96 minutes of almost nothingness. Then a dodgy penalty call and RVP scores for Arsenal. This being Arsenal you knew they would look for ways to shoot themselves in the foot in the remaining minutes.
And sure enough it was Emmanuel Eboue, a footballer whose mental fortitude is that of a fruit fly, barging into Lucas Leiva when all he had to do was shepherd the Liverpool man out. Leiva milked that moment and Andre Marriner did not hesitate to point to the spot. Dirk Kuyt's equalizing penalty sounded Arsenal's death knell.
Except for the penalty, Van Persie resembled Nicklas Bendtner in his utter failure to be effective. Cesc Fabregas contribution was going down cheaply to Jay Spearing, theatrics that earned them a penalty. Its been ages since the Arsenal captain looked sharp. Samir Nasri dazzled with his inventive foot skills but was often isolated out on the left. Even Jack Wilshere, a usually industrious presence in midfield was missing.
Andrey Arshavin, often derided for ennui on the pitch, cut a lonely figure in his enterprise and zeal when Wenger brought him on late in the second half. It was heartening to see his lively presence on the wing and his enthusiastic tracking back - probably the only positive note in this otherwise drab affair.
With Liverpool's most experienced defender Jamie Carragher gone knocked lights out after a head butt by his own player and Fabio Aurelio departing earlier to an injury, the back four sported an unfamiliar look with teenagers Jack Robinson and John Flanagan. Top scoring threat Andy Carroll was subbed off with a knee strain.
Yet, Arsenal could not press their advantage despite Liverpool's lack of experience in key areas. For all the possession there was the familiar litany of scoring chances laid waste, crosses that found no one, or one dribble too many. Arsenal's woeful set piece capabilities let them down too. Laurent Koscielny came close when his header off a corner struck the crossbar. There was always Pepe Reina to clean up those close chances as he did stopping Van Persie's low shot.
Liverpool looked sharp when Luis Suarez had the ball and the Uruguayan with his twisting runs and change of pace clearly troubled Arsenal's defense especially in the second half. But both teams looked unlikely to score even with 8 minutes of added on time counting for Carragher's injury. Till the late, late dramatics kicked in.
This result crystallizes a few things - Arsenal has a monkey's chance of winning a title with the current crop of players. It's not that they aren't good, it's that this team is mentally fragile. But they are also made hapless by a manager whose persecution complex grows with every passing game as he assigns blame to circumstances beyond his control. Arsenal also have clear structural goalscoring issues for such an attack minded team. It's ironical Wenger whose knowledge of the game is exemplary has these huge blindspots when it comes to his own team. The defense in this case was not the maligned party.