LIVERPOOL 5 ARSENAL 1
Our recent fine form at Anfield came to an end with an embarrassing 5-1 defeat. Unbeaten in our last six league games at Anfield, victors in three of the last four, I was nervous going into the game on the basis of fearing such a good record couldn’t keep going at such a tough ground. But what I had feared was a cruel draw or a narrow defeat. What I didn’t expect was the absolute thumping that we got.
Before going any further I’d first like to congratulate Liverpool. I’ve been accused elsewhere of not being gracious in defeat, of pissing on their parade. That most certainly wasn’t my intent. Saturday’s performance was the best I’ve seen from a Liverpool side in many years. Their front line was fast and formidable, serviced by the excellent Coutinho (note: as this is the praise Liverpool paragraph I’ll overlook the fact he spent large parts of the game kicking Jack Wilshere). Their defence is still open to questions, but having taken the lead they defended well in numbers and were ruthless on the counter attack. In fact, they were ruthless all over. Every mistake we made, they punished.
However, here comes the ‘but’ you’ve been waiting for, the one that has seen me accused of pissing on Liverpool’s parade. But we made a lot of mistakes for them to punish; we were bloody awful, the worst we’ve been this season. I’m an Arsenal supporter; always have been, always will be. So I’m not interested in analysing the opposition, I’m interested in The Arsenal. There are occasions were you have to hold your hands up and say you’ve simply been beaten by the better team (think of recent defeats to the all-conquering Barcelona and Bayern Munich sides). But this was not one of those occasions.
We were 4-0 down after 20 minutes. That’s as many goals as we’d conceded in our previous 900 minutes of football. That wasn’t just down to Liverpool, that was down to us. The first came from a set-piece. It maybe shouldn’t have been a set-piece (the free kick was generous) and it may have been offside, but you still have to defend it better than we did. Likewise the second, another set-piece (this time a corner) which saw an unmarked Skrtel get his and Liverpool’s second. It was worse defending than the first goal.
The third came when Özil decided to fall on his arse and claim a free-kick when there hadn’t been anything even remotely resembling a foul. The turnover of possession saw Mertesacker and Koscielny exposed to the counter-attack and we were punished. And it was a repeat for the fourth as Özil once again gifted away possession. The fifth, added shortly after half time, saw us caught out by a run in behind found by a long ball over the top. It was embarrassing. The defence was far from its best, but the protection and ball retention in front of them was non-existent all game long.
A couple of excellent Szczesny saves kept it at five, whilst a Mikel Arteta penalty (after Gerrard foolishly brought down Chamberlain) gave us a consolation goal. Afterwards a very upset Arsene said:
Congratulations to Liverpool, they were the better team today and we were very poor today. Only our fans were good for 90 minutes, that’s all.
I don’t think you’ll find any arguments about that statement from any Arsenal fan. Our defeat combined with Chelsea’s victory over Newcastle has seen us drop to second (surprisingly not third after Norwich held City to a 0-0 draw). Now it’s time to respond.
UNITED AT THE NEW HOME OF FOOTBALL
They say that if you fall off a horse you should get straight back on it and tonight’s game against United provides us with the perfect opportunity to bounce back. Thanks to an 87th minute equaliser West Brom took points off of the Russians last night, so not only do we get the opportunity to respond to the Liverpool debacle, but we also have the opportunity to bounce straight back to the top of the table. What more could we ask for?
Arsene has said we must not forget how well we’ve done this season and he’s right. It’s vitally important that both players and fans remember how good they’ve been and bring their best to The New Home of Football tonight. We’re well in this title race, so do we want to sit and sulk or stand up and fight? We’ve got an abundance of quality so let’s show it. And what better punching bag to unleash your frustration on than Manchester United?
After our other set-backs this season we’ve responded well; after Villa we won ten in a row and after City we went unbeaten for ten in a row. Let’s start our next run tonight. Victory would be extra sweet; a response to the doubters, back to the top of the league, compounding United’s misery. It’s time to stand and fight. Up The Arsenal.