It was a game that needed to be won. Three points were vital. But we only managed to get the one after a poor defensive display, especially early on, again. We were lucky in the end that Tottenham and Chelsea, both also drew, but this makes it all the more frustrating in some respects as we could have gone to gain on them, if we had won.
Liverpool played as well as they have done this season, and putting us under pressure early on seems the way to be the way to play against Arsenal, like a fashion, but who can blame our opponents when each of Liverpool, Chelsea and Man City have succeeded in doing this and ultimately leaving us with a mountain to climb. A 2-0 deficit every time.
It borders unexplainable. Wenger puts it down to a psychological ‘nervousness’, but they need to be mentally tougher as Wenger always proclaims them to be. These are fully grown men, international footballers, being paid tens of thousands a week. Everyone gets nervous, but why is it Arsenal that seems to be the only team with a consistent problem in the same area. One thing is for sure. Fourth place will quickly slip away if we continue to defend in that manner.
The defensive frailties were catastrophically exposed from offset. Bacary Sagna slipping over, adding to his list of mistakes that lead to goals. But he wasn’t single-handedly to blame. Vermaelen’s attempt at a clearance was abysmal. Szczesny made a good save, but with four or five defenders you expect the ball to be cleared. It comes to Suarez after Ramsey dances around it, and he inevitably takes the shot. Mertesacker is one of the biggest players around, he has 85 caps for Germany and is internationally acclaimed. Is it just something about Arsenal and defenders? Per jumps and turns his back, like a schoolboy. All I can call it really is pathetic. It takes a deflection off of Per and goes in. 1-0 to the visitors.
It was by no means all Arsenal. But Liverpool were unworthy leaders at half-time. We had a number of opportunities, most notably Theo Walcott with a great chance on the half-volley a minute or so after Liverpool scored their first. However, Liverpool defended deep, and did it well. We were limited to passing around the box for a lot of the first half and were then subjected to their counter-attack which produced a goal line clearance from Podolski, and a shot from Henderson in an attempt to lob Szczesny who had to come off his line.
G0ing into the second half we looked more positive, it seemed that we could turn things around. However, the circus were in town in the defence and Mertesacker and Santos were put in Henderson’s pocket as he dribbled through them. His first shot was saved but bounced back to him and he put it away with ease. It was 2-0 and the fans were absolutely furious, believe me.
As luck should have it, the attacking players were having a great game despite the lack of goals. They reaped the rewards eventually with a Giroud header, and a great striker from Theo Walcott, both coming in a matter of minutes to make it 2-2. Liverpool’s resistance had yielded enough for us to get these goals, which were deserved, but it’s in these games you need a solid defence so the goals count for more. It’s not as easy as playing West Ham or Newcastle, where we will score many in the ‘we will out score you’ philosophy.
Despite our pressure, Liverpool held out for 2-2. Giroud should have scored at least one if not two. The most obvious chance was a one-two with Podolski but it was deflected marginally and got lost in his feet. The second, a header which he should have done better to get on target.
Liverpool had a few opportunities too. Santos, with another dreadful game, with a minute to go plays it to a Liverpool player in our half and thanks to a great save from Szczesny again he was let off the hook. I think he owes Szczesny a beer.
It will do nothing to appease the fans though, and with Gibbs out for 3 weeks as the original forecast, I hope dearly that Wenger plays Vermaelen at left-back or even buys/loans someone. Just not Santos, anyone but him. When we play Bayern, Robben, Ribery, if fit, will tear him to pieces every time, every minute.
Priorities for deadline day have to be defensive-wise. There’s no good signing Villa, as much as I’d love him, with the defensive issues that are occurring. I personally am not satisfied with Sagna this season, nor with Mertesacker and obviously Santos especially without Gibbo. A defensive midfielder to hold things steady back there is needed too, but it all depends how confident Wenger is. Hopefully he isn’t cocky because he has good record of things just working out in the end but this year has to be the toughest of them all.