Arsenal 1 Liverpool 1
Robin van Persie 24, Robbie Keane 42
Two fantastic goals, a compelling match, Fabregas injured for three weeks.
And a red card controversy : Adebayor went in hard and high against a guy half his size and the ref sent him off.He went in high with his right boot and missed. His boot missed Arbeloa’s legs. He led with his elbow but his elbow missed Arbeloa’s face.
Wenger, very upset at being fifth, said he didn’t know why his player was sent off. Andy Gray said he was protecting the ball. Adebayor said he was protecting the ball. Alan Hansen said Howard Webb had made a massive mistake. Sky pundit Dermott Gallagher said Adebayor was nowhere near the ball, so Webb was right. Graham Poll also agreed with Webb.
So everybody’s had their say on a decision which puts Adebayor out of Friday’s game at Aston Villa.
Everybody who reads ANR will already have a view on that challenge.
Here’s mine : It was like the first one on 19-year old left back Insua, which was over the ball, a deliberate foul, a good spot by a good ref. The second challenge was like the first but much higher, much harder and more dangerous. As the ball rolled towards Adebayor, he stepped well over the ball and threw his hip into Arbeloa and put his elbow too close to the full back’s face. It’s a contact sport and you do protect the ball, but I thought Match of the Day 2 whitewashed that incident. Howard Webb gave the big man a second yellow and a red.
When Ade was sent off, Arsenal actually improved, without ever looking like winning the game. The Lucas shot and the Agger shot were far better goal attempts than the Denilson shot from the right side. But neither side looked like winning and Liverpool didn’t play enough football to deserve three points. Taking Robbie Keane off made sure they would not score again.
One of the reasons that Arsenal were actually better with ten men is Ade and RVP have no relationship. They don’t interact with each other, don’t see each other’s runs, don’t read each other, don’t pass to each other.
Arsenal’s goal was typical Robin bang! Persie. Chest control, left foot, right foot, after Nasri found him with a 40-yard pass from inside his own half. The Dutchman chested the ball down towards his left foot, lunged forward into the box, and smashed a right-foot shot between Reina and the near post. Explosive improvisation from a player who can make his own goals. A typical do-it-yourself Robin bang! Persie goal from an individualistic striker. That is what he can do. Unfortunately, that is all he can do.
Arsene Wenger, in trying to cut costs by unloading most of his high earners, has achieved something quite extraordinary : he has given us a “team” with no partnerships. His two strikers have no relationship, and his centrebacks have no relationship either. In terms of communication, Gallas and Djourou are in different galaxies. One 50-yard punt by Agger split them to give Robbie Keane a clear run at the retreating Almunia, and Keane smashed the ball hard on the second bounce to make it 1-1.
Denilson can’t have a relationship with Sagna because he’s not a right winger. Nasri couldn’t link with Clichy because Kuyt was marking Clichy so tenaciously. Song is too clueless to have a relationship with anybody.To me, this isn’t a team. Half of the eleven players have talent but they’re not a team. If you don’t have a Flamini to chase the ball and set the tempo, you need a Gilberto to protect the back four.
Bottom line, Wenger got this season all wrong. The squad is too young. His strikers have no relationship, his centrebacks have no relationship, and his central midfield players have no relationship.
Last season HlebFabregasFlamini was the hub of his team, three close friends who together did the work of four men. If you have that, you can top the table for six months. If Flamini and Hleb leave, you have nothing. Football isn’t a game of components, it’s a game of partnerships. All good teams have partnerships and all good managers nourish partnerships.
Fabregas went off at half-time and that was a big blow. A 50-50 with Xabi Alonso had damaged the medial ligaments of Cesc’s right knee. Diaby gave Arsenal some much-needed dynamism when he came on for the second half. Without his considerable efforts they would have lost the game.
In sum, a strangely compelling game, despite the scrappy midfield play. But the whole team was flat, the atmosphere was flat until the red card roused the crowd.
This was Rafa’s Liverpool : efficient, motivated, physical, a bit rigid, not too attractive. Their best players, by far, are Mascherano, Torres and Gerrard. Without two of those three, they were well worth a draw at the Emirates. But, as so often, too negative to really go for the win.
I’m not hugely disappointed because I saw this coming. But I’m bored, I sound like a broken record, I said it all seven weeks ago after the 4-4 draw with Spurs : There is no season, there is only the next match.
Tonight Everton play Chelsea.
Rafa will not fancy Chelsea to win at Goodison, so he’ll think his draw at the Emirates is a decent result.
ARSENAL (4-4-2): Almunia; Sagna, Gallas, Djourou, Clichy; Denilson, Fabregas (Diaby, h-t), Song, Nasri (Eboué, 90); Adebayor, Van Persie. Subs not used: Vela, Ramsey, Silvestre, Wilshere, Fabianski (gk).
LIVERPOOL (4-2-3-1): Reina; Arbeloa, Carragher, Agger, Insua; Alonso, Lucas (Ngog, 87); Kuyt, Gerrard, Riera (Babel, 71); Keane (El Zhar, 80). Subs not used: Cavalieri (gk), Hyypia, Benayoun, Plessis.