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Liverpool's 2-2 draw with Arsenal: What we learned

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If you'd have told Liverpool fans they'd draw against Arsenal prior to Sunday's game, you have to imagine that a fair few would have taken the result.

The Gunners have not been in fabulous form this term, however, neither have Liverpool. Arsene Wenger's men too have Alexis Sanchez, who has been ripping defences apart and given how poor the Reds' back-four have been, the game could have gone either way.

2-2 was the final result due to a Martin Skrtel header in injury time. A point each, a result Brendan Rodgers' side more than deserved given their performance.

They now go into Boxing Day's clash against Burnley full of confidence and there are several things we learned about Sunday's game.

The System Is Working

Liverpool have struggled to find a winning formula this season and Rodgers has chopped and changed his starting line-up almost every week. It's been a frustrating process for the Northern Irishman, who's desperately tried everything to discover who and what is his best side.

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Last weekend against Manchester United, the former Swansea City boss made a bold move and decided to play three in the defence and it saw a more aggressive attack from the Reds and seriously tested Louis van Gaal's back-four.

Rodgers again went with this system during the 3-1 victory over Bournemouth mid-week and it went down a treat with the players. It injected pace into Liverpool's game that gave the Cherries nightmares and it saw plenty of chances created.

Once again, the formation of three at the back worked against Arsenal.

The Reds arguably put in their best performance since they beat Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 in August and deserved to walk away with the three points.

The Merseyside club were superb, especially in the first-half, and it was because of the the new system.

Philippe Coutinho in particular thrived playing with men running ahead of him. The Brazilian was so good because there was movement and speed that freed space up for him and it allowed him to attack with much more purpose. 

For the ex-Inter Milan star's goal, the Arsenal box was flooded with Liverpool players that let him him make room when shooting as the away side's defenders had to prepare for a through ball.

The formation, in general, adopts the style of football that Rodgers is encouraging. He wants fast passing, playing on the counter-attack and the previous 4-3-3 with either Mario Balotelli or Rickie Lambert leading the front-line did not allow this.

Raheem Sterling has been a make-do striker of late and despite him not being as comfortable, he offers plenty of movement which drags defenders away and opens up space.

Positive football is what LFC fans have been crying out for, especially after the success of last season. If it continues, it will bring the best out of players and again be a nightmare for the opposition.

Defensive Problems Remain

Most can agree that Liverpool should have walked away from the game with all three points. They dominated possession and had 23 shots compared to Arsenal's three on target.

However, the same old story occurred. The back-four were sloppy and it caused two points to be dropped.

Skrtel may have been dubbed the hero, however people forget how poor he was defensively for Arsenal's strikes.

He was out-jumped by Mathieu Debuchy at the back post for the North London side's first and it should never have happened. The Slovakian is not a youngster, but an Anfield veteran who should be leading by example. His poor awareness to not recognise Debuchy was lurking at the back post was one thing, but to lose the aerial battle was another.

The Gunners' second was a perfect highlight of how not to defend. Olivier Giroud was given bundles of space inside the Liverpool box, with neither Skrtel nor Mamadou Sakho taking responsibility and getting tight to the Frenchman, leaving him with a fairly simple finish.

Rodgers' men conceded 50 goals in the top flight last term and that looks a tally that could quite easily be topped come May 2015. It's already seen the Reds crash out of the Champions League at the first hurdle as well as contribute to their dismal 10th place in the league.

Lazar Markovic Continues To Impress

It's amazing how much can change in a short period of time.

Prior to Liverpool's 1-1 draw with FC Basel in the Champions League, the young Serb was barely making a substitute's performance, never mind being in top form.

Against Crystal Palace, the £20 million summer signing wasn't even included in Rodgers' 18 man squad and Markovic looked yet another signing who the club had over-paid for based on reputation.

Fast-forward to the present and Kopites are wanting more and more from the 20-year-old.

Impressive cameo's against Basel and Manchester United as well as Bournemouth in the Capital One Cup saw Rodgers give him a start.

He's been adopted into the position of left-wing back and for such an inexperienced player, Markovic played with maturity and impressed.

Wing-back can be a difficult position to play, especially for a youngster. However, the ex-Benfica man highlighted all of his capabilities and it's becoming recognisable why Liverpool paid a hefty fee for him.

Markovic was a threat in the first-half especially, causing plenty of problems with his speed and his quick feet and looks a much more confident player.

He too played several excellent passes that cut open the Arsenal defence and had a chance go begging from a tight angle.

For many footballers, it's about confidence and his is sky-high at the minute and there's no doubt Kopites want him to become a regular in Rodgers' starting XI.

Fabio Borini may have made his final appearance

Borini has very much been left in the dark since he returned to Anfield this summer after a decent loan spell at Sunderland.

The Italian was reluctant to move away from Merseyside when Rodgers was desperate to get a generous £14 million for him from the Black Cats and Inter Milan.

However, Borini decided to stay and fight for his place at the Reds and it hasn't worked out all that well for him.

He's very much been a fringe player this season, left either as an unused substitute or not in the squad even when Sturridge and Balotelli have been injured.

It came as a surprise when he replaced Markovic after 73 minutes on Sunday, being brought on before Rickie Lambert who is normally the first when things aren't going to plan. 

The ex-Roma man didn't do too badly for the time he was on the pitch, working hard to win the ball for his side and he had a header tipped over the bar. There was passion from Borini and you could see he was trying desperately hard to impress.

However, he daftly got himself sent off and that could be the end of his Liverpool career.

He firstly was booked for throwing the ball away in anger when it should have been a throw-in for his side. Albeit, fans want to see that passion but it was silly.

Then, he was correctly cautioned for a second time for a high, late tackle on Santi Corzola which ripped the Spaniard's shirt.

Borini dented his side's chances of victory for a daft booking and now will miss Liverpool's next game against Burnley.

With Balotelli now back in the set-up after serving his one match ban, Sturridge almost fully-fit and Sterling proving he can operate as a striker, it seems that the 24-year-old may be put in a taxi to Liverpool John Lennon Airport, especially if Rodgers wants to boost funds for a new goalkeeper.

Daniel Sturridge Return Will Be Huge Boost

The Reds may have put in a decent performance against Arsenal, but they are still missing an out-and-out goalscorer.

Liverpool dominated the first-half and gave reminders of their 5-1 thrashing of the Gunners last season.

The difference last term was they had men who could put the ball in the net.

Luis Suarez was feared by each and every defender and Sturridge was second on the list. 

The two were so good they could bury half a chance, destroying teams early in games and putting the fear of God in them.

Liverpool have badly missed somebody who can put the ball in the net this season. Lambert was brought in as a 'Plan B' and Balotelli hasn't cut the mustard.

Sterling has done OK as a forward, but he thrives when running at defenders out wide and being the provider.

Sturridge will have watched the game against Arsenal and really have fancied himself to have grabbed a goal if he were playing.

His relationship with Coutinho last campaign was excellent and the amount of space going forward would have played right into his hands.

His pace as well as wicked left-boot caused Wenger's side all sorts of problems last season and Sturridge grabbed himself an excellent brace that he will remember forever.

There's no doubt the Reds have missed him, however, he could not be returning at a better time when Liverpool are playing positive football.

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Topics:
Liverpool
Arsenal
Premier League
Football

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