Composure and Confidence: Arsenal have their pockets picked by relentlessly intense Liverpool [LIV 4-0ARS]

Composure and Confidence


I’m writing this late in the day. Had to take time out from being disappointed. I just wasn’t expecting a return to shooting ourselves in the foot and quietly I thought that our momentum could sneak us a 1-0.  I admittedly floated off to my dream state of considering being above Liverpool and level with City and the huge confidence boost this would’ve propelled us into. I won’t have anyone tell me that this was impossible although I admit unlikely.

It was somewhat of a watershed moment for Arsenal.

Win or even draw and our recent confidence gets doubled. Lose and all would probably maintain itself if the score was close and the performance impressive. I just didn’t see the gun coming out.

So, how did this happen and what can we learn from it?

I had a late night conversation with Michael Price from You Are My Arsenal. Like I often do, he had writers block on his game preview. We chatted about what was needed for David to overcome Goliath. We agreed that composure and confidence were going to be pivotal. I think we both saw Arsenal coming to play and not sitting deep, both ok with believing in what we’ve achieved in our 10 game run. I think most Gooners wanted us to press the accelerator and use this game as judgement of our progress. It would be too broad to say that all our players lacked the composure needed to overcome Liverpool’s intensity, but the majority did. I think the playback coaching lesson here is to focus in the lead up to big games in scanning and releasing early. Pressing isn’t just a positive tactic, it’s a risk. If all 3 midfielders pounce on you then you have available options but it’s almost impossible to find them if your head goes down rather than rotates prior to receiving to find your options. Secondly, if you aren’t ready to pass then protect the ball with your body, buy a foul or use the outside of your foot to twist and protect. We were caught too often exposing the ball and got pickpocketed frequently. Finally, your exit routes have to change if your pre-game strategy is finding your pockets feeling lighter and lighter. As Ramsdale said post game,

“We obviously had our gameplan, but as a young team, we stick to the gameplan too much and we need to learn to possibly be strong with each other and talk more to weather the storm.”

He may mean something completely different but I think that we needed to identify that the pick pockets were centrally located and our central midfielders pockets were getting lighter and lighter. Didn’t have to be this way. We needed a leader to coach on the field and send the exit routes wide.


There were also many occasions where we didn’t sell out to wanting to play. Showing confidence for such a young team might just be too easy for me as an armchair critic to comment on. Going to Anfield when they are flying is complicated. I do think however that if you don’t sell out  completely and move into space with confidence then halfway house encourages a team that loves to pressure as you are ‘barely open.’ Either believe in wanting to support the ball or don’t and sit back and play reactionary football.

A final observation and a light at the end of the Arsenal tunnel is to remember that unlike Liverpool who are in year 5 or 6 of this group, we are not even at month 5 or 6. In time we will be able to have such confidence in our midfield unit that we can leave our forwards to anticipate the robbery rather than have to assist the midfielders. I’ve noticed many times watching Liverpool that if they think they don’t need to send Mane and Salah back to help the midfielders, they are instructed to float in the dead transition space 10 yards from the action. They don’t run or jog there as soon as they get a turnover, they sneak there undetected whilst you are focused on possessing. As you will recollect, they pick your pocket, pass it 10 yards and here comes the World’s most in form player running at you over and over.

Arsenal will get to this place.

I’m glad I didn’t start writing 3 hours ago as my ‘glasses of great disappointment’ were on and I wouldn’t have spotted this.


  • This hasn’t been mentioned but there were many times when Gabriel was left one on one with Salah. I don’t recollect Salah troubling Ramsdale in these situations but I do remember Gabriel making many mature decisions that he wouldn’t have made last season. He was too concerned last season with trying to nick the ball rather than stall and be satisfied with blocking. He was one that had a good game and seemed in control of his game.
  • Again, Arteta started the game well. The coaches instructions are transparent in the first 20 minutes and we kept Liverpool firmly at arms length during this period. Generally, I thought that Arteta did his job well. I also think that Arteta getting in Klopp’s face was intentional and I like it. I think he was trying to energize his young team.

Face off

  • There wasn’t much to spotlight going forward but once again I admired a set play that is a large improvement. The clever positioning of our strikers in order to move the defensive unit so that Tavares could get in behind, almost worked.
  • Ramsdale really is a Roy of the Rovers goalie. If you are new to ROTR, I suggest you search him and his lush blonde hair and hero mentality. He wasn’t a goalie but he was clearly inspired by Aaron.
  • I think it is important that we played until the end. You most certainly do learn more about your team in adversity and the pressing and chasing continued even at 0-4.
  • My favourite moment of the game was shortly after Tavares made his mistake and Liverpool scored. He had the guts to try to penetrate again even though lesser players would’ve shrunk and just sent long, safe balls. I hope the fanbase doesn’t shout at him online as he is a huge talent that will respond quickly if supported. I also loved that Arteta chose him. Tierney needs to know that he can’t just walk right back in and the squad needs to know that if you are in form you keep your place.



  • I’ve never been a fan of the high line at free kicks. I think the delivery is too good these days and the desire to keep the attack away from your goal and to give your keeper room to attack the ball is negated by the consistent top quality delivery. The other issues are that players gain momentum by running on to the ball rather than a static start and a man marker wrestling you. This isn’t an Arsenal problem as everyone has bought in. I think it needs a rethink. Ask a striker which defensive line they prefer.
  • Should we be concerned that Thomas Partey struggles to impose himself on big games. Is he a little too laid back? It’s not talent as he shows the infrequent glimpse of Paddy V but seems to lack the personality to do it consistently. I could be way off here.
  • I’m unsure about my last thought but more sure of this one. There is certainly a common thread to Auba and Laca struggling to make an impact on big games. As I’ve mentioned often, Arsenal really need a physical outlet. A striker with the attitude of Mark Hughes and the aerial ability of me in my heyday sneaking on the hockey fields of Tring to play Headers and Volleys with Eezer. I have no TikTok video to prove my aerial prowess but I was ruddy incredible, especially with the glancing header from a right wing cross.


And here is the evidence above 😉

  • We need to also recognize that we were an Oxlade Chamberlain shin and an Alison toe away from a couple of goals and with the former, a different game ensuing. There is no hiding that Liverpool were more dominant and were and are the better team. I simply think that we have to recognize that regardless of general play the score is based on moments not domination. All that to say that we need to move on from being over critical simply because the score seems like deja vu.


  • The game could’ve swung on non-refereeing decisions again. Mr Mane seemed to have immunity.
  • Arsenal need a dribbling specialist. Saka, when dribbling, is similar to Pepe. He takes his time. He is more effective than Pepe because he can be a reactive and proactive dribbler and Pepe is just the former. We need a direct dribbler as an option. A player who is capable of winning the game on his own. Our current options haven’t offered this to date. Kaladeen Sulemana at Rennes is my pick.



You will be impressed to know that Knoxville, TN, a college football town where football is still fairly new, had nearly 100 Gooners in their ‘Arsenal pub’ yesterday. My son and I were two of them and experienced the knowledge, passion and commitment that @KnoxGooners have for the club. This is replicated all around the country. Arsenal are loved everywhere.



We have clarity. We have been handily beaten by the best 3 teams in the country. I maintain that we can beat them on a very good day but yesterday was certainly a sliding doors moment. Arsenal are fighting with a large group for fourth. I think we can do it. Enjoy the ‘PNH Expanded 15 minute podcast below….

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2 Responses to Composure and Confidence: Arsenal have their pockets picked by relentlessly intense Liverpool [LIV 4-0ARS]

  1. allezkev November 22, 2021 at 11:55 am #

    Great post Mike and that was a George Grahamesque header btw, George was one of the best at timing his jumps and appearing to hang in the air, he also had very powerful neck muscles.

    Disappointed but proud of the team, we went toe to toe with one of the best teams in the world and gave them some really awkward moments until switching off for their first goal. I was amazed by that Mane goal as our defending from dead ball situations has been rock solid up till now. The mistake by Tavares was unfortunate but he showed courage and we need to appreciate and foster that. After that it was hard going but I don’t think we capitulated, Liverpool were just too good.

    Klopp is no idiot as he clearly deflected attention away from the persistent spiteful fouling of Mane and tried to make him out as the victim, the media bought it of course but then the media are so dumb.

    Arteta showed that he wasn’t going to be intimidated by the man with the million dollar hampsteads and I loved his reaction and can’t wait to get them to the Emirates.

    I love Smith Rowe but I wonder if Niles on the left giving us a midfield three was the way to go? Sometimes you just have to recognise your place and be pragmatic to maximise the situation and that may have countered our midfield getting overrun? I thought that Lokonga did well but that’s just me.

    With no real defending from the front it was only a matter of time until their unrelenting attacks paid off, I thought that our back four and Ramsdale were amazing but they needed more help from those in front. Imagine if we’d had a centre forward who is physical and can hold up play, that releases pressure on your defence as you bypass the press and gives the midfield time to get up to support you – I thought that Aubameyang was awful.

    KSE have really pushed the boat out over the last few windows and maybe it’s time to do so again as a top four place is within our grasp, we just have to take it.

    Finding a more complete striker than what we currently have is going to be both difficult to do in January and very expensive but speculate to accumulate is the way to go, with the opportunity to take that final CL spot as the glittering prize. It’s like a trophy don’t you know…

  2. Andy November 22, 2021 at 2:32 pm #

    Great photos mike. A bit of a reality check but unlike Chelsea and man city, we didn’t lose the game in the first five minutes. In fact for the first 20 we matched them. It’s a long term project and id rather be brought back down to earth against Liverpool away than a less talented team.

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