Van Persie 24
A good point earned or another opportunity missed? A difficult debate, and perhaps one that raises more questions about our performance than a result like this should?
I guess it’s a measure of how far we’ve come this season, and perhaps how out of sorts Arsenal have been, that we should be talking about a missed chance to pick up three points at the Emirates? Although today’s papers will be full of Adebayor’s sending off, Liverpool fans will be preferring to ponder on our inability the take advantage of this in a game where we were the dominant side for long periods, both in terms of possession and chances created.
However, before we start banging on about lack of flexibility or inability to go for the jugular, we should ask how many times have we seen ten men hold out or, as Arsenal did yesterday, rise to occasion? Yesterday was not a unique situation in football and, whisper it, would we have taken a point if was offered it at the beginning?
Rafa was absent, convalescing after his midweek operation however he was still in charge via the “Batphone”. Did it glow red when the bench called him up!
We began well and in a manner that lasted throughout the game. No bamboozling, quick feet or intricate moves from the home side this time as we nipped them in the bud or quickly snuffed them out time and time again. This was reminiscent of the last season’s Champions League game however, it looked easier this time and, once we got possession, we were able to attack with relative ease and create a string of good chances.
Many of these came from by passing Arsenal’s most effective weapon, their midfield, and exploiting their most vulnerable, their defence either by getting the ball wide or simply lofting it over the top for players to run on to. The first strike was from such a move – Agger to Keane who knocked back to Gerrard to blast straight at Almunia.
Crude tactics against a team renown for enlightened play? Not so as Arsenal showed they to were not averse to “slumming it” when Nasri knocked a long over the top pass forward to Van Persie. The Dutchman collected well and skillfully created space and time to blast past Reina.
Nonetheless one always had the feeling that we would get more opportunities and sure enough Keane picked up another long ball from Agger and simply lamped a half volley past Almunia before he could even think about he was going to do. Keane, being an ex Spurs man, did the usual goal scorers celebration of hands to the ear but one could not help pondering if this gesture was also aimed at those outside the stadium, in the media and, dare I say it, further north on the end of a phone?
Gerrard then missed his second chance of the game stretching out to try and to convert Kuyt’s low and hard cross from only six yards out. Later Kuyt fizzed one across the face of the goal which even though it was going wide, Almunia daren’t leave. Into the dressing room and just ahead. I wonder if Rafa’s phone had a “conference call” so he could give the half time talk!
The second half sending off should have been the signal for us to kick on but instead we stalled or opted to protect what we had. Perhaps we were waiting for instructions from Rafa who in turn had to go and answer the door or, worse still, perhaps Mrs Benitez was hooverng around him and accidently pulled the phone jack out of the socket! In fairness Arsenal didn’t allow us to force home the advantage as they rallied and had one of their better spells although we nearly won it via Agger’s vicious long range effort or a deft El Zhar to header that went just wide.
The sending off? Both Adebayor’s yellows were for over the top tackles. This first was deserved the second was harsh but given the rules these days, and referee’s inability to see nothing but black and white and exercise a degree of common sense, predictable.
After the game Wenger, just like after last season’s Champions league defeat, was graceless, giving us little credit and predictably preferring to blame two more dropped points at home on the sending off even though he seemed to have conveniently forgotten that his side had their best spell after this. He then, laughably suggested that a tackle by Keane was just as harsh as Adebayor’s and deserved red instead of yellow. By the way Arsene, Father Christmas doesn’t exist!
And Rafa? Hopefully he’d hung up by then and was enjoying a satisfying cuppa in front of The Antiques Roadshow!
Arsenal: Almunia, Sagna, Djourou, Gallas, Clichy, Denilson, Fabregas (Diaby 46), Song Billong, Nasri (Eboue 90), Adebayor, Van Persie.
Subs Not Used: Fabianski, Vela, Ramsey, Silvestre, Wilshere.
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Agger, Insua, Kuyt, Leiva Lucas (Ngog 88), Alonso, Riera (Babel 71), Gerrard, Keane (El Zhar 81).
Subs Not Used: Cavalieri, Hyypia, Benayoun, Plessis.
Booked: Keane, Carragher, Leiva Lucas.