Arsenal: Beating Liverpool In The Cup Will Be The Sweetest Revenge
Suddenly this week has taken on even more importance for Arsenal. There's never a good time to lose 5-1, but it looks especially careless when you're playing the same opposition a week later, and there's the meat of Manchester United in the Liverpool sandwich.
Saturday was horrific. There is no other way to look at it. I don't think that the defeat was because of poor tactics, the wrong team selection or the lack of un-injured players signed in January. It was just that for some strange reason, no-one in Arsenal yellow looked up for it.
It's nearly impossible to put a positive spin on such a painful result and hideous performance, but I'm going to try to anyway. I genuinely don't think Arsenal can play that badly this season again. With such big games coming up in quick succession for the Gunners, the negative momentum could mean the team go on a bad run, but Arsenal have no choice but to bust a gut to improve. Had Liverpool won by a goal or two, Arsenal might have just ignored it off and not addressed problems. Having been so comprehensively stuffed, Arsenal have no option but to consider a serious re-think and a refocus in big games.
Wenger needs the leaders in his team to step up as all of them were missing on Saturday. However the manager also needs to be inspirational himself. His post-match interview was very honest, especially considering how Wenger will always defend his players. Wenger said: "Only our fans were good for 90 minutes, that's all." The manager acknowledged that no-one is exempt from criticism and that everyone at the club has to improve. He didn't say Arsenal were unlucky, or made excuses, he just fronted up and said that the performance was poor. Normally Wenger will find positives, but he struggled to do so on Saturday. That also tells me that he won't allow the team to be that bad again.
The other positive thing for the week ahead is that Arsenal have responded well after set-backs this season. The defeats to Aston Villa and Manchester City have both been followed by excellent runs of form. Having responded well on more than one occasion this season, the Arsenal squad know it's within their capability to do so again. The run of home fixtures will also help in that recovery process.
Arsenal haven't always been a team to make a fast start in matches this season, but Wednesday's game with Manchester United will be the perfect time to change that. If Arsenal come out looking fired up and try to attack United, the Emirates crowd will get behind the team and the Anfield annihilation will be quickly forgotten. The longer Arsenal go in the match looking nervy, the greater the anxiety will be amongst supporters and the larger chance there'll be of Arsenal not recovering.
Hopefully, after the response against Manchester United, there will be the revenge against Liverpool. Knocking them out the FA Cup next week will enable Arsenal to draw a line under the game at Anfield and completely forget the thrashing. Any mental blocks created by such a defeat can be eradicated. Liverpool will be confident, but it'll be a completely different game at the Emirates.
It's not often in football that you get the chance to completely write off such a harrowing defeat so quickly after it's happened, but by responding against Manchester United and gaining revenge against Liverpool, Arsenal can do just that. If they do, that hideous Saturday lunchtime will just be a blip, rather than the beginning of the end of Arsenal's title challenge.