View From The Bank – Arsenal 1 – 1 Liverpool

A contentious 1-1 home draw with Liverpool would seem to have put Arsenal’s title challenge to bed once and for all. Three points from yesterday’s game was essential yet we struggled to even get one.

The main talking point after the game seemed to be Liverpool’s penalty. Wenger, typically apoplectic in defeat, insisted the penalty shouldn’t have been given.

“Lucas stopped in front of Eboue. There was no intervention from Eboue. Lucas stopped in his way and stopped his run. It was no penalty.”

Wenger may have a point and, yes, Lucas was clever to position himself in front of Eboue and draw the collision but our deputy right back should have been more composed and allowed the ball to run away and out of the box. Put it this way; if it had happened up the other end, we’d have expected a penalty.

Wenger will be called myopic, a liar or deluded but it is not in his nature to accept decisions that are even a tiny bit debateable, nor is it his style to publicly criticise one of his players even when they are at fault, as Eboue was here.

It is worth pointing out that Wenger’s insistence that it wasn’t a penalty has clouded the issue. Most post match analysis has focused on the spot kick whereas the anger in the ground stemmed from the extra time afforded for Liverpool to regain parity. 8 minutes of injury time seemed appropriate given Carraghers sickening head injury but the 4 minutes that came after seemed generous. There may have been a minute or so for Van Persie’s penalty and the restart but quite why the ref allowed Suarez another 2 minutes to set himself and take a protracted free kick is a mystery. By the time Kuyt had converted we were into 12 minutes of added time.

For anyone interested, the the reasons for which time can be added are listed below – taken from the FA Website. As you’ll see, the list is suitably ambiguous and, as has become common place, allows a referee to use discretion without having to justify to us where he found the extra time.

  • Allowance is made in either period for all time lost through:
  • substitutions
  • assessment of injury to players
  • removal of injured players from the field of play for treatment
  • wasting time
  • any other cause

 

Ultimately, to bemoan this technicality does feel a bit hollow. We should have been more composed at the back and, dare I say it, someone should have stepped up to steady the ship. As a group we panicked, yet again. Song blustered his way around the edge of the box, failing to clear and clumsily challenging Shelvey. Equally, Koscielny fluffed a good chance to hack the ball clear.

I still think it’s too simply to blame the defence for this result. To focus on defensive misgivings lets those at the other end of the pitch off without charge. In recent weeks our attacking has looked flat; save for last week when we’ve played against Blackpool’s suicidal high line. It stands to reason that if you have so much possession but create so few clear chances, the defence is always going to be exposed.

The numbers don’t lie. In our last 3 home games we’ve scored once, from a spot kick, and gained just 3 points. The minimum return from those games should have been 7 points. The harsh fact for a team so proud of its attacking intent is that we’ve simply not been good enough going forward when it’s really mattered. This team is shut out all too easily.

RVP has an astonishing record since his return from injury but Nasri, Walcott and Cesc – who looks like he’s frightened his hamstrings are going to twang at any minute – all looked sluggish. We didn’t look like we were going for a title. We didn’t ask a make shift back four, containing two genuine kids at full back, enough questions. We didn’t play with sustained intent or menace, we didn’t overlap enough and we didn’t stretch the game. Playing like this didn’t unlock Sunderland or Blackburn, it wasn’t going to work against Liverpool.

Alex Ferguson was in the crowd and he can only have been there for the hospitality. Everyone, best of all the United gaffer, knows how we play already. There is no need to study Arsenal as we are so transparent. If our intricate passing doesn’t work we are unable, or unwilling, to change it up. Yet again, Nicklas Bendtner came off the bench on the right hand side and was tasked with doing what Walcott couldn’t. It was only in the last 5 or 10 minutes that Bendtner got a go through the middle and Arshavin was placed in a wider role. It still baffles me why we have a 6ft plus striker who isn’t allowed the chance to play through the middle, even when we’re desperate.

This was a disappointing and frustrating result and gives us a mountain to climb. Far from breathing down United’s neck we are now nervously looking over our shoulder at Chelsea. We must regroup quickly and show more desire and invention against Tottenham. Our season has unravelled as it’s been apparent all season; we are not ruthless enough to take advantage of opportunities.

This has been our best chance to win the league for years. Faced with an ageing Chelsea side and a less than commanding United, we did not have it in us to climb to the top. We can blame referees, often rightly, but in the final reckoning, we’ve got no one to blame but ourselves.