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

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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

Quotes

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!

Arsenal v. Liverpool; liveblogging the second half

All right kids… second half will kickoff in about 4 minutes. I have to shift some stuff in the garage to make room for the wood. Be right back.

Uhhh…. the FSC graphic just said that Liverpool had 55% of the possession. Really?

Jesus, according to the stats Arsenal are getting destroyed. Liverpool have 7 shots, 4 on goal and Arsenal have managed just 2 shots. And yes, Liverpool have 55% of the possession.

Cesc is out, Diaby in… Second half is underway.

49′ — Liverpool is dominating the game, Arsenal is still playing the high line and, now the word is that Cesc had ligament damage in his knee. How will they respond?

50′ — Adebayor responds… with a disgraceful dive.

57′ — The boys are playing hard but they can’t seem to get anything going. Liverpool with 60% of the possession now.

62′ — Yay! Webb sends off Adebayor for a dive by Arbeloa. Good job Howard Webb, someone seriously needs to send these matches to the FA for review. Webb’s bias against Arsenal is so fucking transparent it’s not even funny.

67′ — van Persie yellow now. Webb’s having a great game.

70′ — Sagna yellow probably could have been a red, very high tackle intended to take the man. Webb shows some lieniency. Babel on to add more attacking to Liverpool.

73′ — Carragher goes in the book for a foul on van Persie. Was he last man? No Keith, he’s not a scouse, Webb calls the game against Arsenal whether it’s Chelsea, Man U, Liverpool, or anyone.

75′ — Gerrard dives and then shows up the ref, the “respect” campaign has been a joke since day one. Where’s the yellow for Gerrard, Webb?

80′ — Is Liverpool playing for the draw?

81′ — Lucas commits his 18th foul of the game and finally picks up a yellow. Robbie Keane off. I hope he slips in the shower.

82′ — Arsenal corner. Whatever happens with this match I am very proud of this 10 man team.

88′ — Song has put in a massive performance, his final ball is not quite up to snuff, but he ran his heart out and harassed the Liverpool midfield.

90′ — 3 minutes added. Arsenal looking tired, they have to dig deep to keep this score line.

91′ — Eboue on, Nasri off. Crowd claps. Good job Goonahs.

93′ — Arsenal free kick, wasted by Almunia. That was funny, though, Wenger directing people, Almunia takes the kick at the center circle and flies it straight out of touch.

The boys showed some real heart today, fighting back from a 10 man squad to beat Liverpool plus 12th man Howard Webb. I’d like to see Wenger take Webb to task for that game, he was a complete disgrace and actually caused more tension on the pitch than he solved. I’d also like to see Arsenal challenge the red card, but that won’t happen because the ban will be just one game and they don’t want to risk an extra match added.

Right, look for the Good, Bad, and Ugly tomorrow. I’m off to collect some wood.

Arsenal v. Liverpool; liveblogging the first half

“Change of plans… LEG IT!” — Dave “Cinzano Bianco” Lister

Well, it snowed, a lot and the roads around my house are completely covered in a nice layer of snow, with a nice thick layer of ice as the base.

I’m going no where. :(

That said, I haven’t lost power and I have a line on a truckload of wood (that’s why god made Craigslist). So, I’m going to hunker down, watch the game on FSC and give my loyal reader (Hi Matt) a blow by blow. Get your mind out of the gutter, you cocksandwich.

Ahead of the match there’s some talk about Arsenal signing Andrei Arshavin. Now I know I promised not to talk about transfers, but you don’t understand. Just mentioning Andrei Arshavin, Andrei Arshavin, Arshavin,  Arshavin, gets me like eleventy billion hits.

But seriously, I will be very disappointed if Wenger gave £20m to that racist ass Zenit team for a cup tied Andrei Arshavin. There have to be equally good, better conditioned, non-cup tied players available for less money.

As everyone is pointing out, with the Villa win yesterday putting them in 3rd place, the Villa game upcoming on Boxing Day, and 4th place Man U a mere 2 points ahead of Arsenal but with two games in hand, this is the make or break match of the season.

Yeah, I know, if Arsenal slip 11 points behind Liverpool with a loss today, the boss will point out how the 1997/98 Gunners came from 11 points behind to beat defending champs Man U but in reality that seems highly unlikely. Someone on this team would have to break out of their shell and become PFA player of the year for that to happen.

Ok.. HEY! Good news, Rafa is still recovering from his kidney stone surgery and won’t be able to make it. Now, if only Gerrard and Alsonso and Mascherano could all be out…

I’ll be back when the lineups are announced.

Squads:

Arsenal: Almunia, Sagna, Djourou, Gallas, Clichy, Denilson, Fabregas, Song Billong, Nasri, Adebayor, Van Persie. Subs: Fabianski, Diaby, Vela, Ramsey, Silvestre, Wilshere, Eboue.
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Agger, Insua, Kuyt, Leiva Lucas, Alonso, Riera, Gerrard, Keane. Subs: Cavalieri, Hyypia, Benayoun, Babel, Ngog, Plessis, El Zhar.

No Mascherano but as I expected, Keane gets the nod… damn.

The guys lineup and shake hands, those grey Liverpool kits are about as ugly as a kit can get.

3′ — tense opening minutes, with both sides content to sit back and crowd the midfield.

4′ — Webb is inserting himsefl into the fixture very early. I think he’s called 5 fouls already, mostly in favor of Arsenal.

7′ — 10th foul, van Persie has a mowhawk. Unless you are 38 years old or older, you shouldn’t have a mowhawk.

10′ — the crowd is up and screaming as Keane is played onside by a wandering Clichy and lays the ball off for a Gerrard shot. Easy save for Almunia but disasterous communication on defense as Clichy makes his first gaffe of this game. Come on Clichy, get your head in the game.

14′ — Clichy wastes a great opportunity. GET IN THE GAME BOYS.

17′ — I think Arsenal is playing a 4-5-1 with van Persie playing a very deep, defensive role.

20′ — Keane gets a yellow for an over the top tackle. It could have been a red. Clichy is slow to get up. Would Silvestre come in?  Yep, he’s warming up in his goose down.

24′ — ROBIN! van Persie shows his class and strength as he fights off Carragher to win a Nasri pass, chests it down and powers in a shot with his Chocolate Leg.  Great goal, great goal.

27′ — Keane is giving everyone fits back there. He’s got a lot to prove and he’s really putting a physical stamp on this game. Also, ladies and gentlement, Expobill is is in the house!  Welcome, Bill.

30′  — mesmerizing play from Arsenal leads to nothing. Come on boys, have a crack! Also, I want to point out that Song is having a good game, watch him.

39′ — Sorry, I had daddy duties. Not much happened anyway. Denilson is having a tough match and Adebayor picks up a yellow card for a very light foul. That’s a Webb v. Arsenal yellow if I ever saw one.

42′ — Arsenal are struck playing their “8 men in the opponent’s box ball holdery bullshit.” And of course, it’s Keane. F*cking hell.

45′ — Liverpool have belief, they are shooting from all over the pitch, Arsenal are in disarray.

The half time whistle couldn’t have come at a better time. Cesc limps off anf that has to be a concern. I know that Wenger wants to play “attacking football” but why is it that we need to attack with 8 men? WITH THE LEAD??? Maybe we could, you know, keep Sagna back or something? Or attack with 6 men, or play the long ball against them, you know, we have the lead.

Not any more. 1-1 and it could have been 1-2 if Gerrard had just a little better final touch today. So far, we’re seeing that “typical Arsenal” and I hope the manager has a solution at half time.

Second half over here.