Playing Arsenal at the Emirates has always been a tough task. Facts don’t lie. We have only won once in 12 years when we play Arsenal at their home ground. Last night could have been our best chance in a long time to reverse that stat. Defeated in their last 2 matches, Arsenal were looking lightweight and with us on a good run of undefeated games, Arsenal could have been there for the taking. It would have been easy, some say.
But since when has Liverpool did anything the easy way? Not taking anything away from our boys for they played well. Macherano & Lucas (when will our fans give this boy a break?) were everywhere in the middle of the park. Gerrard was back to his roaming best. The match was hardly a spectacle given the flair and free-flowing football both teams are known for but definitely better than the raw bloodbath of the Derby. There was football being played and tackles were tough but fair. Unfortunately when we lost Carragher to a groin strain and replaced Mr. Smiley, Degen, our defence lost its shape and one lapse of concentration on the part of the substitute gave Diaby a free point-blank header that he simply couldn’t miss and Reina had no chance whatsoever with it. Go back a few minutes before the goal and you can clearly see Marsh having a real go at Degen when he lost the ball trying to play it to Dirk Kuyt. Well, I guess Mascherano’s screaming fell on deaf ears then. I’m not blaming Degen for the defeat but he was definitely our Achilles heel.
And what about that blatant handball by Fabregas? I’m not sure that it would be a penalty if it had been given, noting that he was standing on the edge of the box when he committed the crime. But it would have certainly meant another free-kick in a more dangerous position for Gerrard to test Almunia and definitely a red card for Fabregas for a second bookable offence. That will rule him out for Arsenal’s next 2-3 games and that definitely would have been to our favour as we chase them for the 3rd spot as Arsenal isn’t the same team without Fabregas in the middle pulling the strings. So advantage Arsenal, thanks to another referee decision that went against us. Another match, another refereeing decision that cost us. Story of our season, really.
I felt that Ryan Babel should have started, or at least put on earlier. He provided a more direct approach in our attack and was much more threatening in the last 10-15 minutes that he came on than N’gog has been for the entire match. N’gog’s languid style of play can be frustrating to watch and in last night’s game, we needed a Rooney-like approach in our attack and I personally felt that Babel could have provided the thrust we needed in the final third. Maxi had a few great chances too but he must have left his scoring boots at home, seeing how he skied the ball embarrassingly high above the goal in one instance. Like Aquilani, he will be immense next season after this season of getting used to the pace and physicality of the English game.
Which makes the next game against City that more crucial for us. A direct competitor for our fight for a Champions League place, a victory against them will definitely soothe the bitter wound of losing at the Emirates. A game we deserve at least a point. Onwards and upwards, the Reds!