Neil Ashton for the Daily Mail

Arsene Wenger predicted a challenge for the Barclays Premier League, but after Monday night’s goalless draw with Liverpool his Arsenal side are already five points behind leaders Manchester City after three games.

Arsenal are nervous and vulnerable, particularly at home and they could not break down Brendan Rodger’s team. Here is why…

Arsene Wenger watches his side lose even more ground in the Barclays Premier League title race

Arsene Wenger watches his side lose even more ground in the Barclays Premier League title race

CHAOTIC DEFENDING

Christian Benteke was always likely to bully Arsenal’s inexperienced central defenders, but the pre-match plan to nullify his threat always looked ill-conceived.

Gabriel, who barely speaks a word of English despite his arrival last January, was detailed to man-mark Benteke at goal-kicks and all all set-pieces.

Chambers, along with left-back Nacho Monreal and right-back Hector Bellerin were instructed to mark zonally. It looked chaotic.

Arsenal’s patched up defence was a bag of nerves, frequently gifting the ball to onrushing and grateful Liverpool attackers.

Benteke, Firmino, Coutinho and James Milner, captain for the night in the absence of Jordan Henderson, all had chances to put Liverpool ahead. Arsenal undoubtedly missed the experience and guiding hands of Per Mertesacker at the heart of the defence.

Fortunately for Arsenal they had the towering presence of Petr Cech to stop Liverpool scoring in an eventful first half. 

Christian Benteke was denied by Petr Cech as Arsenal's goalkeeper kept his side in the game

Christian Benteke was denied by Petr Cech as Arsenal’s goalkeeper kept his side in the game

MORE REF BLUNDERS 

With more games being played in isolation and screened live on television than ever before, the more scrutiny for the match officials. This was no different.

It has not been a good start to the season for the country’s elite referees and decision to disallow Aaron Ramsey’s first half strike beyond Simon Mignolet highlighted their deficiencies once again.

This is fast becoming the norm in the Barclays Premier League and came just one week after referees’ chief Mike Riley admitted that it was a mistake to allow Christian Benteke’s goal to stand against Bournemouth.

Arsenal had their share of luck in their 2-1 victory at Crystal Palace when Francis Coquelin escaped a red card, despite expecting to be sent off for repeated fouling.

The season is just over two weeks old and, sadly, the list of refereeing errors is already endless. 

Referee Michael Oliver talks to Liverpool captain James Milner and goalkeeper Simon Mignolet 

Referee Michael Oliver talks to Liverpool captain James Milner and goalkeeper Simon Mignolet 

LUCAS AID

The Brazilian midfielder divides opinion, but stationed in front of Liverpool’s back four he was a calming influence in the team.

Lucas, who is still expected to join Besiktas on a season-loan before the deadline, was drafted in for his first appearance in a Liverpool shirt this season because of Jordan Henderson’s injury.

Despite his lack of minutes on the pitch the Liverpool midfielder’s mature performance gave Roberto Firmino and Emre Can the confidence to make their frequent raids.

Henderson’s absence through injury was a massive loss for Liverpool, particularly with his increased stature at the club following the decision to make him captain of the club.

In his place Lucas did a good job in the boiler room of cutting out the supply line of Arsenal attacks from Aaron Ramsey, Santi Cazorla and Mesut Ozil.

Lucas worked hard in Liverpool's midfield but the visitors missed injured skipper Jordan Henderson

Lucas worked hard in Liverpool’s midfield but the visitors missed injured skipper Jordan Henderson

BRENDAN RODGERS

The Liverpool manager looked isolated in the technical area towards the end of last season, but the change in coaching personnel has certainly perked him up.

The decision to fire Colin Pascoe and Mike Marsh following Liverpool’s dreadful end to the season was brutal, but Rodgers had to make some tough decisions to freshen up the camp.

With Sean O’Driscoll and Gary McAllister installed as coaches, Rodgers is frequently turning to them and using the pair as a sounding board during matches. That makes them feel valued.

McAllister’s playing experience, particularly during the latter stages of his career in the Liverpool team, will be invaluable to Rodgers as the season progresses. 

Brendan Rodgers now has Sean O'Driscoll and Gary McAllister to turn to on the Liverpool bench

Brendan Rodgers now has Sean O’Driscoll and Gary McAllister to turn to on the Liverpool bench

WALCOTT WOE

Theo Walcott’s camp let it be known that he is now level with the highest-paid player at the club when he signed a new five year contract. If that really is the case, what is he doing as a substitute? 

Walcott convinced Arsenal to cave in and give him a massive contract after his goal against Aston Villa in last season’s FA Cup final and he went on to start the Community Shield against Chelsea.

At this stage of his career the Arsenal forward should not be sitting on the bench as one of the most expensive substitutes in the history of the game. It was Wenger’s decision to pay him the big bucks and if he really believes he is a top player, he has to find a place for him in the team.

Theo Walcott had once again to make do with coming off the bench for Arsenal in the second half

Theo Walcott had once again to make do with coming off the bench for Arsenal in the second half

TITLE CHALLENGE

What has happened to the risk, the sense of adventure and the attacking thrust that makes the Barclays Premier League so compelling? Clubs are cagey all of a sudden and this had the feel of a game that neither team wanted to lose so early in the season. We have to put that right.

If Liverpool or Arsenal are to compete with Manchester City and Chelsea for the title, then they have to approach games as big as this believing that they can take the three points.

Instead Arsene Wenger’s team are too nervous at home, possibly a consequence of that surprising defeat against West Ham on the opening weekend of the season.

Liverpool fired balls into Benteke in the first half, but Arsenal’s defence got to grips with him after the break and largely cut off the supply line.

Alexis Sanchez looks dejected as Arsenal struggled to make an impression in front of goal

Alexis Sanchez looks dejected as Arsenal struggled to make an impression in front of goal


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