Arsenal 1-1 Liverpool; The Good, Bad, and Ugly


Match Reports

ESPNSoccernet: Ten Men Gunners Hang On.

BBC Sport: Robbie Keane struck a stunning equaliser as Liverpool remained top of the Premier League and maintained an eight-point advantage over Arsenal.

Lee Dixon’s Tactical View: Arsenal have a problem in defence that I have noticed in a few games this season – and it was particularly evident during Sunday’s draw with Liverpool


Today was Be A Gooner, Be A Giver, but you cannot say the referee was a Gooner, he was a giver, giving yellow cards that we didn’t deserve. Every week when we play away from home, we are told people get in our faces and we cant cope. I should show you our players after some games we play away from home; it is a joke. Neither of the bookings were justified. It is just an unbelievable decision; if Adebayor goes off, then Keane has to go off in the first minute. It seems we have different rules. The decision cost us two-points today, and I do not agree with it all. — Arsene Wenger vents some spleen during a post match interview.

The Good

I’m in the vast minority here but I felt like Song had his best game in an Arsenal shirt and put in the kind of performance that could cement him as the first choice holding midfielder. It remains to be seen if he can do that week in and week out, but his workrate was absolutely stunning, his passing was decent, and I felt like more than any other player he lifted the team emotionally in the second half after Adebayor was sent off: pushing forward when they needed and tracking back on every play. I accept that you won’t believe me so please have a look at his heatmap. In addition to his constant hard work, he completed 83% of his passes, won the ball 5 times (on 5 attempts) and made no fouls. You can compare him to any other player either from the ESPN link above or through the Telegraph’s player stats. They both show Song in a favorable light, though he only scored 5 or so on the player rater.

If I had any criticism of Song it’s that he didn’t make any fouls. Lucas Leiva in comparison had a better passing percentage, won more balls and committed more fouls. Part of that position’s craft is to learn how to make hard fouls and get away with it. Song won’t be a complete player until he learns how to be a bit of a cunt, like Lucas was yesterday.

Chocolate Thunder scored a superb goal off a superb assist from Nasri. With both teams playing a 4-5-1 (well, Liverpool was playing a 4-2-3-1 and technically Arsenal played a 4-4-2 though van Persie was dropping deep and defending like a midfielder) the midfield was very crowded so it should be no surprise that both goals came by bypassing the midfield. That said, it was an unusual goal for Arsenal and did a lot to cement my feeling that we played more like the visiting team. Despite it’s unusual nature, it was a good goal and Arsenal would do well to have a try at those types of goals more often.

After a poor first half where Liverpool dominated possession, shots, fouls and injuring Arsenal players, Arsenal found themselves down a man and suddenly decided to play like the home team. Song found another gear, a gear I wish he would just keep switched on, Denilson got forward and I thought for sure van Persie would get a second, but it wasn’t to be.

What I’d like to see is that sometimes, matches like these can galvanize a team. When you feel like everyone is against you (which clearly it was 12 on 10 for the last 35 minutes) it’s easy to look to people who feel the same way you do for comfort. This has its own problems — “group think” can be problematic if they don’t want to face reality — but it can be a very powerful group dynamic. I think we saw some of that budding yesterday. I haven’t seen this Arsenal team play with as much heart as they did after losing Cesc and Ade.

The Bad

Xavi Alonso and Cesc went in on a 50-50 challenge and Cesc came out with some kind of knee ligament damage. I am certain that Alonso didn’t intend to hurt Cesc, but regardless, Cesc will be out for at least a month. Clearly Arsenal will need to “replace” Cesc during that period. Please, don’t everyone say “Arsene needs to buy” at the same time, so doing might cause a rift in the fabric of reality and Arsene might actually buy a player.

Or he might just bring in King Ramsey I because when he was asked after the match if he was looking at buying someone like Arshavin he answered “No. No. No.” For the record, I only mention that because it affords me the chance to mention Arshavin and get some free hits.

I also hated having to watch Robbie Keane score a goal against Arsenal, it made me sad, but worse was how he scored the goal. It was off a very poor display of defense from the back 4 and especially Gallas. Yes, Gallas. Watch the replays… Keane is playing between Gallas and Djourou and actually closer to Djourou so it’s easy to blame Johan because it looks like it’s “his man” but, as Lee Dixon points out, there are several things that led to that goal: poor pressure from the midfielders allowed Liverpool to pick out that pass, the god damned frustratingly stupid ass insane high line (they were at the midfield circle for f*ck’s sake) gave Keane acres of space to run into, poor communication at the back led to confusion, and Gallas didn’t cut Keane off because he was in the wrong position. Watch the video again and you can see what I’m talking about.

It’s frustrating because these are some simple changes that would make a huge difference to Arsenal’s defense. Why can’t Wenger make them?

The Ugly

Obviously, Howard Webb is the focus of our collective ire. It was good to hear so many pundits after the match say “I believe Howard Webb is a good referee but he’s had a very poor game today.” That’s a good because this isn’t the first time we’ve seen Webb have a poor game against Arsenal and had to sit through those same pundits blather on about how we’re just a bunch of whiners and that Webb shits gold-plated whistles  — at least now some doubt is starting to creep in.

Webb needs to be investigated for bias against Arsenal. There are a lot of very unusual things that happen when Webb refs an Arsenal match: the Rumble at Wembley,  3 of Arsenal’s 5 losses last year, awarding dubious free kicks in great positions against Arsenal (which he did time and again yesterday), awarding 2 penalties against Arsenal in 5 matches last year, and now this Adebayor incident.

If I break down the whole Ade/Webb face off, I think the first foul was for a “high tackle.” Webb saw Adebayor step over the ball to claim it from Carragher and deemed that an “over the top – studs up” challenge. He did make contact and so fair enough for the first yellow.

On the second yellow, no one is quite sure what the foul was given for. Some people think it was for the same move that earned him his first yellow — the problem with that is that he NEVER MADE CONTACT and there was certainly no intent. Some people think it was for the “elbow” to the face of Arbeloa. That was as clear a dive as I have seen all season, if Webb gave Adebayor a yellow for that then he’s the most easily fooled ref in the EPL. And there is some speculation that Ade earned a yellow for dribbling on and having a shot after the whistle went. If that’s the case then Webb clearly has something against Adebayor, maybe stemming from Ade’s disgraceful display in the Carling Cup final (where he refused to leave the pitch when Webb wrongly sent him off for Eboue’s “foul.”) Moreover, if those two tackles are yellow card tackles then Keane’s over the top lunge that actually left Clichy limping, has to be a red card and Sagna’s over the top, rash challenge should have been a red card as well. There has to be some equivalence in tackling: it’s not fair for Arsenal to get players sent off for slight or even no contact and for opponents to get warnings for heavy contact.

I suppose we’ll hear more from the FA about the incident as Adebayor and  Wenger have both spoken out against it.  I expect that Wenger will receive a touchline ban and Adebayor will get a few extra matches tacked on for asking the ref to apologize. It’s a mess and probably did no good to take Webb to task, but I’m sure it felt better to have a go at him. I know it made me laugh to hear Wenger call Webb a “giver.”

Final Thoughts

Well, Arsenal haven’t moved up nor down in the league and though three points would have been a beautiful way to go to Villa I have to say that I am very proud of this team and getting the draw. Everyone is writing them off, referees are calling matches against them, and 4 of their most talented players are injured, yet they are in 5th place and only 8 points off the title race. More importantly, they showed what kind of team they could be after reduced to 10 men. Should they take that commitment to Villa park on Boxing day they will surely come away with three points.

Right, the weather is seriously insane here and we’ve had work canceled again (thus the late blog — I was waiting for news about Cesc’s injury) so I might head down to Doyle’s to watch Everton beat Chelsea. Drop me a line if you think you might be able to make it.

It’s good to be a Goonah!

12 Responses to “Arsenal 1-1 Liverpool; The Good, Bad, and Ugly”

  1. 1 Keith Barham
    December 22, 2008 at 10:07 am

    If this had happened to ManUre, Fergie would’ve been apoplectic during and after the match. The poor fourth official would’ve been strangled. The FA would have made an inquiry and Webb would be working League Two matches on Boxing Day.

    Instead our side says things along the lines of, “I disagree with this decision” and things move on exactly as they have before. Still, I have to think there will be plenty of eyes on who is doing the matches for a while. The best matches are generally when I do not know who is the referee, although Webb seems to be of the celebrity ref school that the NFL’s Ed Hochuli chairs.

  2. 2 Bilbo
    December 22, 2008 at 11:08 am

    Howard Webb is a myopic, Gooner disliking twat. End of.

  3. 3 gooner1985
    December 22, 2008 at 11:31 am

    poor poor arsenal. i cant wait for villa to beat us on boxing day, cos we are shite.
    were not even gonna make the top 4 this year cos were a bunch of arrogant cunts.

  4. 4 Chris
    December 22, 2008 at 11:52 am

    “as Lee Dixon points out, there are several things that led to that goal: poor pressure from the midfielders allowed Liverpool to pick out that pass”

    Liverpool picked out the pass? Haha. It was an aimless punt upfield that landed just perfectly for Keane. Very hard to criticize the Arsenal midfield for not pressuring, since it was the pressure that caused Agger to clear the ball. My only complaint was that Gallas was too far from Keane and Djourou was slow to react.

    As for the rest of the game it’s hard to say what would have happened if Cesc or Ade would have remained in the game. This game won’t cost us a shot at the title. Just like 2005-2006 our form against the big sides is fine, but we need to finish off the smaller teams. I’m an encouraged, however, because the 05-06 team reached the CL final.

  5. December 22, 2008 at 12:34 pm

    Chris, you make a good point about Arsenal’s form against other big sides. I’m going to write about it tomorrow!

  6. 6 Keith Barham
    December 22, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    On the plus side, Terry was just sent off for a studs-up tackle. He was looking for the official even before he stopped sliding.

  7. December 22, 2008 at 1:02 pm

    Come on you Blues!

    /Everton, obviously.

  8. 8 Matt
    December 22, 2008 at 1:54 pm

    I’m still depressed.

    Sports never used to affect my mood…and then I found Arsenal….

  9. December 22, 2008 at 2:30 pm

    Cheer up Matt, Everton eeked a draw against Chelski and that means that Arsenal are only 8 points from the title.

    This is a good team, not a great team but a good team, and are capable of bringing home some silverware.

    Also, being depressed is a prerequisite for being an Arsenal supporter!

  10. 10 barnaby
    December 23, 2008 at 2:28 am

    Not sure, but I think Djourou was closer to where the ball first touched down that led to keane’s goal, could be wrong on that but just not sure. As for pool winning the title, I just didn’t see the title going to their team. Quite pleased with our esprit de corp though, refreshing and reassuring, albeit far too intermittant. However, cesc’s injury in my view could just rule him out for the season. As a result, I don’t find the Arshavin rumours too farfetched as Wenger will now feel compelled to buy a midfielder, maybe two. 20 mil is obviously too high, but i think a signing is imminent.

  11. December 23, 2008 at 7:11 am

    Djourou was closer but Gallas is the more experienced defender and needs to be organizing the defense, he has failed at that all year. Also, he was the player most directly between Keane and the goal. He’s the sweeper, Djourou is the stopper so while Djourou was guilty of ball watching, Gallas should have been aware of the danger, should have organized the defense better, and should have been in a better position to sweep up. It’s not like Liverpool were playing two strikers.

    Also, let me just say that the Arshavin at £20m is as stupid a rumor as I have ever seen. Arsene wouldn’t part with £18m for Alonso, whom he’s praised, and stubbornly refused to raise his bid from £16m. So, why on earth would he spend £20m on a player whose fitness he has openly questioned? Especially when an equally good no-name player is probably available for £10.

  12. 12 barnaby
    December 23, 2008 at 2:14 pm

    Tim, note, ‘a signing is imminent’, it may or may be a player called Arshavin, but 20 mil quoted by zenit will in all probability not be paid by us. Also, if history is anything to go by, I wouldn’t quote Arsene’s statements as gospel esp in tranfer dealings where he’s known to be a bit cagey. Anyway, midfield by committee is always a possibility but i just think Wenger will be looking at our current place in the table and see the need to make a move. If you have something personal against rumour I can understand, but Arshavin, like Fellaini are quality and the key is not to pay over the top. Of course Wenger can find a no name, younger and cheaper, but i doubt that will fully address what the team needs. We may have just lost the capitan for the season.

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