Newcastle 2 Liverpool 2: Four talking points as Sturridge nets
Newcastle 2 Liverpool 2: Talking points as Daniel Sturridge rescues a point for the Reds at St James' Park
Ben Arfa as lone striker
With Papiss Cisse off form – he hasn’t scored a Premier League goal since April – Alan Pardew decided to play Hatem Ben Arfa as a lone striker, albeit supported by Yoan Gouffran on the right of 4-3-3 and Loic Remy on the left, from where the Magpies boss obviously hoped the Frenchman cut in and shoot, like he did twice successfully against Cardiff. Granted, Newcastle scored two good goals – a 30-yard screamer and one volleyed in from a floated free kick – but neither were really the result of the new system or Ben Arfa, who was fairly anonymous in this new role. Being a lone striker is a very specialised role, requiring a lot of strength, to hold the ball up and aerial ability, neither of which Ben Arfa really possesses. Especially in the first half Newcastle did compete in the middle well, preventing Steven Gerrard, Jordan Henderson and Victor Moses being as creative as they can be, and it could be argued this was due to having the extra body in midfield. But if Liverpool are to continue with the formation, they could do with Cisse, a traditional frontman, back on form or, given that Sammy Ameobi was brought on for Ben Arfa in front of Cisse, another quality striker – maybe Remy. As well as more firepower up front, that would allow Ben Arfa a more creative role in midfield to weave his magic.
Liverpool’s wing backs
Brendan Rodgers employed a 3-5-2 formation, with Glen Johnson on the right and Aly Cissokho, the Valencia loanee making his first Premiership start after recovering from injury, on the left. It worked fairly well and allowed Liverpool to create width while still playing their red-hot strike partnership of Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez. It would be interesting to see, however, how Liverpool would fare if they played such a formation against stronger opposition, who could better exploit any gaps down the wings and attack today’s strong but by no means world class back three of Kolo Toure, Martin Skrtel and Mamadou Sakho.
Gerrard joins the ‘100 club’
With his penalty, Gerrard joined the Premier League ‘100 club’ – the illustrious group of 24 players (now) to have scored 100 Premier League goals, and one of only four midfielders in that group (the others being Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and, with a staggering 166, Frank Lampard). In the four seasons from 2005 to 2009 he scored 10, 7, 11 and 16 respectively, and at many times seemed to be securing Liverpool their Champions League qualification single-handedly. Partly due to the prolific Suarez’s arrival in 2011 and partly due to advancing years (he’s 33, not that it shows much), he has taken on a slightly less advanced, less barnstorming role in recent years. But, testament to his incredible work ethic, he is still a vital player for Liverpool, on and off the pitch, and still chips in with a decent haul of goals. Having played 449 games, a goal in every 4.5 goals is a fantastic ratio for a midfielder – and, with 21 from 107 caps, his England goalscoring record is nearly as good. Let’s hope he carries his form into Brazil next summer.
Newcastle showed great spirit after losing Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa early on, especially as Liverpool piled on great pressure towards the end – and Liverpool might be ruing missing some chances. By the letter of the law, it was a definite red card. Suarez got the wrong side of Yanga-Mbiwa from a great lofted through ball from Sturridge, then the defender deliberately brought the Uruguayan down with his arm. However, it is arguably an unfair rule the ref to be obligated to send of the defender for a last man challenge; a kind of double-punishment as the penalty often offers as good, if not better, a chance to score than the other opportunity would, as it proved here.
And finally….goal fest
The four goals here make this the Premier League fixture with the most goals scored, and minds hark back to classic fixtures in the 90s including that 4-4. This was another quality game. So, whatever your allegiances, this fixture remains one of the most entertaining in te Premier League.