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Sterling handled flak; Rodgers right-back howler; Alexis, Coquelin epitomise Arsenal; Liverpool B actors

STERLING? WHAT'S THE PROBLEM?Amid Arsenal's frenzied start to the game, Raheem Sterling didn't get on the ball until inside the sixth minute - and even then he was quickly dispossessed by a Gunners tackler. But he wasn't Liverpool's worst player on the day. Indeed, Sterling really didn't show any ill effects from a 48 hours full of criticism from Liverpool's media boot room. As Jim Beglin noted, 'How old is he? 20? No matter what happens, he has a £100,000-a-week offer on the table. What's he have to worry about?"

RODGERS TACTICS ALMOST WORKEDBrendan Rodgers has been hammered in some quarters for his team selection - particularly leaving Daniel Sturridge on the bench for the start of the game. And for that opening ten minutes, you'd agree. Liverpool couldn't get out of their own half. Arsenal were irresistible, with Santi Cazorla pulling the strings in his new central role. The visitors were screaming out for a centre-forward to hit from the back, just to relieve the pressure. But then Liverpool began getting on the ball more, Lazar Markovic and Philippe Coutinho, playing behind Sterling, were becoming more influential and the Gunners defence couldn't live with the pace of the front trio. Rodgers had out-thought Arsene Wenger. Liverpool were the better team for the majority of the first-half. If Markovic had been better for THAT pass to a clear Sterling, the scoreline would've been much different. Hector Bellerin's opener didn't come until the 37th minute. Two more inside eight minutes and the game was over. But it could've been much, much different if not for some poor finishing from Liverpool when it was in the balance. For Reds fans, think Sterling, Mario Balotelli and the defeat at Manchester United earlier this season.

LIVERPOOL RIGHT-BACK DILEMMA BAFFLINGRodgers' team selection was baffling - and not just from the kickoff. He named two right-backs and a centre-half on his bench - yet none of them made the pitch even when the manager's original defensive plans had been ripped up. Liverpool conceded four goals yesterday and finished the game with Dejan Lovren, Glen Johnson and Javi Manquillo all on the bench. Rodgers started the game with a back three, but abandoned it at halftime for a traditional back four. But still his two recognised right-backs were left in the dugout. Jordan Henderson, then Emre Can, were fielded at right-back (or right wing-back in Henderson's case). You're going to Arsenal. You're playing against some of the best attacking players in the world. And you leave your two recognised right-backs on the bench for two midfielders? You wonder whether Rodgers was just filling the bench for the sake of it.

WHAT WAS MORENO DOING?What was Alberto Moreno doing for Hector Bellerin's opener? The Liverpool fullback put his arms behind his back and invited his fellow Spaniard to shoot. There was no charge to close him down, it was all 'please, after you sir'. Staggering piece of defending. The fullback also struggled in defeat to Manchester United a fortnight ago. We can talk about Luis Suarez, but Jon Flanagan's absence has also hurt Liverpool this season. Last year, Brendan Rodgers ditched local lads Martin Kelly and Jack Robinson, replacing them with Moreno and Javi Manquillo, who was left on the bench yesterday. Has the decision worked? Evidence would suggest not. Flanno can't get back soon enough.

ALEXIS AND COQUELIN EPITOMISE THE NEW ARSENALThe two big differences with this season's Arsenal are Alexis Sanchez and Francis Coquelin. Both players offer Arsene Wenger something his teams have missed since the breakup of the Invincibles. They're obviously very different players, but the energy and tigerish attitude is the same in both men. Coquelin was throwing himself into tackles at times. He drew a standing ovation just before halftime when winning three challenges on the halfway line almost in the same motion. What's really impressive is that even with the blood boiling and adrenaline thumping, after winning a 40:60 challenge he still has the composure to play the easy pass. He's still learning, but he knows his role. For Alexis, the Chilean's goal was a screamer. But what really sums him up was on 88 minutes, with Arsenal 4-1 ahead. Most players would be happy to see the game out. But Alexis clattered into Mamadou Sakho in an attempt to win a far post header. There was no reason to do it. But he just loves the game and loves to compete. From kickoff to the final whistle, his attitude never changes.

CURRENT LIVERPOOL A TEAM OF 'B' ACTORSLiverpool's starting XI yesterday appeared a team of 'B' actors. A nice support cast. All decent enough players, but no game-breakers, no characters capable of stamping their authority on a match. That has to be a concern for Brendan Rodgers. Alexis Sanchez, Santi Cazorla and Laurent Koscielny are three players capable of changing the course of a game. Liverpool, without the suspended Steven Gerrard, just don't have the same personnel. Daniel Sturridge is capable of filling such a leadership role. But the spine of Liverpool's team just doesn't look up to scratch when compared with the current top four.

CAN ARSENAL AFFORD OZIL LUXURY?Can Arsenal win a major title with Mesut Ozil a first choice? He scored a wonderful free-kick and also sparked Bellerin's opening goal with a raking pass from inside the Gunners half. But when Liverpool were shading the contest, he was almost a liability at times. Coughing up possession in dangerous areas or even failing to get the ball under control when Arsenal were breaking forward. His stats suggest no Gooner works harder in a game. But he's not 'busy' like Cazorla and Alexis. Ozil was good yesterday. But in the clinches, in a decisive game against a Chelsea or Barcelona, the idea of him producing a consistent full 90 is a stretch on current appearances.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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