting games for the Reds. His industry and pressing in a midfield that was otherwise often too deep was crucial at the Emirates.
An errant final ball to Luis Suarez in the first half and his chip that went narrowly over blotted his copybook somewhat but his presence and sheer endeavour gave Liverpool a foothold in the game. His goal typified his performance as he refused to give up under several Arsenal challenges and eventually got his break.
It wasn’t long ago that many questioned whether Henderson had the mentality to succeed at Anfield but this season he has surely allayed such fears. Henderson’s attitude has been impeccable and he should be a certain starter for the Reds at the moment.
Many thought that when the Brazilian returned Liverpool’s weakness at dealing with counter attacks would be instantly solved but the Reds remain susceptible to quick breaks and it is clear that we are yet to see Lucas back to his best.
He is still offering something to the team and does add tactical and positional know-how in the middle of the park but physically he isn’t there yet. Time and patience will be required from supporters as the Brazilian seeks a return to the imperious form of the first half of last season.
Suarez the work horse
He’s not started up front against Norwich, Oldham or Arsenal but has still managed three goals in those games and Suarez’s first half performance last night was mind-boggling. His early goal was crucial, his 50 yard outside of the boot pass on the half volley to Daniel Sturridge was sublime and his work-rate defied belief. Often he was pinned back in a left back position helping the out of sorts Glen Johnson with the dual threat of Theo Walcott and Bacary Sagna.
Despite the odd fish-out-of-water moment on the edge of his own box, Suarez displayed his importance to Brendan Rodgers side with his unselfish running and willingness to sacrifice himself for the team. Wherever he is on the pitch, Suarez excels. Whether he plays as a striker, a creator or from a wide area, he remains Liverpool’s biggest threat.
Options, options everywhere
Daniel Sturridge, it seems, is certain to start most games centrally up front for the Reds going forward. Apart from that, Liverpool’s attacking players and positions are not easy to predict. Luis Suarez’s last three games have seen him play as a second striker, the most attacking player in a midfield three, a left winger and the focal point as a conventional number 9.
Raheem Sterling and Stewart Downing offer genuine width while Fabio Borini has the ability to play anywhere along the front line. New signing Phillipe Coutinho adds yet more options to Liverpool’s group of forwards and even Jose Enrique is an offensive weapon these days.
Brendan Rodgers now has players to fit most systems and while the squad may not yet be of the requisite quality, there is obviously an increasing amount of depth to the squad.