AA – Arsenal’s fourth emergency service

Liverpool 4-4 Arsenal

What a staggering game of football that was.

If you take it for what was good, rather than what wasn’t – and I’ll come onto that – then it was just sensational, edge-of-seat viewing for 95 minutes. I know we didn’t win, but we came ever so close and Andrei Arshavin scored four absolute rip-snorters. The game itself veered hither and thither, with neither team able to defend to save their lives. My eyes were out on sticks.

Considering that Arsenal were ahead three times and behind once, you might say we should have won. But that flatters us a bit: we had four shots on goal all game and scored them all, and for huge tracts of the first half in particular we were clinging on desperately. So a draw is a fine result and a fine achievement in my books.

Man of the match, naturally, was the irrepressible Andrei Arshavin. What a gem he is. I think he must have touched the ball once in the first half an hour, but once he scored the first – a well placed shot from Cesc’s pass – he came to life.

That was his easiest goal. His second was a right-footed thunderclap from about 25 yards, slicing to the right ever so slightly so that Reina could not reach it. His third was expertly controlled and thumped in, and his fourth was in my view his best – this time, a left-footer that hooked away from Reina.

So let me get this straight: the man deemed surplus in the FA Cup semi-final scores with both feet, from all distances, and has the ability to hook and slice his shots as if he was on a fairway. Absolutely superb stuff.

At the other end, well you just have to laugh because if you thought too long and hard about the implications of the way we defended you’d not be able to drag yourself out of bed of a morning.

It was like a slapstick comedy. At times, I half expected Mikael Silvestre to stick a pie into Toure’s face before slipping over on a banana skin. And the whole defence was at it: Sagna’s clearance for their first goal conceded turned out to be a glorious pass, Silvestre, Fabianski and Gibbs’ combined efforts to clear ended up creating Liverpool’s second, Silvestre and Gibbs should have done better for their third and their fourth goal was barely defended at all.

To be fair to Fabianski, he had a good first half, despite always looking skittish. Gibbs had the learning curve of his life at left-back. He did, to his credit, also save us near the end with a goal-line clearance. Toure was probably the best of a bad bunch while Silvestre was just awful all night. I can’t remember if he had any pace when at Man Utd, but if he did then, he certainly doesn’t now. We cannot get Djourou back soon enough in my opinion. And Sagna, normally so assured, looked rusty.

Perhaps the sheer intensity of Liverpool’s attacking football, coupled with the febrile Anfield atmosphere would have made it hard for any team. There may be something in that but it doesn’t excuse us defending like that all night.

At least we were in good company – the normally solid Liverpool defence also had a shocker. Send them all back to defender school, I say.

Man Utd fans looking for a pointer to our Champions League tie will be thinking two things this morning: 1) Thank god Arshavin is cup-tied and 2) Can we please play against that comedy back line.

So, much to think about on that front before next Wednesday.

Overall? Well I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it. Those games don’t come round often, Arsenal showed fantastic spirit and it was football at its topsy-turvy best.

Marvellous fun.


Arsenal since about 1979. Thick, thin and all that.