Gary Neville savages 'arrogant' Arsenal after Liverpool draw
Petr Cech shows his worth with fine display as Gunners rue Ramsey goal that was wrongly ruled out for offside
Arsenal 0 Liverpool 0
Arsene Wenger endured an uncomfortable night as his side held on for a share of the points against unbeaten Liverpool and he endured a savaging from Gary Neville in the Sky Sports studio.
After the entertaining stalemate at the Emirates, Neville, now on the England coaching staff as well as a TV pundit, was asked for his thoughts on the players Wenger has signed over the last few years. The former Manchester United defender cast his mind back ten or 15 years ago when a United vs Arsenal clash was the defining match of the Premier League season, a full-blooded contest pitting the likes of Roy Keane and the Neville brothers against Patrick Vieira and Dennis Bergkamp.
In comparing that Arsenal vintage to the current crop, Neville was scathing. "I can't think of a word to describe that bunch," he said, referring to the likes of Mesut Ozil, Santi Carzola and Francis Coquelin. "They're certainly not… what you want to win you a league, the powerful characters, the strength you need running through your team. The profile of players completely changed and the style has changed and that to me is where I've got no sympathy."
Neville added that he was baffled why Arsene Wenger no longer signed "players of power" to win the midfield battles, as he once did with the likes of Vieira and Emmanuel Petit. "It is the one big, if you like, black mark against Arsene Wenger... to me it's arrogance: to think that you are not going to adapt your team to impact on the other teams you're playing against. It is either naivety or arrogance because they keep losing this way."
Neville's comments won't have sat well with Gooners but they were borne out by Arsenal's first-half display in which Liverpool controlled the game. It didn't help Arsenal that through illness and injury they were without regular centre-backs Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny (the first time both have been absent from a team-sheet since April 2012) but all the same Wenger will have been alarmed by the sub-standard defending of their deputies, particularly the headless Calum Chambers.
Fortunately Arsenal had Petr Cech on top form, and the veteran goalkeeper fully justified his £10m transfer fee from Chelsea earlier in the summer, with a couple of brilliant saves from Christian Benteke and Philippe Coutinho.
Despite being under the cosh in the first period, Arsenal should have taken the lead but Aaron Ramsey's goal was incorrectly adjudged offside. The Gunners regrouped at half-time and had the better of the second half with Alexis Sanchez hitting the post with one effort and Liverpool keeper Simon Mignolet producing a top-class save of his own to deny Olivier Giroud.
Overall a draw was the right result, but Liverpool - who were without the injured Jordan Henderson and Adam Lallana - will derive the greater satisfaction from the result, with the Reds still unbeaten after their opening three games of the season and yet to concede a goal. "I thought we were very good," reflected Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers. "First half, Petr Cech was the man of the match."
Arsene Wenger will be relieved with a point given the way Liverpool controlled the first half but the fact his side have now failed to score in five of their last six league matches at the Emirates will be a source of great concern.
Neville's opinions will be less of a worry to Wenger, although the Frenchman was clearly irritated at the criticism when it was relayed to him in the post-match press conference.
"I don't know what that has to do with arrogance," he replied, when asked why he didn't adapt his side's style. "I try just to do my job well for 20 years. I leave judgment to everybody else, the assessment of the quality of my work. Everybody is entitled to that opinion. I could prove to you that it's not necessarily right but let's not go into that debate tonight."