Sunday afternoon provided another entertaining fixture between Liverpool and Arsenal at Anfield, with both teams going into the game needing a result after disappointing starts to the season. With high expectations from football fans as previous results had provided entertainment of the highest quality, with Robin Van Persie’s injury time volley and Arshavin scoring a famous four goals at the ground in recent years, the game lived up to the hype with Arsenal comfortably winning the fixture 2-0, with goals from summer recruits Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla. Liverpool who handed a start to Sahin, who was the subject of heavy interest from both of the teams, looked like a team who were still working on their understanding amongst each other, with Raheem Sterling’s shot hitting the woodwork being one of few moments of danger for Arsenal’s defence, whereas Arsenal played with intent from kick off, with Diaby back from injury looking to control the game from midfield, creating chances in the process.
An error by Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard gave Arsenal possession in the build up to the first goal, with Cazorla feeding Podolski to net his first goal, whilst the roles were reversed in the second half as Podolski found Cazorla in the Liverpool penalty area to fire past Pepe Reina. Notably, both the teams handed starts to future prospects for England in the form of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Raheem Sterling, with both of them under the age of 20 and looking like fantastic talents, and we will see how they got on in a game of high importance.
The winger looked bright in the first half of the game, looking to get on the ball and beat players, which is shown with his successful dribbles, always keeping his radar on incase there was a pass available to a player in a better position. With a passing accuracy of 83%, he found his team mates more often than not, and looked to link with the midfield, creating space for Cazorla to work his magic from the center of the park.
Often used as an impact sub by Arsene Wenger, Oxlade-Chamberlain was given a starting berth in the team and looked to make the most of his chance, running up and down the park, notably tracking back to help Jenkinson nullify the threat of Sterling on the right hand side of defence for Arsenal. His duties in that right hand side attacking role were carried out, and noted by the manager, who gave him the opportunity to have a rest by substituting him off in the 73rd minute, with options on the bench. With no key passes during the game, his action in the final third of the pitch will need working on in order to cement his first team spot, and regular game time will aid his development and instincts to pick a killer pass or to position himself in a threatening position to find the back of the net.Introduced to first team football by Arsene Wenger last season, the latest Arsenal prospect is still learning his trade at the club, being asked to operate in different positions, and started in a wide right position this game in a front three made up by Podolski, Giroud and himself.
At times last season, Wenger asked him to operate in midfield, as he had all the attributes to become a midfield general, but the exciting forward equally looks to have all the attributes to become a top class forward, with pace and accurate dribbling allowing him to trouble defenders on a regular basis. At such a young age, it would not be surprising for Wenger to experiment on the position Oxlade-Chamberlain is asked to play, as he looks to have the versatility and hunger to play in any position in midfield and in attack.
Given his full Premier League debut by Brendan Rodgers only last week against current champions Manchester City, there is still a lot we do not know about the 17-year-old attacker, but the signs look promising, and the Liverpool faithful are delighted to have another youth player coming through to the first team of the club. Being asked to start on the left hand side by the manager, it is believed that Sterling is equally comfortable on either wing, but prefers the left as it allows him to cut onto his right foot. A promising debut saw the fearless teenager take his chance against Manchester City with mazy dribbles and pace which caused Kolo Toure problems all afternoon, so Liverpool fans expected a similar performance against the Gunners.
The attacker was the standout Liverpool threat in the first half, looking to take on the Arsenal right back Jenkinson whenever given the chance shown by a successful dribble tally of 3, and provided the best scoring chance for Liverpool as he struck the post after turning German international Mertesacker in the penalty area, with the keeper Vito Mannone beaten. With Liverpool operating in a similar formation to Arsenal, Sterling started the game on the left of the front 3, joined by Suarez and Borini, and generally looked more involved in forward or positive passes, getting the ball to Suarez, or to Joe Allen who had the vision to carve an attacking opportunity for Liverpool, represented with a higher pass rate than Oxlade-Chamberlain, as well as a higher accuracy. Although it was only his second Premier League game for the Reds, it was clear that the rest of the team believed in his ability on the ball, and looked to find him as much as they could, and with 53 touches on the ball, it is clear that he received the ball more than Oxlade-Chamberlain (47 touches on ball) did throughout the 90 minutes, although he completed the game, whereas OC was substituted.
Sterling also seems to have a bite in his game where he attempts to win back possession. He won possession back four times yesterday in comparison to Oxlade’s two and also was involved in 15 ground duels (most of any player in the game). Oxlade-Chamberlain was also impressive here attempting 12 duels and winning a higher percentage of them. It’s fair to see neither player looked out of place in these teams.
Although it is not completely fair to judge the potential of these players based on one fixture, it is clear to see that with sufficient game time and the development with their respected clubs, both Sterling and Oxlade-Chamberlain can be massive hits in the sport, at both a club and international level. We know that Oxlade-Chamberlain has been integrated in and around the Arsenal set up over the last season or so, but it is not clear whether Rodgers will continue to start Sterling, although many would not argue if the young winger was brought into the Liverpool set up sooner rather than later, and it will be interesting to see how they both develop over the coming years, being players of a similar age.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain or Raheem Sterling? Who would you rather have in your first team set up? How do you think they performed? Leave your comments below or share through my Twitter page @Dharmesh_Tank.