If the last ten minutes of the Liverpool Arsenal match were an IQ test, the Gunners would have scored brain dead.
Did Wenger never teach them how to protect the ball? The classic example was Walcott chasing the ball to the sidelines deep into Pool territory and instead of holding the ball and trying to bang it off a defender for an out, turns and feeds it tamely to Pepe Reina with no Gunner in sight. As it turns out Gerrard gets a last ditch chance to save the match with a free kick that smacked off Fabregas hand, tantalizingly close to being a penalty. You could see Howard Webb mull over that one with the Reds milling around him in protest after the whistle brought the match to a controversial end.
The Gunners needed that bit of luck and Almunia’s fingetip save that pushed Babel’s rasping shot onto the crossbar to give Wenger his 300th Premiership win and more importantly keep their slim title hopes alive. Abou Diaby scored the winner as he came flying unmarked to head the ball off Rosicky’s superbly drilled cross. Bendtner can take some satisfaction in creating that chance as he had the presence of mind to find the Czech midfielder after his shot was blocked by a defender.
The first half saw both teams struggle to establish any rhythm with Arsenal’s lack of urgency particularly glaring. Nasri was lost early after receiving a knock which left him looking dazed, Wenger replacing him with Rosicky. Chances were few and far in between, with Bendtner’s touch letting him down and Fabregas ending a nice one two with Arshavin with an angled grounder that Reina easily gathered. You were left with a growing unease wondering where the goals were going to come from, if at all. Wenger’s looked as frustrated as he has all season.
The second half began with Arsenal finally showing some alacrity and cohesion. The Gunners beginning to threaten the Liverpool goal regularly with Fabregas and Bendtner coming close. The match enjoying some scintillating end to end action. However it was Rosicky flubbing the best chance as his touch deserted him terribly. Minutes later, his shot flashed over a leaping Reina and just above the crossbar before finally making amends with that superb assist.
Gallas stopped Ngog in the tackle of the day, Clichy looked solid, and Song proved adept at disrupting Liverpol’s flow with his tackling. Arshavin except for a few flashes, did little to enhance his reputation as Liverpool’s tormentor in chief. He looked weary and dispirited. Walcott subbed him but again contributed little. Eboue came off for Sagna to consolidate the defense. Fabregas had an unmemorable game but Diaby came up big on both ends. Almunia who was torn to shreds,against Utd and Chelsea, preserved the win.with that magical save.
With Chelsea losing to Everton and Man Utd forcing a draw against Villa through another lucky own goal the Gunners close the gap. They now need to have an almost perfect record with their remaining matches and Chelsea and Man Utd to lose some to remain in title contention. This win did not just advance their hopes but it lifted their spirits. Catharsis.is very welcome.