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Arsenal 3-3 Liverpool: Three talking points from the Emirates Stadium

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Arsenal scored three goals in just 388 second-half seconds but Roberto Firmino’s strike earnt Liverpool a deserved point in a pulsating encounter at the Emirates Stadium on Friday evening.

The Gunners struggled to assert themselves during the first-half and Liverpool took an early lead when Philippe Coutinho’s deft header – his first headed Premier League goal – lifted over Petr Cech.

Jurgen Klopp’s side had numerous chances to double their lead before the break, with Cech denying Mohamed Salah’s shot when clean through before Sadio Mane’s acrobatic effort flew over the crossbar with the net gaping, but Salah made no mistake to slot into the far corner after 52 minutes.

This merely sparked a remarkable passage of play though, and Arsenal hit back straight away when Alexis Sanchez ghosted in at the far-post to reduce the deficit with the hosts’ opening shot on target.

Three minutes later and the scores were level, with Granit Xhaka’s fierce strike from 25-yards only being parried into his own net by Simon Mignolet, before Mesut Ozil capped off an astonishing period of play when he latched onto Alexandre Lacazette’s deft back-heel and clipped over Mignolet.

The game wasn’t done there though, and it was Liverpool who had the last say when Roberto Firmino’s powerful effort could only be parried up into the air and into the net from Cech’s dive.

Both teams pushed late on but neither could muster a dramatic winner, and the result sees Liverpool remain in fourth in the Premier League. Arsenal stay in fifth, a point behind the Reds.

Premier League’s festive schedule kicks off with a bang

And that’s why we all love football.

There may be an awful lot of top-flight action to come over the next few weeks but there won’t be many – if any – matches that come close to providing the entertainment and drama from last night.

At 2-0 Liverpool were cruising against an insipid and uninspiring Arsenal, and it seemed that it was nothing more than a question of how many goals Jurgen Klopp’s team would score at the Emirates.

But in the space of 388 seconds the whole evening was turned on its head and football fans across the country were left with mouths wide open as Mesut Ozil provided a scarcely believable third goal in so little time.

There was always likely to be another twist though and Roberto Firmino’s strike earnt the visitors a deserved point on balance of play – although neither manager will be happy to leave without a win.

For Arsene Wenger, he had seen his side turn things around in the blink of an eye and with both momentum and the home crowd on his side he would have expected his side to see the game out.

But likewise, Jurgen Klopp oversaw his side spurn chance after chance in the first-half before they fell apart after the break. Although from suddenly being 3-2 down he will no doubt take the point.

It was a game that did little to prove either side’s top four credentials but, for the footballing neutral, it was the perfect way to whet the appetite for all of the football to come over Christmas.

Klopp’s defensive issues continue to hamper progress

So much has been said this season about the frightening options that Liverpool have in attack with the likes of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho and sudden sensation Mohamed Salah.

The quartet have led Liverpool to 41 Premier League goals this season – only second to runaway leaders Manchester City – all of a sudden adding a clinical end product to some quite blistering counter-attacking football, and true to form the latter three all found the back of the net on Friday.

Yet it doesn’t matter how many goals Jurgen Klopp’s side can manage to score at one end of the pitch if they can’t hold onto a lead, and the same old problems surfaced once again for the German.

It’s become common knowledge that Liverpool are harbouring an unbalanced team, with their defence nowhere near the required quality for a team that have ambitions of winning the league.

But the way in which they capitulated in those 388 seconds was a new low and the visitors simply crumbled under the pressure from Arsenal, who found the net with their first three shots on target.

Joe Gomez allowed Alexis Sanchez to nip in front of him to immediately reduce the deficit after Liverpool’s second and it sparked a period of what can only be called frantic defending, with goalkeeper Simon Mignolet putting the icing on the cake by making a complete hash for the second.

Granit Xhaka’s shot, despite being powerful, was straight at the Belgian international and his attempt to push the ball away with just one fist went horribly wrong and ended up behind him.

Compare this to David de Gea’s showing against the Gunners merely a fortnight ago and the need for a top-class goalkeeper is evident, and Klopp needs to start his recruitment right from the back.

Until he sorts his back five out, it’s hard to see Liverpool sustaining a challenge on those above them.

Arsenal’s squad is in need of a major overhaul

Whilst all of the talk from Friday’s thrilling encounter will revolve around a simply astounding five-minute spell of football, it will do little more than paper over the glaring cracks over in north London.

Their miraculous burst undeniably showed character when it seemed for all the world that they were down and out following Mohamed Salah’s second goal but, aside from that unruly passage of football, the hosts struggled to get a foothold in the game and were outplayed by a smart Liverpool.

The Gunners had clearly learnt from their mistakes against Manchester United a fortnight ago when they were two goals down inside the opening ten minutes but their tactic of sitting deeper only invited pressure, and they were happy to allow the away team to have the lion’s share of possession.

With the so-called ‘Fab Four’ at Jurgen Klopp’s disposal this was always going to be a recipe for disaster, and the Reds should have been out of sight by half-time after spurning two great chances.

Part of that was down to poor individual performances on the home side’s behalf though, and the match merely showed just how many deadwood players currently reside in Arsene Wenger’s squad.

Both Laurent Koscielny and Petr Cech – two great servants in the Premier League – are well past their best, with both having their worst games in an Arsenal shirt for a while, whilst the likes of Hector Bellerin and Alex Iwobi are nowhere near the calibre of player required for a top-four side that posses higher ambitions.

Signing Alexandre Lacazette for a club-record deal during the summer was met with a great reception from Arsenal fans, showing signs that the club is going in the right direction, but the frank reality is that far more investment is needed until the Gunners can be considered title challengers once again.

There were positives to take however, namely in the way that their 20-year-old academy product Ainsley Maitland-Niles stood up and dealt with the unstoppable threats of both Salah and Coutinho.

The duo may have found the net, and Arsenal may have conceded three, but the youngster wasn’t the one to blame and for someone so inexperienced he kept a calm and composed head throughout.

It was a game that will live long in the memory for years to come but more pressing matters are at hand for Wenger now, and he needs to create a long-term blueprint for his side or face years of mediocrity.

Will is a Multimedia Journalism graduate from the University of Salford, specialising in the art of sports. Long-time suffering Northampton Town fan who once saw us win a league title. Find him on Twitter - @96PearsonW.

Arsenal

Despite Celtic success, Arsenal should avoid Brendan Rodgers

Arsenal will be faced with looking for a new manager this summer.

Jake Jackman

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Photo: Getty Images

The end had been coming for a long time, but it was a surprise on Friday when Arsene Wenger announced he would be standing down as Arsenal manager.

The tributes quickly followed and a manager that had cut a sorry figure for the past few seasons was forgotten. Instead, his successes and impact on English football became the focus.

It is too soon to tell who the club’s priority target is to replace their legendary manager, but the early favourite with the bookies is Brendan Rodgers.

The Northern Irishman is arguably the best British coach in football at the moment and his experience at two big clubs, Liverpool and Celtic, puts him in contention for the Arsenal job.

The Celtic majority shareholder has already commented on the rumours and told Sky Sports that the club wouldn’t stand in Rodgers’ way if he wanted to move back to the Premier League with Arsenal:

“I’m glad he’s the favourite. He’s an outstanding person. We wouldn’t want him to leave but we won’t force him to stay. Hopefully, his love for the club and the setup here will enduce him to stay at the club.”

Although they provide a good starting point, the odds from various bookmakers aren’t reliable at this stage of the recruitment process. It would be expected that Arsenal have a number of managers in mind, but there is a long way to go before an appointment is made.

A number of the media have already talked up Rodgers as the best candidate for the role, due to his style of football and experience at two big British clubs. At Liverpool, he came close to winning the club’s first Premier League title during the 2013-14 season and got the team playing some excellent football.

(Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

The 45-year-old has continued to impress with Celtic as he guided the club to an unbeaten domestic season during his first year in charge. There are question marks over the quality of the Scottish League, but Rodgers has stood out as the best manager the club have had in a number of years.

In addition to the domestic success, he has overseen some good performances in Europe, albeit their overall achievements on the continent have been modest.

By being the best British candidate, there will be a lot of people pushing for Rodgers to get the job, but it would be a poor appointment by Arsenal.

Despite his Liverpool teams playing some exciting football, he failed to win a single trophy during his time at Anfield. He came close to lifting the Premier League title, but in hindsight, the reason for that was the genius of Luis Suarez and goal-scoring form of Daniel Sturridge rather than the influence of Rodgers.

The best managers deliver results on a regular basis and can establish their team as regular contenders. The 2013-14 season will be remembered fondly by Liverpool fans, but their failure to build on it didn’t reflect well on Rodgers. They were quickly knocked out of both the Champions League and the Europa League before limping along to a 6th place finish.

During his time at Anfield, Rodgers did okay without ever looking like he belonged at one of England’s biggest clubs. His success at Celtic has seen him repair his reputation, but it is a huge change to go from being the dominant team in Scotland to rebuilding Arsenal.

The Gunners need to bring in a proven winner to instantly win over the players and have the authority to rebuild the club from top to bottom. Rodgers isn’t that man. He needs to show he can win major honours outside of Scotland before being considered for a top Premier League job again.

This summer is too soon for him and Arsenal would be foolish to consider him as an option.

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Who is best-placed to challenge Manchester City next season?

Pep Guardiola’s side will be looking to defend their title during the 2018/19 campaign.

Martyn Cooke

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Photo: Getty Images

Manchester City were crowned as Premier League champions on Sunday afternoon after Manchester United suffered a surprise defeat at the hands of struggling West Bromwich Albion.

Pep Guardiola’s team have ripped apart the top-flight of English football this season with a devastatingly effective style of play that has left their rivals struggling to hold on to their coattails.

City are currently 16 points clear of second place with five games still to play and now have the opportunity to break the 100-point barrier as the season comes to a conclusion.

Here, The Boot Room evaluate which top-six team is best placed to challenge Manchester City’s dominance next year.

(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Manchester United

There are currently mixed feelings around Old Trafford regarding how Manchester United have performed this season and the long-term direction of the club under the stewardship of Jose Mourinho.

A failure to maintain the astonishing pace set by Manchester City has left supporters having to be content with a top-four finish and FA Cup semi-final whilst there has been a deluge of criticism aimed at the pragmatic style of play utilised.

Mourinho remains one of the best managers in world football and he is still in the process of moulding a team in his own image.

The Portuguese maestro has already spent big in the transfer market, as demonstrated by the arrivals of Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku over the past two years, and the club are expected to make further significant investments in the summer.

He needs to find the missing piece to the Manchester United jigsaw and that will mean addressing the lop-sided defence, demonstrated by Ashley Young’s emergence as first-choice left-back.

Mourinho has overcome Guardiola in the past but there will be no room for excuses next season if, after two years of building a team, Manchester United are unable to challenge their cross-city rivals.

(Photo by Glyn Kirk/Getty Images)

Tottenham Hotspur

Tottenham Hotspur have continuously improved year-on-year under the stewardship of Mauricio Pochettino but you still feel that the club is some way behind their rivals in terms of winning the Premier League.

Spurs have a young, dynamic squad of players that play fast, attacking football and, in Harry Kane, they possess one of the best strikers in the world right now. However, something is still missing and it is hard to put your finger on exactly what it is.

Perhaps it is simply a mental issue? Tottenham have not won a league title since 1960 and last secured silverware of any kind almost a decade ago – do the current group of players have the right mentality or experience to enable them to maintain performances over the course of a full campaign? Their upcoming FA Cup semi-final may provide an insight later this month.

Whilst you feel that Tottenham will always be in and around the top spots next season, it is difficult to see them overcoming Manchester City without significant investment or Pochettino uncovering the magic formula.

(Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Chelsea

Chelsea have offered a feeble and limp defence of their title this year and still face a scramble to secure a place in the top-four.

Things have clearly not been right behind the scenes at Stamford Bridge and Antonio Conte is expected to depart the club in the summer after spending much of the season snipping at the Chelsea hierarchy.

Regardless of who the Italian’s successor is, it is widely expected that the club will bounce back.

Under the ownership of Roman Abramovich, the Blues have continuously maintained their standing as one of the leading side’s in the country and you would imagine that the Russian oligarch will be keen to reclaim their crown next season.

Chelsea will spend big in the summer to ensure that they build a squad capable of challenging Manchester City and a striker will be top of the new manager’s wish list. Alvaro Morata made a positive start to the campaign but has struggled for form and fitness in the second half of the season.

If the Blues can make the right appointment in the dugout and strengthen significantly on the pitch then history suggests they will be in and around the top spots.

(Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Liverpool

Since arriving at Anfield in October 2015 Jurgen Klopp thrown himself into the task of restoring Liverpool’s status as one of the leading club’s in Europe.

Each transfer window has seen the squad steadily improve and you now feel that the German has built a team that is capable of challenging for both domestic and European silverware.

Liverpool have a reputation for producing attacking, dynamic and exciting football and the attacking trio of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino possess an abundance of pace, power and creativity.

Under the stewardship of Klopp, the team have always looked capable of scoring goals but have regularly been criticised for being undermined by defensive fragile and frail.

However, the signing of Virgil Van Dijk in January, the emergence of John Robertson and the new-found confidence of Loris Karius appears to have put some of those concerns to bed – Liverpool have kept eight clean sheets in their last 12 matches in all competitions.

Klopp will continue to develop the squad during the summer and, as proven by their historic victory over Manchester City, the Reds are certainly heading in the right direction.

(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Arsenal

There has continued to be a degree of frustration and dissatisfaction around the Emirates Stadium this season as Arsenal have continued to fall behind their rivals on the pitch.

The Gunners are currently 33 points behind Manchester City in the Premier League are relying on winning the Europa League in order to qualify for the Champions League next year.

The club under-performed last season, failing to qualify for Europe’s premier competition, and the decline has continued over the following twelve months with supporters becoming increasingly frustrated with Arsene Wenger’s failure to consistently secure positive results.

The same old problems persist – there is a lack of leaders, a lack of quality in central defence and no commanding midfield player.

Wenger has brought together an exciting forward line that possesses pace, power and experience with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan arriving in January to complement the likes of Mesut Ozil, Alexandre Lacazette and a fit-again Danny Welbeck.

However, Arsenal continue to be undermined by prevalent weaknesses throughout the remainder of the team and there are currently a world away from competing with Manchester City.

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Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere should consider success of former team-mate and leave North-London

The England international looks set to leave the Emirates outfit this summer.

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Jack Wilshere
Photo: Getty Images

If anyone this season can speak of a season defined by their rejuvenated form then Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain would take the gold as the once rejected. The once-out-of-favour winger at Arsenal has now transformed himself into one of the key additions to Liverpool‘s settled central midfield three.

Jürgen Klopp has well and truly got the best out of the 24-year-old this term and this marked improvement could inspire the Ox’s former team-mate, Jack Wilshere, who may considering that a move away from North London is now necessary to reignite his career.

Wilshere was hauled off in embarrassing fashion on Thursday night during Arsenal’s 2-2 draw with CSKA Moscow, with the Russians leading 2-0, and the player’s reaction to being axed early highlights just how unsettled at his boyhood club he  has become.

Reports in the Telegraph claim that, despite enjoying a rare, relatively injury-free campaign for the Gunners this season, Wilshere chose to turn down a new deal at the Emirates after refusing to take a pay-cut. Arsenal are keen for the England international to stay but won’t increase their original offer.

With the World Cup coming up and the 26-year-old still yet to establish himself as a regular England starter it remains to be seen whether Arsene Wenger can get the best out of the man that was once hailed the ‘future of the Three Lions’, even by the likes of footballing legends such as Barcelona’s Xavi.

This season Wilshere has featured in 33 matches for the London outfit and has made a personal record number of appearances since the 2013/2014 campaign.

(Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images,)

However, since the offer of a new deal was made to Wilshere earlier this year, Mesut Ozil has signed a new contract that almost trebled his salary to £350,000-a-week.

In that time, Arsenal have also agreed to pay £200,000-a-week to Henrikh Mkhitaryan and £180,000-a-week to club-record signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Thus highlighting just how far Wilshere has fallen down the financial pecking order at the Emirates.

Currently, the Englishman is set to become a free-agent in June.

After watching former Emirates team-mate Chamberlain firing Liverpool to the Champions League quarter-finals, with his sensational strike against Premier League champions Manchester City, should Wilshere look to the Klopp effect to get his fading career back on track?

It would definitely prove a risky move for both parties, if the Merseysiders were to pursue the signing.

However, flying high in Europe with once-written-off forward and PFA Player of the year favourite Mohamed Salah, who is already on 40 goals for the season, Liverpool are beginning to represent the perfect club for players to reignite their careers.

Wilshere should take comfort in the knowledge that Reds boss Jurgen Klopp is the perfect manager to revive some of football’s fallen giants.

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