Kompany could return for Manchester City
LONDON -- Three thoughts on Arsenal and Liverpool's gripping 3-3 draw in Friday's Premier League clash at the Emirates.
1. Game of the season or a comedy of errors?
It was a game that perfectly summed up the appeal of the Premier League and the flaws of the two teams who shared six goals in a thriller at the Emirates. There were goals, breathtaking counter-attacks, missed chances and, most of all, awful defending. Arsenal and Liverpool once again scored a perfect 10 in the entertainment stakes but when Arsene Wenger and Jurgen Klopp sit down to assess just why their teams will not challenge for the Premier League title, they will see it in the defending that could have seen this game end as a 7-7 draw.
The problem for both clubs is that neither Wenger nor Klopp seem too concerned about the defensive naivety which continues to plague both sides. Going forward, they both have devastating quality but the defending was non-existent at times, with the brilliance of both teams in an attacking sense only being aided by theur respective inability to sense danger in the defensive third.
Philippe Coutinho's opener for Liverpool was the result of Arsenal failing to stop the smallest man on the pitch winning a header in the six-yard box, while Mo Salah was left to run unchecked in the middle of the pitch before curling a shot through the huge gap between Arsenal's centre-halves for the second.
Arsenal responded, with Alexis Sanchez punishing Joe Gomez for failing to spot his run at the far post before Mesut Ozil made it 2-2 with an easy chip over Simon Mignolet. Then came Granit Xhaka's 30-yard strike that put Arsenal 3-2 up, a swirling effort Mignolet should have saved but didn't. Roberto Firmino's goal for 3-3 was another example of bad defending, with Arsenal giving him time and space to shoot before beating Petr Cech.
It was great to watch, no doubt about that, but for the purists who enjoy defending? Forget it.
Liverpool were predictably brilliant and brittle in Friday's 3-3 draw at Arsenal.
2. Klopp must solve Liverpool's goalkeeper problem
There can be no fun in being a Premier League goalkeeper nowadays. Everything is stacked in favour of the attacking players to the extent that even the balls are now more difficult to keep out of the net because of their design. The difficulties and challenges that keepers face make it even more remarkable when the likes of David de Gea produce 14 saves in a game to earn a victory, as the Manchester United keeper did against Arsenal earlier this month.
But during this pulsating clash at the Emirates, both Simon Mignolet and Petr Cech displayed their frailties as they allowed their opponents to score.
Cech should have saved Firmino's strike, which looped over him for Liverpool's third goal, after getting his hands to the shot, but the former Chelsea keeper misjudged the pace of the effort and still allowed it to beat him. Mignolet, meanwhile, was exposed by Arsenal's second goal when he was beaten far too easily by Granit Xhaka's 30-yard strike. Yes, the ball dipped on its way to goal, but Mignolet's timing was all wrong and he was pretty much waving to the ball as it flew into the net.
Mignolet could argue that ball moved in the air but he is playing for one of England's biggest clubs and should be good enough to deal with that.
Too often he has proven himself to be unreliable and Jurgen Klopp really must find a better solution than either Mignolet or his error-prone understudy, Lori Karius.
Mesut Ozil gave Arsenal a second-half lead, albeit one they could not hold.
3. Wilshere gives Arsenal cause for optimism
Jack Wilshere's Arsenal career appeared dead and buried last season as he toiled away on loan at Bournemouth, struggling to make an impression with Eddie Howe's team before eventually losing his place. If he couldn't cut it on the south coast, what chance did he have of fighting his way back to the first team in north London?
It has certainly been a long road back for the England midfielder, with injury problems and an early season suspension not helping his prospects, but he started his third successive Premier League game against Liverpool and emerged as arguably Arsenal's best player.
Wilshere is 26 on Jan 1 and his contract is due to expire at the end of the season, so Arsenal have a big decision to make about the home-grown player. If he can stay fit, Wilshere has the talent to be a central figure in this Arsenal team. He has tenacity, desire and the ability to pick a pass: three crucial qualities in any side. But Arsenal have allowed his contract to run dangerously close to the line and they risk losing Wilshere as a result.
For all of his injury problems, he retains admirers at Arsenal's rivals, with Manchester City holding a long-term interest in him. Arsenal have the chance to end all the uncertainty by handing Wilshere a new deal now.
Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_
The first of Chelsea's festive fixtures kicks off at Saturday lunchtime in what will be a testing encounter against Everton. With Sam Allardyce now at the helm and Wayne Rooney rebooted if not quite reborn, the atmosphere at Goodison Park should be buoyant.
One player that will not be in the host's lineup is Ross Barkley. The England international has not featured at all this season after incurring a hamstring injury in the summer and although he has resumed full training he is still searching for match fitness. Considering Barkley's current physical status, it is therefore curious to see Chelsea once again being linked with a move for him in the January transfer window.
Having seen a late attempt to secure his services in the summer fall through at the 11th hour, perhaps it is not that surprising that Chelsea are still interested, especially when London rivals Tottenham are also reportedly gunning for his signature. Equally, with Barkley's contract at Everton expiring at the end of the season and the player having shown little desire to remain on Merseyside, he should be available for a cut-price fee.
Nevertheless, his return to form will not be quick after such a long layoff, which suggests any meaningful contributions this season will come in the latter stages. With Antonio Conte never wasting an opportunity to state his need for a bigger squad, targeting a player in January that will not be able to hit the ground running seems confused.
Positionally, Barkley is a creative attacking midfielder that harbours ambitions of being a No. 10. That in itself is another problem in that it is an area in which Chelsea are already very well stocked. Eden Hazard is the resident superstar in that position while both Willian and Cesc Fabregas are more than capable of shining in that role. There is no obvious need to acquire another player of that ilk at the moment, not when cover at wing-back and striker is still required.
More worryingly, if there is any veracity in the transfer rumours, it begins to cast a very big question over any future that Ruben Loftus-Cheek might have at Chelsea. The academy product is enjoying an excellent campaign at Crystal Palace where he has emerged as one of their key players, first under Frank de Boer and now Roy Hodgson. He has become a full England international in the process, even being named man of the match in the 0-0 draw with world champions Germany.
While not identical, there are many similarities in their respective games. Both Barkley and Loftus-Cheek are very comfortable on the ball in tight areas; both are able to pick out teammates with precision and both are capable of carrying the ball forward with powerful surging runs. Looking at their shared qualities, it would seem bizarre for Chelsea to buy a player with a similar skillset -- quite possibly even an inferior one given Loftus-Cheek's physical prowess -- when they already have one on their books that they have nurtured since the age of 8. Factor in their contrasting form at present and that only one of them currently has a chance, albeit an outside one, of making England's World Cup squad and a bidding war with Tottenham in January over the Everton player makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.
Moving for Barkley last summer might have made a degree of sense in terms of having extra options in the squad with four different trophies in their sights. Although injured, he could have spent his recuperation acclimatising to his new surroundings and the tactical demands of his new manager. That his summer switch to Stamford Bridge fell through should not be held against him, however. Having decided to seek a future away from Everton it is understandable that Barkley wanted time to properly plan his next transfer rather than being bundled out of the door with the clock ticking away on deadline day. Now 24, his next move will be the most important of his career and deserves proper consideration.
For Chelsea, going for him now when he will immediately be struggling for fitness and form at a club where the scrutiny is intense and expectations are always high does not seem to suit anybody in the short term. His signing would ostensibly be one for next season, one where Loftus-Cheek is destined to return. It would effectively place yet another barrier in his way with no discernible benefit to the squad. If Chelsea are to shun arguably their most talented graduate of recent times in favour of an unproven facsimile, then they might as well padlock the gates of their Academy and throw away the key.
Phil is one of ESPN's Chelsea bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter @PhilLythell.
Jordan Henderson left Liverpool's game against Arsenal early in the first half with an apparent leg injury on Friday night.
Henderson pulled up in the ninth minute after chasing Mesut Ozil, and physios treated his right hamstring on the pitch before he limped off.
James Milner came on to replace Henderson, who now appears unlikely to feature over the rest of the busy holiday fixture period.
Liverpool next play at home against Swansea on Boxing Day before hosting Leicester City on Dec. 30 and travel to Burnley two days later.