Liverpool 4-4 Arsenal; the Quad, Quad, and Silvestre

Match Reports

ESPNSoccernet: Arshavin hits four

Telegraph: Liverpool’s title dreams suffer setback as Arsenal’s Andrei Arshavin stuns Anfield

Match Video

See four of the sweetest goals and four of the worst goals you will ever see over at the Arsenalist.

Man of the Match

There’s no question that Arshavin gets the Champagne here.  He put Arsenal ahead three times only to be outdone at the back. He worked every minute of that game, defending his ass off up front, tracking back all night and even sprinting forward at to 90th minute to score an absolutely brilliant left footer that should have seen Arsenal bag all three points.

Yesterday, I wondered if Andrei might do something to show Arsene the error of benching him in the FA cup on Saturday but I never expected him to come out and put in the performance of a lifetime.

And as for scoring four goals in a league match, well, that makes him the first player to score four this season, only the second Arsenal player to ever score four, the sixth player to ever score four in an away match, and in the long history of the Premier League only the 19th player to ever score four.  Oh yeah, and to take a huge dump on all that he’s the first player ever to score four in a game and not get a win, which sucks.

The Good

I believe it was a game, not only with goals but with technical quality at a high speed and for me it was top, top level tonight. Did that provoke the mistakes at the back? I don’t know but it was at a frenetic pace and it was enjoyable to watch and it’s a credit to the Premier League tonight.Arsene Wenger on Arsenal’s 4-4 draw with Liverpool.

I shudder to think how many goals Arsenal would have let in had Song not been back there to shield Silvestre from himself. Which is my way of giving a shout out to Song.

The Bad

silvestre denilson sagna

Conclusion

If I told you before the game that Arsenal were guaranteed to get a draw at Anfield you probably would have taken it. Similarly, if I told you before the match that Andrei Arshavin would score 4 goals, you certainly would have taken it. But if I told you that Arsenal’s makeshift back four would gift Liverpool 4 goals you would have ripped me a new one.

Overwhelmingly, it seems, most Arsenal supporters are upset about that last bit but for me, as I was watching the game, I just felt that Liverpool were not going to be denied and that the Arsenal defense was not going to be able to hold the door shut against them. So, I just kind of let go and just let the game happen. I put aside my partisanship for a bit and just watched as both teams poured on the goals. I mean, Arsenal was going for a 5th goal at the end there, and if not for a poor decision by the linesman would have had it. Liverpool too, had at least one good shot at a 5th goal. And it was really enjoyable to watch two teams play that hard for 90 minutes.

I’m not forgiving Silvestre his multiple transgressions, in fact I’ll be the first to point out that this is his second nightmare match in a row, but what I have done with this player is just take a step back and look at it as objectively as I can: he sucks but he’s all we’ve got. I guess I could bitch and moan about it and complain about how Wenger not only didn’t bring anyone in but let Senderos go (maybe forever) but that’s not going to change the frightening fact that he’s pretty much all we got going into a Champions League match against Man U next week.

He’s all we got back there and you have to laugh. Because if you don’t laugh at the ridiculousness of the whole thing, it might drive you mad.

The only thing I feel bad about is that we saw what is in all likelihood Arshavin’s finest ever game and it was in a 4-4 draw.

Oh, and by the way… Arsenal are unbeaten in 19 consecutive league matches now. Which is something else to laugh about.

Liverpool v. Arsenal; it's up for grabs now!

Footyprints

Lots to get to today, including a story that could very well represent the biggest change to English Football since the Taylor report recommended abolishing terraces in the wake of the Hillsborough disaster. Unfortunately, I can’t devote any space to the story that a group of MPs have decided on their own that three of the top four teams are engaged in ‘financial doping’ and that English teams should adopt the 6+5 rule, irregardless of the fact that it’s illegal and immoral. No, I can’t devote any space to that because we have a full plate just dealing with today’s blockbuster away match to Liverpool.

Straight away into injury news. There’s some speculation that Adebayor is missing today’s game as a sort of punishment for his gormless performance against Chelsea on Saturday. This speculation is fueled by the previous speculation that he was being held out of the first team because he had put in a string of pathetic performances prior to coming up with a hamstring injury against Tottenham. Certainly, the fact that he was out for a month and a half and only came back into the squad after playing for Togo did nothing to quell this particular bit of fantasy. And more surely, Arsene Wenger’s recent statement that Ade “has a little hamstring alert and we don’t want to take a gamble on him” in light of the absolutely shameful match where he was subbed for Stumpy Bendtner against Chelsea will do even less to quell the rumors that Adebayor is in the dog house, if not on his way out.

Speculation aside, Adebayor and Robin van Persie are both left out of today’s match. With Wenger stating that the latter has an actual groin pull, which all footballers know is in some ways harder to recover from than the dreaded hammy pull that Adebayor is now constantly suffering. I wouldn’t be overly surprised to see both rested even further than today and possibly the boss would go as far as resting them against ‘Boro on Sunday.

The good news is that Eduardo has been included in the team, and given the dearth of first team strikers, Arshavin will almost certainly get a chance to shine — and perhaps a chance to show the boss why he should have picked him in the FA Cup. I suspect Wenger will employ ye ole 4-2-3-1 with Bendtner holding the line, Arshavin on the right, Nasri on the left, and Cesc in the middle. This will be almost certainly be followed by Song and Denilson providing cover for a back four of Sagna, Toure, Silvestre, and Gibbs.  If things are going poorly, look for Dudu to come of the bench and the shape to change to a 4-4-2.

Without Steven Gerrard and with Wenger employing Cesc in the attacking midfield role, there will be two key battles today; Cesc v. Mascherano/Alonso and Torres v. the Arsenal defense. Don’t be surprised to see Cesc marked out of the game, Liverpool’s two midfield enforcers are incredibly difficult to beat. That’s where Arshavin will be called in to play a huge role. Also don’t be surprised to see Sagna/Gibbs play a more reserved role as the speedy Torres cannot be handled by Silvestre — as we all saw against Droggers on Saturday. The other thing to watch for is how the two bosses massage their lineups to exploit each other’s weakness. For example, if Sagna is being reserved Torres will move more toward the right and if Cesc is being marked out Arsenal might drop him deeper and create space between the fence and the defense (I just made that up calling the two defensive midfielders a fence, get it? GET IT???).

I’m really excited about the match and it should be a fun game to watch. Both teams have a lot of pride AND are both are playing for more than just pride. Liverpool need a win to keep their title pursuit alive and Arsenal are targeting a “top three” finish which is more than just symbolic: the top three teams get a birth in to the Champions League and fourth place now goes into open qualification. Open qualification means that teams like Arsenal are no longer seeded and thus no longer guaranteed to play uhhh…. teams like Twente Enschede and instead would face teams like Roma, Hamburg, Lyon, Valencia, and Panathinaikos. I don’t have to tell you that Roma in the first round would be a much sterner test than FC Twente.

Right, so the rest of the season is coming in to sharp focus now; Arsenal need just 10 points in their last 6 games to secure 4th and they pretty much need to win out to get 3rd. Will we be the team that is brushed aside in all competitions, broken at the end of the season with players leaving like rats on a sinking ship? Or will we be the squad that, though depleted by injury, fought for every point and maybe even won the Champions League?

The kind of team we’ll be at the end of the season is up for grabs now.

We haven't got time for the pain

It’s time to put the Chelsea game behind us, because tomorrow night Arsenal travel to Anfield and have to play a very tough Liverpool squad in the Premier League. Liverpool is just one point off the title (though EVERYONE keeps reminding me that United have a game in hand) and will be looking for three points. Similarly, Arsenal are only 7 points up on Villa (though we have a game in hand!!!) and need to get maximum points from their last 6 games if they have any hopes of winning the league (I’m kidding).

Seriously, I expect tomorrow’s match to be a real battle and even though I’d rather Liverpool won the league, I’d much rather Arsenal follow up Saturday with a real blockbuster win. In the season where we are celebrating the anniversary of Arsenal’s 1989 league title, which we won on their hollowed ground, an away win at Anfield would be most delicious indeed. In fact, two-nil would be just about the most perfect win and Wenger is surely busy reminding the boys of that famous night. Though I hope he’s not showing them too much footage lest the makeshift Arsenal back four start thinking it’s OK to handle a back pass.

I don’t know what Arsene is saying to them to get them ready for this game but I do know what he’s saying in public; talking up Fabianski’s future.  I don’t expect anything less from Arsene, the kid had a rough day and we need him to be at the top of his game against the likes of Torres.

There’s no news on the injury front, but you can count on the fact that we’re not getting a whole new back four, hell, we’ll be lucky to have Sagna back.

Anyway, van Persie the statesman has put the weekend and the week ahead in a bit of context, saying

We are disappointed, but we need to get our stuff together and fight for the other two titles (uhhh, sic? ed.). We have to play the game against Liverpool on Tuesday now, whether you are happy or if you are not happy.

Yes indeed, Robin, yes indeed.