Apr 212009
 

Liverpool 4 (Torres 49, 72, Benayoun 56, 90+4) Arsenal 4 (Arshavin 36, 67, 70, 90)
(Premiership)

Where do you begin after a game like that? When the complete rollercoaster of emotions finally ended, after an age of injury time, both sides looked flat, with us being denied a famous victory at the last, and Liverpool knowing that their title dream was probably over.

But what a game it was. It had everything – turnarounds, great saves, clearances off the line, a stunning four goal salvo from our Russian magician, late goals, and most of all, shambolic defending from both sides. A 4-3 win would have been a remarkable smash and grab win, and it looked to be going that way until we shot ourselves in the foot yet again.

The only place we can begin is the beginning. Liverpool showed understandable urgency in the first half but after Fabianski had put his Wembley nightmare behind him to deny Torres (three times) and Benayoun, we took the lead against the run of play. Nasri robbed Mascherano, fed Cesc, who squared the ball for Arshavin to hammer in off the crossbar.

At half time Sky made a big deal of whether Cesc was offside or not, which was frankly bizarre. In freeze frame, he was clearly on side, but in any case the fact they were debating it meant the linesman had made the right decision. Gerrard, unsurprisingly, still said he should’ve been flagged despite the clear evidence in front of him. One of these days Sky might get decent pundits.

The lead flattered us, but despite knowing that Liverpool would come out hard in the second half, we couldn’t cope. Song and Denilson were having a nightmare, doing none of the protecting they were in the side for – the only midfielder offering help to the defence was Nasri, who worked hard all night and doesn’t get the credit he deserves for continually tracking back and breaking up attacks.

But one man offering the back five some support wasn’t enough against Liverpool in this mood, and when Sagna sliced his clearance to Kuyt, he was able to find Torres, who powered a header into the corner. Sagna looked off colour all night, as if not yet fully recovered from his illness – he put in a much shakier performance than we’re used to seeing.

Minutes later, we were behind – Fabianski and Gibbs got into a tangle and Kuyt found Benayoun, who nodded in despite Sagna doing his best to hook the ball away. After doing so well up to that point, Fabianski will be disappointed – he somehow ended up in his own net, making the save after the ball had already crossed the line.

Liverpool were rampant, and with two defensive midfielders not doing their job, Wenger acted, bringing Walcott on for Denilson. But it was Arshavin again who sparked us back into life, showing hunger in robbing Arbeloa before lashing a fierce shot past Reina from distance. It was an incredible hit – Reina barely had time to move before it was past him.

arshavinliverpool1

The goal was out of the blue, but minutes later it got even better – Aurelio made a hash of Nasri’s cross, presenting Arshavin with the ball on the penalty spot, and he completed his hattrick in style, hammering past Reina again.

That was the time to calm things down, but yet more slack defending meant the lead lasted only two minutes. Torres made mincemeat of Silvestre on the edge of the area, and then fired past Fabianski, who got a hand to it but had little chance to keep it out.

Silvestre had looked like an accident waiting to happen all night – lucky to escape a booking for taking Kuyt out early, he always seemed to need one touch more than necessary, and for all his experience, was unable to take control of the defence. Disappointing, but that’s why he’s fourth choice – the only disappointment is that injuries have forced him into a side playing at a level he no longer seems able to match.

At 3-3, I feared the worst, and Torres nearly completed his hattrick, only for Gibbs to superbly clear off the line. had that gone in, I think we would have lost the game, but with Liverpool searching frantically for the winner, they left themselves open to a counter attack, and from another corner, Walcott sprinted away, laid the perfect chance on a plate for Arshavin, who tucked it away with his left foot. He seems to be equally capable with both feet.

That should’ve been that, but Liverpool kept getting the ball into our box, and eventually Benayoun was given a ridiculous amount of time to fire home from ten yards and grab a point. In a central position, there was no-one near him – five players were outside the area and Silvestre had turned his back. It summed it all up.

Being denied a victory at the last always hurts, but when you reflect on the game you have to concede that it would have been a victory we didn’t deserve. We only had Arshavin’s four efforts on goal, while Liverpool continually tested Fabianski. On the other hand, you could say we played a perfect counter attacking game, only for our defence to let us down.

So what of the individuals? Clearly Arshavin will get the credit, and rightly so. I won’t get into the debate on whether his performance sends a message to Wenger, but it is probably fair to say he’ll be in the critical games next season. Elsewhere, Nasri was superb. Involved in two of the goals, his defensive workrate was outstanding, something I haven’t seen him praised for. His reading of the game is excellent, and he seems to have an innate understanding of when to help his back line out.

Cesc was involved and had some good moments, Fabianski was mostly excellent and will become a quality keeper, and Gibbs was good. On the down side, Song and Denilson were anonymous, especially the latter, and simply couldn’t cope with Liverpool’s energy. Bendtner struggled up front (but then he always does when isolated), and Silvestre showed exactly why United were so happy to let him go.

Overall, despite the late equaliser, it is a good point. Coming off the back of a draining defeat to Chelsea while Liverpool were resting, we were always second favourites, and that before Adebayor and Van Persie had added to our injury troubles. So to go to Anfield and score four times shows the sort of mental strength Wenger has been claiming they possess all season. It maintains the unbeaten run, and proves we can still cut it against the top teams, even when we’re not at our strongest in personnel and performance.

Fourth is all but assured, but we are unlikely to rise higher. I’m putting together a piece on what that means for next season, but that is for another time.

Right now, enjoy Arshavin’s night. We may not have won, but we’ve just scored four at Anfield without half our team. It isn’t all bad. Although I’m not sure my heart rate’s slowed down enough for me to sleep anytime soon.

  9 Responses to “Arshavin’s night ruined by some dreadful defending but in truth a draw is decent”

  1. Despite the fact we deserved nothing, why has no match report mentioned our TWO disallowed goals????

  2. I thought both were offside. Bendtner’s was close, but Cesc was clearly off. In both cases, the defence stopped when they heard the whistle.

  3. What a load of crap. Song had a decent game. It was the absence of a contribution from Denilson, no tracking back by Arshavin and Cesc playing high up the field that failed to protect the very shaky defence. Sagna had a mare as did Silvestre and Gibbs struggled to cope. You cannot blame Song for that.

  4. disagree with your assesment of Song was one of the few players in midfield to hold on to possesion and strong enough to withstand tackles from liverpool players

  5. Agree with Vicky on Song. He was fine, but got no help from Denilson. Song really grew into the game in the second half and made a half-dozen critical plays when we were under fire.

    Also…Not sure who would have stopped at any whistle because Reina played the shot on Bendtner’s “goal” — and he WAS onside. Dead even with the defender.

    (Cesc was way off.)

    Having said all that, a draw was fair.

    Meanwhile, Silvestre is a disaster.
    Since we’re not getting a centre back returning soon, I wish Arsene would drop Song into that slot, play Nasri and Cesc in central mid, Walcott and Arshavin on the wings (in the league) with Ade and RVP up front if they’re healthy.

    I have NO fear of Nasri protecting Cesc and the back four would improve dramatically with Sagna healthy again and Song playing alongside Kolo.

    In the CL, it would be tougher to get the personnel right — but somehow I wish he could move RVP onto Arshavin’s wing to make room for Eduardo up front.

    I don’t get it how RVP plays so comfortably on the wing for Holland but hasn’t seemed settled there for us.

    What I fear is that we’ll see Nasri back on the wing against United — with Denilson, or even the atrocious Diaby — stuck behind Cesc.

    Diaby is a crashing liability, so please, please keep him out of these CL showdowns!

    Cheers.

  6. i’l write a short version of ur nxt season piece 4u.we need a quality cb,dm & & striker in the summer & nasri cannot be wasted on the wings!he must play in the hole behind a fast, lethal striker which means we must spend sum money & offload bendtner who is s**t! Another quality dm to challenge song,send denilson on loan to wigan:) otherwise he shud only be a squad player as he is not ready/can’t cut it against top teams & we need 1 taLL cb to match the likes of drogba. & wenger needs to let go of the purse strings & let gazidis continue to do a gud job otherwise we are goin to be battling everton & villa again for 4th place nxt season. And it mite be a gud idea to get a defensive coach:)

  7. We need more depth! Stop signing shit kickers like Silvestre, invest in some quality. Also, if a player starts making a position his own and playing brilliantly, eg Song, start him in a big game, don’t bother with Denilson anymore he is simply not good enough. He should be playing for Everton or Fulham but not good enough for the Arsenal. Never has been and never will be.

    Brilliant response from Arshavin after Wenger stupidly didn’t start him against Chelsea, unfortunately he still won’t get to play in a big game until next season. Legendary performance though.

  8. The defence has again failed. I fear that in the cl,it will again cause Arsenal problems. This highlights a common thread :the gunners are unable to hold on to a lead for a sustained peiod of time. This has been going on a for a couple of seasons and until this is rectified AW can never win atrophy.

  9. Arshavin is now the best player in the prem league

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