Sunday night’s Arsenal FA Cup third-round loss to Liverpool tastes like ash. But you cannot live with ash in your mouth; spit it out and move on.
I’d love to say that Arsenal were the better side, but how will I justify that to my nieces in my narration? All that running rings that was art to my eyes will amount to naught when I mention the scoreline. You have to be better over 90 minutes. And, more importantly, win it. Liverpool, take that.
However, there is one aspect of the game that was both a marvel and a learning session for me. Liverpool’s marking of Gabriel Martinelli was a work of genius!
In a game of cards, Arteta threw in the Brazillian as a cheeky question down Trent Alexander-Arnold’s wing. Martinelli has a short history of cooking the English lad, so the sub seemed very logical. However, Jurgen Klopp, an admirer of Martinelli himself, appears to have studied the winger like a science – and figured him out.
Every time Martinelli got the ball, two Liverpool players doubled down on him. One (mostly TAA) would commit while the other (mostly Conor Bradley) remained lurking. They knew that Martinelli’s signature move is to beat his man and dash into space. However, with the second man lurking, this space was always lacking. Most times, therefore, he ended up passing it backwards.
A couple of times he did manage to beat both defenders and swing in lovely crosses. However, his direct threat was largely diminished.
All that is basic defending, really. But I was fascinated by how effective it was – how often it worked and how Arteta never found a counter-answer to Klopp’s response.
Unlucky Arsenal?…just may be.
Of course, we were largely unlucky on the day, what with Saka misplacing his shooting boots and ending up bringing down birds for the entire 90! The result will definitely increase calls for a new striker in January. Telling kids we just lost the game is less humiliating than trying to explain how we outplayed a visiting scousers team and still, well, lost.