In the 30th minute Jordan Henderson looked up and saw Sturridge making a marauding run. It was a fast break moment and all he needed to do was make a simple pass to the Liverpool forward and it was going to be a clear goal scoring opportunity. Instead, he hit the ball wildly and even Sturridge, himself a mediocre player, looked at Henderson with daggers. At that moment I wrote myself a note, something to the effect that “Liverpool are such crap that Jordan Henderson can’t even make a simple pass on a breakaway and Arsenal’s defense is so comical that it makes Jordan Henderson look good.”
In fact, if there was a man of the match it was Jordan Henderson. Not because of his stellar individual play, but because Arsenal made him into the man of the match.
The first goal Arsenal conceded was simply blightful. Sagna lost his footing when Suarez’ lame pass was inches from the Arsenal defender. Then Glen Johnson crossed what was essentially right at both Mertesacker and Vermaelen. The big German was too slow to get to the ball but the little Belgian was there and all he needed to do was kick the ball out of play. Instead he took the biggest swing and a miss in the history of the sport, the momentum of his swing was so great that it flung him dramatically in the air and landed him square on his face. He couldn’t have executed that move any better on the set of Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo.
Sturridge was so confused by all this Keystone Coppery that he just shot straight at Szczesny. Ramsey tried to collect the rebound but it was behind him and his flick at the ball played it right to… HENDERSON. The man of the match passed to Suarez who also was surprised by his good fortune and since Suarez has difficulty scoring with his feet, unless he uses his hands first, he shot straight at Per Mertesacker. All Mertesacker had to do was stand still. Instead, the German jumped and pirouetted balletically and Suarez’ shot went in.
Liverpool’s second goal was just as comical. Henderson again gets the ball, and this time he’s sandwiched between Mertesacker and Santos. Mertesacker sticks out a leg, Henderson skips past him, Santos stands there for a second and then decides to try to pull Henderson down by the shoulders, but Jordan Henderson, the Lionel Messi of Liverpool, powers on into the box. Aaron Ramsey comes flying in and gets a block on Henderson’s shot but the ball bounces off Santos and falls into Henderson’s path and he scores with aplomb.
Liverpool were so poor that they needed no less than three comedy errors before they could score on Arsenal. Case in point, at the 43rd minute, Suarez plays Henderson through on goal. Arsenal’s normally solid keeper, Szczesny, comes out of his area and stands in front of Henderson with the goal gaping behind him. If Henderson had any talent at all he would have scored. One-on-one with a keeper out of his area is a dream situation for a decent footballer. But not Jordan Henderson, he chipped well over the box after taking a fortnight in deliberations. See, Liverpool needed at least three comedy mistakes before they could score and in that case Szczesny only offered the one.
Meanwhile, on the other end of the pitch Arsenal were at their rapacious best. Slicing through Liverpool’s own comedy defending with excellent passing and incisive dribbling. There was never any doubt that Arsenal would score and fans didn’t have to wait long after Henderson’s goal before Giroud delivered the goods.
Wilshere took a rare Arsenal long free kick and floated the ball perfectly to Giroud who simply nodded down. It was 1-2 now and Arsenal were back in the game, the Emirates faithful singing in full voice. It paid dividends as well as three minutes later Giroud slipped a neat little ball to Theo Walcott in the crowded Liverpool box. The Englishman slammed home down and to the right, where Peepee Reina has a known weakness. It was such a weird goal that I had to rub my eyes to check if I was actually awake.
From that point on it really looked like Arsenal would get the winner. Or maybe they would concede the winner, either way, a winner was there for the taking.
Cazorla and Wilshere were dynamic and surging forward. The Spaniard had a great cross fizz across the box and all Giroud needed to do was be a step earlier for an easy tap in. There were open shots from all sorts of angles that simply floated over or off to the side. If the first 75 minutes were carnival, those last 15 minutes were the day that the carnival wraps up: everyone wandering around drunk, looking to get that last elephant ear or play one more carnival game.
It was pure madness. So much so that in the 92nd minute, Andre Santos (who had been subbed on for the injured Gibbs) made a disastrous pass into the midfield which was picked off easily by Liverpool. At that moment I did something I’ve never done in my entire sports viewing life: I threw my pen on the ground and didn’t even watch what happened next. Apparently Liverpool didn’t score, see, because just one mistake, no matter how awful, wasn’t enough to gift that steaming pile of shit a goal.
And that’s Arsenal this season. Going forward they are a joy to behold, sometimes. When they are on, like in that second half last night, they are almost unstoppable, but they aren’t on all the time. In fact, the team doesn’t seem to be on even half the time. Arsenal didn’t even start this match until the 50th minute or so.
But at the back, they have the most errors of any Premier League team and they have the uncanny ability to put in 4 or 5 errors at a time gifting terrible players like Jordan Henderson man of the match-like performances.
Sorry but a top four team can have one or the other but they can’t have both. And Arsenal have just 14 game left to try to find a streak of good form in either department.