Football: Souness short of solutions

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Liverpool. .0

Arsenal. . .0

ABSORBANT rather than absorbing, Arsenal put up one of those typically economical performances at Anfield yesterday, and that was all that was needed to frustrate a Liverpool team who have now failed to score in five successive Premiership matches.

At this rate, things could go even worse for Liverpool this month than they did in the last. September brought their worst sequence of results since early in the century, which reflected badly on a manager who has spent millions in his two and a half years. He reckons he will see out another two and a half years of his contract. Not if this run goes on.

Too many hurtful things have happened in Graeme Souness's time for many of the fans to afford him sympathy, and yesterday the possibility of last-minute defeat by Arsenal and further sinking in the table provoked dark thoughts of another asinine show of confidence from the board. In fact, that defeat was narrowly avoided.

Liverpool were familiar with Arsenal's liking for late winners and needed to get something on the scoreboard ahead of them. However, with Nigel Clough withdrawn to the anonymity of no- man's land behind Ian Rush and Robbie Fowler, a lot of effort was supported by scarcely any ingenuity. David Seaman dealt positively with everything he faced. A couple of awkward, early low drives from Don Hutchison and Jamie Redknapp were clutched to his body, and as time passed it became clear that it was not Liverpool's day. They can now play moderately well but struggle for victories - which is the exact reverse of their old, successful days, when they could play indifferently and win. 'Sooner or later the goals will come,' Souness said, but his tactics yesterday were open to criticism.

Since they lacked width, everything Liverpool did was channelled directly into the trap set by Tony Adams and Andy Linighan. They urgently needed variation of the sort that Steve McManaman could have provided. Souness kept him on the bench.

Arsenal themselves created minimal opportunities, but biding time is one of their arts. Even news that Manchester United were a goal behind Sheffield Wednesday failed to raise their tired pace. The interval lectures did more for Liverpool, who emerged more committed, if still goal-shy. One of their most worthy attempts came early in the second half when the defender Neil Ruddock blasted a 30-yard shot that Seaman touched over the bar, although the referee took credit away from the goalkeeper by giving a goal-kick.

The fact that fortune is not with Liverpool at the moment was highlighted when Fowler at last saw gaps in the Arsenal defence but needed to make 20 yards centrally before an acceptable shooting chance became clear. By that time, Seaman had come to meet him, and his shot thumped into the diligent goalkeeper.

Inevitably, Arsenal waited until there were 10 minutes to go before thrusting forward in numbers. Campbell shaved the far post, but Arsenal's best chance of snatching a late goal came when Eddie McGoldrick's low cross went directly to Paul Merson, who promptly fell over. It really wasn't much of a game.

Liverpool (4-3-1-2): B Grobbelaar; R Jones, M Wright, N Ruddock, J Dicks; J Redknapp, P Stewart, D Hutchison; N Clough; R Fowler, I Rush. Subs not used: D James (gk), R Whelan, S McManaman. Manager: G Souness.

Arsenal (4-4-2): D Seaman; L Dixon, T Adams, A Linighan, N Winterburn; E McGoldrick, J Jensen, P Davis, P Merson; I Wright, K Campbell. Subs not used: A Miller (gk), A Smith, R Parlour. Manager: G Graham.

Referee: G Ashby (Worcester).

(Photograph omitted)