Arsenal 0 Liverpool 0: Calum Chambers and Gabriel Paulista endure torrid first half but recover to keep Reds out

Arsenal 0 Liverpool 0: Makeshift defensive pair secure a clean sheet after awful first half

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The Independent Online

The news of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny's absence, for the visit of Liverpool, was greeted with an audible groan around the Emirates as the announcer revealed the teams before kick-off.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is accustomed to batting away criticism of his defence, but combating the likes of Philippe Coutinho and Christian Benteke with Calum Chambers and Gabriel, both out of position, fanned a fire he has tried in vain to douse.

Hector Bellerin, usually so assured, became tangled up with himself as Coutinho cut him and his teammates to ribbons. While Gabriel, making just his seventh appearance for the Gunners, expertly dispossessed Benteke to prevent a certain goal on the half-hour mark, his ability to gift the visitors with possession on the outskirts of Petr Cech’s penalty area was second-to-none.

 

Chambers, meanwhile, hadn’t started an Arsenal match since 21st March and, despite interest from former club Southampton, Wenger insisted his time would come.

The England defender will wish his return had been postponed another week. Liverpool were electric, chasing every lost ball as Roberto Firmino showcased the wasp-like tendencies which will surely endear him to Kop regulars in no time.

But, if it weren’t for the efforts of Francis Coquelin sat in front of them, mopping up the danger, the hosts' backline could have been responsible for their side having a three goal deficit to overturn in the second period.

Coutinho appears to be in the form of his career, finally matching his promise with the performances which, one would imagine, will see him break into the Brazil squad after years of disappointment.

Chambers and Gabriel's salvation would invariably arrive, however, once Arsenal's attack started to deliver at the opposite end of the pitch. Only then would the hosts be able to alleviate some of the pressure heaped upon their shoulders.

After an indifferent first-half showing, Mesut Ozil was the man to do just that, orchestrating his side up towards Simon Mignolet's goal. While some may have been amazed by the prospect at the break, the Gunners were well worth their clean sheet come full-time.

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