After The Match 


Arsenal-Liverpool 3-0 (1-0)         12.11.06                          PL
Goals: Flamini (41), Toure (56), Gallas (80)
Team: Reina, Finnan, Hyypia, Carragher, Riise, Gerrard, Zenden, Alonso, Gonzalez, Crouch, Kuyt
Subs: Pennant (Gonzalez 61), Bellamy (Crouch 71),
Agger (Hyypia 82)
Not used: Dudek, Warnock
Yellow: Carragher (33), Alonso (68), Pennant (77)    
Van Persie (2), Flamini (42)
Red: None
Referee: M Clattenburg
Attendance: 60,110  
Shots on target: 7-2
Shots off target: 0-6
Possession: 55.9-44.1
Fouls conceded: 9-12
Corners: 2-8
Offsides: 2-2
Yellow: 2-3


HEADLINES "It's clear
we made some mistakes."
     Rafael Benitez

1511: What does the season hold for the Reds now?
1411: Riise: We won't give up
1411: Reds must be able to dig little bit deeper
1311: Reina: Title too far away
1311: Carra: We need to show more character
1311: Benitez: This is not good enough
1311: Gerrard must be centre of Anfield recovery plan
1211: Benitez points to mistakes
1211: Wenger hails 'massive' win
1211: Classy Arsenal see off Liverpool

What does the season
hold for the Reds now?

By Tommy Smith - Liverpool Echo

There's certainly no shortage of topics to discuss at present if you are a Liverpool fan.

One of them should have been about our chances of winning the title. But, after Sunday's result, we can forget that one.

But there are other subjects to chew over - the disastrous away record, the loss of form of key players, the Steven Gerrard debate, and what the rest of the season holds, to name but a few.

First, though, with the Reds' excellent home record, you can't say the players don't have the ability. It's just that away from home they look a totally different team.

It's easy to blame the defence - they were certainly at fault for the third Gunners' goal - but I feel the blame lies with the midfield.

They are the engine room of the team, supporting the defence, and not only helping the attack but creating the chances.

The Reds are a lot harder to beat with Gerrard and Momo Sissoko in the team. If you only have one in the line-up, it's not so easy, especially when he is a winger.

That is why Gerrard has to be Liverpool's central midfield general. It's his best position. He is far more dangerous there. The rest of the midfield should be built around him.

You can imagine Arsenal's reaction when they saw the skipper given the right-wing berth. They would have been rubbing their hands.

When Gerrard operates down the line, you know he is going to put in some telling crosses. But if he is in the middle he can add some firepower to the attack. He is less of a threat out wide.

Add to that the poor form of Xabi Alonso, the lack of impact by Jermain Pennant, in particular, and you wonder how the threat may come from the central positions.

Alonso certainly needs to improve his consistency. That's part of the midfield problem. When Arsenal scored their first goal, you needed a reaction from your players, and Rafa Benitez didn't get it.

Pennant has obviously been told to stay out wide. He does quite well in the final third of the field, but does nothing elsewhere. Sometimes, he is even further upfield than Dirk Kuyt, who is quite prepared to chase back and help out. But the striker, who hardly got a kick at the Emirates, must stay up to put pressure on defenders.

Sadly, he was ineffective on Sunday, but that was generally due to the Reds' inability to respond to going a goal down.

We did not battle hard enough to stem the Arsenal tide and our back four were often split open by their midfield. The Gallas goal summed it up.

I'm still not convinced the players are comfort-able with the zonal marking, either. We have seen on many occasions that when the Reds concede a goal no-one is picking up the player. Even the Reading attackers were queuing up unmarked to score in that 4-3 Carling Cup tie at Anfield.

So what does the future hold?

Good runs in the cups, we hope, and a big improvement to try and clinch that fourth spot. But that's no foregone conclusion.

And, in January, a replacement for the injured Sissoko, as well as another striker to improve our goal tally.

Riise: We won't give up

By Eivind Haugen & Kent Hedlundh - Sky Sports

John Arne Riise has insisted that Liverpool will not give up on their dream of winning The Premiership this season.

Sunday's 3-0 defeat at Arsenal left The Reds 11 points behind champions Chelsea and 14 adrift of leaders Manchester United.

Liverpool's abysmal away form has left them with a mountain to climb to get back into the race for the title, and Riise accepts they have let themselves down on the road.

"I can not understand why we play so bad away from Anfield, I really can't," the left back told Dagbladet.

"Against Arsenal on Sunday, Rafa was calm in the dressing room after the match. he knew we knew that this was not good enough."

Riise believes it is too early to write off Liverpool though, pointing to their good run midway through last season as an example of how they could come storming back.

"We never give up. Cowards give up," he rallied.

"Of course it will be hard to catch up with Manchester United, but at one point last season we were 27 points behind Chelsea, and in May we were only nine points behind."

Riise was left to argue with Steven Gerrard about who was at fault for Arsenal's third goal at the weekend, as William Gallas stole in unmarked to head home a corner.

However, Riise has played down the incident, and claimed that neither he nor Gerrard was to blame for the goal.

He explained: "There was some frustration in the heat of the moment, but some discussion is good. It shows we care.

"It was neither mine or Steven's fault that Gallas was unmarked. We saw the episode on TV afterwards, and it was not our responsibility."

Reds must be able to dig little bit deeper

By Ian Rush - Liverpool Echo

Fingers are starting to point in the direction of Rafa Benitez again - and after another miserable away performance that's understandable.

But I believe the Reds boss should be applauded for the line-up he selected at Arsenal on Sunday.

He opted for an adventurous 4-4-2 formation and attempted to take on Arsenal at their own game.

I believe the Gunners are the best passing team in the Premiership, but Liverpool didn't just match them for half-an-hour, they looked the more dangerous side.

West Ham and Everton both achieved results against Arsenal recently by flooding the midfield and letting the Gunners get frustrated.

Liverpool were braver than that.

Ultimately it was the wrong team to send out - but only because Arsenal scored first.

Up until Flamini struck I thought that Liverpool were the better team, passed the ball well, created the better chances and looked the likelier team to win.

But the first goal is always vital in any match, even more so against Arsenal with their ability to absorb pressure and hit teams on the counter with lightning fast ruthlessness and efficiency.

As soon as Arsenal opened the scoring we were always up against it.

The fixture list has ensured that the away games Liverpool have contested so far have been their hardest of the season.

But that can't be used as an excuse.

Something is clearly wrong with Liverpool's attitude. To go behind so many times away from home and not even look like bouncing back is unacceptable for Liverpool Football Club.

Too many players seem to be feeling sorry for themselves whenever we go a goal behind and that has to change.

It's not rocket science. Players simply have to dig that bit deeper when we go a goal behind.

Everyone knows that Steven Gerrard prefers to play in the centre of midfield.

It's also clear that central midfield is also his most effective place in the team.

But what is equally clear is that he cannot be moved into that role until Jermaine Pennant starts performing regularly on the right of midfield.

Until he starts to reproduce the quality which earned him the move to Anfield, Rafa Benitez can't really consider switching Stevie inside.

Stevie will play wherever the manager feels he can influence the game best - and against Newcastle recently he controlled the game from wide on the right.

But it's undeniably easier to dictate a game from the middle of the park, and the sooner Pennant starts fulfilling the potential he showed at St Andrews, the better for Gerrard and Liverpool.

Rafa Benitez has said himself it's not good enough and it has to change.

The one area I would like to see improve quickly is the team's defending, but that doesn't mean pointing the finger squarely at the back four.

Defending starts from the front and Liverpool have to start keeping clean sheets away from home.

If we can start to grind out clean sheets in matches, the quality we have up front will tell and we will start to pick up points away from home.

The trip to Middlesbrough this Saturday night is definitely a winnable game, but not if we concede the first goal in the game again.

It's vital that we get back to the defensive resilience we were displaying so regularly last season - and we can do that by changing our attitude in away games.

Reina: Title too far away

By Paul Walker - PA Sport

Jose Reina has admitted Liverpool are out of the title race and are concentrating on securing a Champions League spot.

Sunday's 3-0 defeat against Arsenal left Rafael Benitez's men 14 points behind leaders Manchester United and their woeful away record - they have managed just one point and one goal on their travels - has been the major problem.

But Reina believes the 2005 Champions League winners still have a good chance of success in Europe

"Fourth place is our target now - we have to fight for that," said Reina.

"The championship is probably too far away for us because mathematically Manchester United and Chelsea are very superior.

"But we have a lot of confidence in Europe and that is a target as well. We are probably a better team in the Champions League than in the Premiership."

With their pre-season hopes of a title challenge now in tatters the Anfield club now know they have to re-assess their expectations as if they fail to reach next season's Champions League - even the qualifying rounds - it will have a significant effect on their finances.

The defeat to Arsenal means Liverpool have now lost to all their main rivals this season and their failure to get anything out of matches against the Gunners, Chelsea and Manchester United has left the Reds way off the pace in the title race even without losses to Everton and Bolton.

Reina, who has suffered his own loss of form this campaign but could not be blamed for any of the goals conceded in a disastrous afternoon at the Emirates stadium, said: "The game was very disappointing. They were the better team and we haven't played our best game against them.

"We know we've played probably the most difficult away games now already and we have to get going and improve away than home.

"It is not a problem at home but games away to top sides like Arsenal are always difficult.

"We should have been confident [going into the game] after five successive wins and it seemed a good moment for us to play them but Arsenal probably played their best home match of the season."

Carra: We need to show more character

By Jimmy Rice - LFC Official Website

Jamie Carragher admits he and his teammates must show more character if the Reds are to get their season back on track.

The vice-captain believes Liverpool never recovered from going a goal down against Arsenal on their first visit to the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

He said: "Obviously, we've got to start to show more character away from home, particularly when we go a goal down.

"Showing the right character is one of the qualities I've always been proud to be associated with most, so it hurts me to think people don't think we're showing enough of it now.

"In these types of game, the first goal is always so important because of the quality of the opposition.

"It's the same when we score first. It's a long time since we lost a game in which we scored first, so we've got to do more to get ourselves in front in the away games.

"Psychologically it hurt us, and then losing another at the start of the second half made it even more difficult against a team of Arsenal's quality."

Carragher refuses to throw in the towel on a title challenge but reckons getting back into the top four must be the immediate focus.

"It's another disappointing result, but we've got to try and look ahead now," he said.

"You never want to look beyond the next game, but we've got to remember what we did this time last season and put together a long unbeaten run now.

"A lot of the toughest away fixtures have gone and we know we've got to make sure we improve on our away performances.

"We'll never throw in the towel at Liverpool, but the first thing we've got to do is to get ourselves into the top four.

"We had big ambitions at the start of the season, which is only right at a club like Liverpool, but we also know it's important to make sure we're in the top four as soon as possible, and then we can start thinking about what's above us.

"There's still a long way to go, and Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea will all have to come to Anfield during the second half of the season.

"We did well to win five games on the run after losing to United, and now we've got to put a longer winning run together."

Benitez: This is not good enough

Anfield Online

Rafa Benitez today insisted he is well aware that recent scorelines and performance have not been good enough and has urged the players on.

"I am not thinking about the title race," said the Spaniard.

"The only thing that matters is the next game and we need to start winning away if we are going to be closer.

"It is clear this is not good enough. We know we need to improve. We need to show character and show our quality.

"I have some ideas but I need to work with the players until the next game.

"Maybe now we are playing against teams away who don't have the same quality. But we need to stop talking and start winning away."

Rafa has laid the blame squarely at the reds inability to start away games in the correct fashion.

"We need to score first but we are conceding first and we cannot score and go on to win games.

"I could see two different games on Sunday. In the first half the team was there and creating chances, we were in the game and regaining second balls and the tactics were okay.

"But we conceded at the end of first half and early in the second half and that was a big difference.

"In the second half we did not play well. We conceded the types of goals to mistakes you wouldn't normally make.

"I'm not looking for excuses. It's clear we need to improve, and we need to find how we can do that. I'm not talking about individual players, we need to improve as a team away from home.

"On Sunday the second goal was the key. The first one was disappointing but we could talk at half-time, but we conceded too early in the second half. We lost confidence and against a good team with a lot of quality players if you leave space they can play on the counter-attack."

Gerrard must be centre of
Anfield recovery plan

By Alan Hansen -

When you study their record away from Anfield this season, there are words no Liverpool fan would want you to use. After one point and one goal in six games, it is no good saying their form is disappointing and you cannot possibly argue they have been unlucky. This is a team that requires surgery.

There has been a lot of rhetoric about the role of Steven Gerrard but now, after a second heavy defeat by one of the big four, it is time to return to Gerard Houllier's policy of playing him through the centre where he can have the influence someone of his talent deserves. At the Emirates Stadium yesterday he spent the last 20 minutes in his best position, but by then Arsenal had scored twice.

I am not suggesting the Liverpool captain cannot play on the right. From there, he has put in some fantastic crosses this season but he has had so much less influence than in previous years.

Especially when they were winning the Champions League and the FA Cup, Gerrard was an important source of goals to a side who, since Michael Owen departed, never looked as if they had a 20-goal-a-season striker. Xabi Alonso and Mohamed Sissoko may look a formidable pairing to Rafael Benitez, but you have to question how many goals they have scored between them. The answer is not many. Under the circumstances, Gerrard has to play through the middle.

I have said before that Liverpool cannot keep placing their faith in a single player like Gerrard, especially when he has not been performing to the very high standards he set in Benitez's first two seasons at Anfield. By no means is Gerrard playing badly, but you cannot expect him to keep performing at the levels he has been doing because every player, no matter how good, sees his form dip.

They may have had cup successes against Chelsea and Manchester United, but Liverpool's record against the other members of the Premiership's big four is abysmal and if they are ever going to win a championship under Benitez, this is something he has to rectify.

This was supposed to be the season where they would finally run Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United close. Some would have thought Liverpool might actually end their long wait for the title. But, by November, for Liverpool's supporters there is nothing to look forward to in the Premiership except for some substantial rebuilding.

Benitez managed to win the FA Cup and the Champions League without having pace in the side. When I played, pace was important now it is an absolute necessity. By signing Dirk Kuyt and Craig Bellamy, Liverpool have found some speed in attack, but they have to find it elsewhere.

Finding pace in defence is not a question of just replacing the centre-backs; you could bring in some quick full-backs. And although towards the end yesterday Benitez did replace Sami Hyypia with Daniel Agger, changing centre-halves is a dangerous business. If you have played 100 times with someone in central defence, you develop a kind of telepathy with your partner which is far more important than in other areas of the pitch. Agger could come in, but at the risk of some costly mistakes early on.

After the furore at Upton Park and Arsene Wenger's bust-up with Alan Pardew, Liverpool might have thought it was a good time to be playing Arsenal but it was a better time to be facing Liverpool.

Arsenal's form at the Emirates Stadium may have been poor, but it was nothing like as bad as Liverpool's away form. As soon as Mathieu Flamini scored, you could see the confidence ebb out of Liverpool, and when they went 2-0 down there was too much space at the back and not enough going forward.

For Wenger, this marked the end of a long week. He is often graceless in defeat, but then I agree with the phrase: 'show me a good loser and I'll show you a loser'. Pardew was celebrating too close to Wenger, but the West Ham manager had been under enormous pressure and this was a very big scalp.

Half an hour after the final whistle, Wenger should have come to terms with the situation and accepted Pardew's apology. It is much easier to apologise when you have won, but Wenger could at least have phoned afterwards. It would have taken two minutes, it would not have signified they were close friends but it would have ended the matter. I had thought Wenger was bigger than that.

Benitez points to mistakes

By James Pearson - Sky Sports

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez believes mistakes were to blame for their defeat at Arsenal on Sunday.

Benitez is unhappy with the first two goals his side conceded and knows they must put things right at the back for their next fixture.

"We started well and were controlling a lot things, but when we conceded the first goal it made a big difference," said Benitez told Sky Sports 1.

"It's clear we made some mistakes. In these games you need to play 100 percent against a side like this all the time and don't make mistakes.

"We made a big mistake with the first and second goal and it made a big difference. We need to work harder if we're to score first.

"We knew they'd be difficult to play against. We're now thinking about the next game. You must think about winning the next game."

Wenger hails 'massive' win

By James Pearson - Sky Sports

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger believes The Gunners' 3-0 success over Liverpool on Sunday was a "massive" win.

The North Londoners entered the game on the back of last week's painful late loss to West Ham at Upton Park.

Wenger knew the opening goal at the Emirates Stadium would be crucial and was delighted it was Mathieu Flamini who bagged it.

"It was a massive win for us because we lost last week at West Ham," explained Wenger to Sky Sports 1.

"Of course it was very disappointing to lose the way we lost and that's why the response from the team was important.

"I felt everyone performed well today. The big players have responsibility in the team they were strong today.

"Liverpool played well. The first goal was very important. If they'd scored first it would have been a different game.

"I was confident the players would try. I was worried they would be too nervous, but I knew they would be up for it.

"We knew that we could score goals."

Classy Arsenal see off Liverpool

By Phil McNulty - BBC Sport Online

Arsenal brushed aside Liverpool in clinical fashion to keep in touch with the Premiership pace-setters.

Mathieu Flamini put Arsenal ahead from close range five minutes before the end of an evenly contested first half.

But Arsenal moved into top gear after the interval, Kolo Toure racing on to Robin van Persie's clever pass to slide home a cool finish after 56 minutes.

William Gallas was then left completely unmarked to head in Van Persie's corner to seal the win with 10 minutes left.

Liverpool's title hopes were slim before kick-off but they are now surely non-existent as they remain without an away win in the Premiership this season.

Arsenal goalkeeper Jens Lehmann had a throat infection, which allowed Manuel Almunia to make a rare start.

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez persisted with Steven Gerrard in a right-wing role, despite the absence of injured Momo Sissoko, so Bolo Zenden played in central midfield alongside Xabi Alonso.

It was to prove a questionable decision, with Gerrard very much a peripheral figure as Arsenal ran out comfortable winners.

Arsenal had the ball in the net inside 90 seconds but Van Persie handled the ball to deflect it past Pepe Reina and picked up a yellow card.

But Liverpool settled quickly and Dirk Kuyt was just off target with an ambitious lob.

Liverpool thought they had taken the lead after 13 minutes when Peter Crouch turned home Alonso's cross, but he had strayed offside.

The visitors had enjoyed more than their fair share of possession and territory in the first half but just as frustration was growing inside the Emirates Stadium, Arsenal took the lead with a trademark goal after 41 minutes.

Alexander Hleb played in Cesc Fabregas and his pass was met by the onrushing Flamini, who got the vital final touch ahead of Jamie Carragher.

Liverpool needed to make a statement of intent after the break but it was Arsenal who doubled their lead.

There was a hint of good fortune about the build-up, with Van Persie first failing with an attempted flick but then recovering to play in Toure at the second attempt to finish in style.

Liverpool needed to make a change and it came on the hour when Jermaine Pennant replaced the ineffective Mark Gonzalez.

Gerrard moved into the middle to at least provide a hint of menace with a deflected shot from 30 yards that dipped just over the bar.

But Arsenal ended any debate about the destination of the points when Gallas headed home Van Persie's corner.

It prompted a heated exchange between Gerrard and team-mate John Arne Riise over the lack of marking, summing up a desperately disappointing display by Liverpool.

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Thor Zakariassen