Considering that Kenny probably thought a point at the Emirates would be a more than decent achievement, the Reds (in black) fought tooth and nail all the way against a side that is 14 points ahead of us, has a score tally of +32 to our +7, that sustained only 5 defeats to our 12, and is still in with a shot to win the PL! They had more motivation, and they were playing on home turf. Perhaps at times even against the run of play, we had the occasion and opportunity to snatch all three points. In the end, just for mere commitment and persistence, the Reds obtained a valuable and well deserved draw which gives us dignity and also some hope for the coveted 5th spot and European football next season.
To start off with a few considerations it was a wise idea to field the same formation that saw of Man City, even though it needs to be said this was more due to force majeure than choice. Nevertheless the team seemed to be able to handle the possession and multiple attack options the Gunners are able to throw at any team. Then came Fabio Aurelio’s recurring hamstrings issue and I was relieved to see that Kenny opted for young but quick Robinson. I was a bit apprehensive to see Kyrgiakos come on for Carra, and distressed at seeing our vice-captain unconscious with the medical staff all sporting concerned expressions. Kyrgiakos did a sterling job and thankfully Carra was out celebrating the draw at the final whistle.
Bar a 96th minute glitch in an otherwise powerful and flawless performance by Jay ‘Atomic Bug’ Spearing, coupled with a just as awesome display by Lucas, one must say that our young defensive midfield pairing gave us confirmation that they can be counted upon to fulfill their duties against any opposition. They are working in such symbiosis that the both procured a penalty, one in our favour and one against! Flanagan and Robinson shouldered their responsibilities with a no-nonsense showing and counteracted the speed of Nasri and Walcott efficiently, not even batting an eyelid when fresh-legged Arshavin joined the fray. Well done lads!
As I said in the beginning I felt the plan was to contain the Gunners and resort to sporadic sorties up front in an effort to surprise on the counter. The first half performance from the half-way line upwards was disjointed, but things improved significantly in the second half with Suarez being a constant menace and even creating a couple of clear cut chances which he failed to convert. Kuyt and Meireles both seemed to have predominantly containment roles, yet both put in their high work-rate shift, and in the process they supported both Suarez and Carroll in the teams attacking forays. Skrtel and Carra were solid at the back and so was Reina, who was alert and vigilant and only had one ‘moment’ when he misjudged his leap which led to Koscielny hitting the crossbar in the first half.
Considering the adversities coming our way in the form of injuries which are exposing more than ever our lack of depth in the squad, there is no doubt that the work-rate and commitment levels have improved by leaps and bounds. Now we have two home games which we absolutely need to capitalize on to keep the pressure on and maintain hope. Kenny used wise words today in saying we need to take care of ourselves and not think whether we would be doing anyone favours.
On a final note, my compliments also go to the Arsenal fans at the Emirates that applauded wholeheartedly both the Hillsborough remembrance, and when Carra was stretchered off! Respect!