Arsenal showed a lot of character and determination before ending the night with disappointment as Liverpool held them to a 3-3 draw on Friday.
The visitors were the more dominant of the two sides in the first half, creating the bulk of the big chances. And Jurgen Klopp’s men went on to grab a deserved lead in the 26th minute as Mohamed Salah’s cross deflected off Laurent Koscielny towards an unmarked Philippe Coutinho, who headed past Petr Cech.
Liverpool had several opportunities to double their advantage thereafter, but Salah and Sadio Mane’s profligacy meant Arsenal were still in the game heading into half-time. A few minutes into the second half though, Liverpool seemed to have edged closer to a win as Salah’s deflected shot was too far for Cech.
But, Arsenal scripted a fine turnaround in an unbelievable five-minute spell, which started with Sanchez heading in Hector Bellerin’s cross as the Chilean caught Joe Gomez napping. Granit Xhaka then struck a long-range screamer, although Simon Mignolet did make a hash of a shot that was quite central.
Mesut Ozil completed the turnaround with the goal of the game after linking up superbly with Alexandre Lacazette. But, there was some more drama to come, with Liverpool having the final say in the match as Roberto Firmino levelled things up with a fiercely struck shot that was too powerful for Cech.
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) December 22, 2017
In the end, a keenly contested game ended all square with Liverpool maintaining their one-point lead over Arsenal. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Arsene Wenger’s men.
Petr Cech: 7/10
Cech could have done nothing to stop the two goals that gave Liverpool the lead before the hour mark. But, his attempt to save Roberto Firmino’s equaliser came off as a bit tame, an effort that should have been stronger.
Other than that incident though, the veteran goalkeeper was a big reason why the scoreline wasn’t embarrassing for Arsenal before they scored three goals in quick succession, with a save off Mohamed Salah being the most notable one.
Hector Bellerin: 6/10
A game of two halves for Bellerin. The Spaniard was absolutely dreadful in the first half as he struggled to cope with Sadio Mane. But, he was a major contributor for the Gunners’ turnaround, with a sublime cross being converted by Alexis Sanchez, and provided a fine outlet going forward otherwise too.
Laurent Koscielny: 5/10
The poor run of form continued for Koscielny on Friday as he was brutally exposed on his lack of pace. The Frenchman wasn’t really at fault for Liverpool’s first goal, but was guilty of giving too much space to Salah for their second. Things are continuing to go from bad to worse for him, and something’s gotta give soon.
Nacho Monreal: 5/10
Monreal could only last one half on Friday after he picked up an ankle injury. But, it was quite an un-Monreal-like performance on the night as he struggled to cope with the pace of Salah and the tricky movement of Firmino. A glaring mistake saw him being nowhere to be seen for the opening goal.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles: 7/10
Another great performance from Ainsley Maitland-Niles yesterday 💪🏼💪🏼pic.twitter.com/Iig472ZU15
— IDontLikeSpurs (@IDontLikeSpurs) December 23, 2017
While he may have been a surprise selection ahead of Sead Kolasinac, Maitland-Niles was one of those Arsenal players who acquitted himself quite well on the night. The youngster had little trouble keeping up with Salah.
While he did have his fair share of undoings too, there were more positives to his game than negatives. One thing that he needs to work on, if he continues as a defender, is his positioning, with one such error letting Salah have acres of space to set Coutinho up.
Jack Wilshere: 6.5/10
Starting three consecutive Premier League games for the first time in four years, Wilshere blew hot and cold. He should have done better to support the defenders when Coutinho scored the opener, with the Brazilian left unmarked by the Arsenal midfielders.
But, the Englishman grew into the game as it wore on, showing a lot of fight to help his side take something from the game. He does need to pull his socks up though, if he is to keep his place ahead of Aaron Ramsey when the Welshman is fit again.
Granit Xhaka: 6/10
— Arsenal (@AFCvideosHD_) December 22, 2017
Another one of Arsene Wenger’s men who was extremely frustrating with his inconsistencies. Xhaka did play a major role in his side’s turnaround, scoring a 30-yard thunderbolt, but he was sloppy with the ball as some of his passes found their man, while several others didn’t.
Moreover, his defensive contribution is too sub par for liking, with one of the incidents helping Coutinho have a free run for the opening goal of the game.
Alex Iwobi: 4/10
A disaster show by the Nigerian winger, who really isn’t delivering much of late. Terrible passing, aimless runs that didn’t amount to much and poor link up with several of his teammates – that was the name of the game for Iwobi, who does not look one-bit worthy of a regular starting place.
Mesut Ozil: 8/10
The standout player on the night for Arsenal – a standout for most part of the last two months, in fact. Ozil was absolutely excellent for his side, and integral in their fightback as he pulled the strings in the second half and capped off a fine performance with a goal.
Ozil pressing the ball against the ground to bounce it out of the keeper’s reach. What a genius. pic.twitter.com/J09AAJUYbc
— Ali. (@jpeg_ali) December 23, 2017
Talking about the goal, a close inspection would show a mind boggling technique of chipping that not many can execute as easily as Ozil does, if at all. A highly influential player for the Gunners, and he is one player whose future must be sorted first and foremost.
Alexis Sanchez: 6.5/10
The goal helped Sanchez redeem himself after what was a horrible performance for the most part. The goal was really well taken though, as his late run caught Joe Gomez unaware. Other than the goal, the Chilean was sloppy with the ball and quite wasteful, as has been the trend recently.
Alexandre Lacazette: 7/10
Lacazette had very few opportunities to find the back of the net on the night, with Dejan Lovren keeping his runs into the box in check. But, the striker was still influential, with his super link up play, one of which saw him release Ozil for the third following an exquisite flick. Quite the asset for Arsenal.
Shkodran Mustafi: 6/10
Mustafi replaced Monreal at half-time, and Arsenal looked far more solid, even though they ironically conceded more goals with him on the field. The German was slightly off the pace at times, but that was understandable considering this was his first game in nearly three weeks.