The everlasting divisional rivalry between Liverpool and Arsenal has never received an official name, but one suitable title, at least in the context of the current Premier League season, would be the battle of the #managerout hashtags.
Indeed, Brendan Rodgers and Arsene Wenger have found themselves at the brunt of the fans’ frustrations this season, with the Reds and the Gunners both some way from achieving their Champions League qualification ambitions in sixth and tenth place respectively, and as ever in the modern world, that’s manifested onto social media.
In the last 28 days, 110,946 Twitter posts have included either the #WengerOut or #RodgersOut hashtags – a worrying increase from around 80,000 in the same time period previous. #Wengerout was posted around 15,000 times alone following a 3-2 defeat to Stoke City on the 6th of December and at one point in the last 28 days, it became a national trend in Nigeria. Meanwhile, Rodgers’ peak came after Liverpool’s 1-1 draw with Basel on December 9th, eliminating them from the Champions League, with the #RodgersOut trend picking up 5,209 hits. Perhaps more worryingly for the Liverpool boss, the @RodgersOutClub account now has nearly 5,000 members since its creation in September.
So when Liverpool and Arsenal drew at Anfield yesterday evening, it was always going to be a case of damage limitation – at least in terms of Twitter analytics. But who came off worse from the 2-2 affair?
In regards to hashtag tracking it was Wenger who drew the most criticism, undoubtedly due to the manner of the result. Arsenal played poorly – in fact, statistically speaking, it was their worst performance since the incarnation of OPTA in 2003, recording their lowest ever possession figure of just 36.5% (their average this year is 58.9%, only bettered by Manchester City) and the most shots against them, 27, in eleven years. But even so, the Gunners were within five minutes of taking all three points until a stoppage time header from Martin Skrtel – the subsequent emotions being far more familiar to a defeat. Resultantly, 4,557 tweets included #WengerOut yesterday.
In comparison, the last-gasp 2-2 draw must have felt like a victory for Liverpool – especially compared to their 3-0 loss to Manchester United the weekend prior. They were largely the better side throughout the ninety minutes, most particularly in the first half, and #RodgersOut was posted just 1,596 times. That’s almost honeymoon traction compared to Wenger’s current average of 3,118 per-day over the last month, but still an increase on Rodgers’ average of 1,043 per-day, suggesting disillusion towards the Anfield boss is continuing to grow.
A significant factor in that will be the nature of the performances; unfortunately for both managers, Liverpool and Arsenal were unravelled yesterday evening by the same ailments that have plagued them all season.
For Liverpool, it was another set piece goal that cost them dearly; the Reds have conceded 14 times from either free kicks or corners in their 26 games across all competitions this season, including Mathieu Debuchy’s header for the Gunners yesterday. Most infuriatingly for the fans, it came just a minute after Philippe Coutinho’s technically superb opener, with the 5 foot 10 full-back somehow out jumping Liverpool’s leading aerial combatant Martin Skrtel, who measures in five inches taller, at the far post.
Arsenal could be accused of poor defending too – Per Mertesacker was anonymous when competing with Skrtel for his last-minute header, whilst Liverpool’s first goal of the afternoon stemmed from Arsenal losing the ball in their own third.
One could argue both teams were undone by dogmatism of their own idealist approaches; the Gunners caught trying to over-complicate things in possession, the Reds quickly exploited on the counter-attack for Olivier Giroud’s strike.
Interestingly, both ‘Liverpool poor defending’ and ‘Arsenal poor defending’ hit their Twitter peaks for the month yesterday evening with inclusion in around 600 tweets – closer to 1,000 when adding tweets that contained #lfc and #afc instead of official club names.
There were certainly no clear winners from the Anfield draw; neither #RodgersIn or #WengerIn – two hashtags that for a significant segment of Twitterites are used in ironic jest – breached the 1,000 barrier on Sunday, despite enjoying highs of around 2,500 and 3,000 respectively at the start of the month.
But in terms of who came off worse it has to be Wenger. In addition to this being reflected in the analytics, as previously discussed, Arsenal squandered a win that would have seen them move within two points of the top four, whilst Rodgers can at least claim his Liverpool side triumphed through adversity to save a vital draw, propelling them over local rivals Everton into the top half.
With both #RodgersOut and #WengerOut still consistent in their popularity however, the battle of the #managerout hashtags is still far from conclusion.