I’d like to say I told you so but then again I might not be the only one thinking the same way. I’ve mentioned before that even if we lose to Chelsea or United or both, we would still be very much in the hunt for the title, considering the remaining fixtures left for all 3 sides. Yesterday was one of those days. Arsenal won while United and Chelsea both dropped points. It is as it was before last Sunday’s defeat at Stamford Bridge.
No one would argue if I said that the first half was a complete bore. But for me this was not the case. Being a footballer myself, I like to analyse and see how teams play tactically against one another. The first half was just about both teams cancelling out each other. The 5 across the midfield put out by Benitez were meant to stifle the movement and passing of Arsenal. For 45 minutes we had no idea how to get around it. We were better as a defensive unit than compared to the last 2 games which is a marked improvement, though without Torres it’s hard to justify that Liverpool’s attacking level is the same as United’s or Chelsea’s.
As it was at Anfield, Arsenal raised their tempo in the second half. Even Liverpool had a few chances to score but couldn’t either denied by Almunia or shots aimed for the sky. The breakthrough finally came for Arsenal and I was relieved more than anything. Bendtner got the rub of the green when his ealier cross rebounded back to him. His awareness of where Rosicky was positioned allowed him to turn and tread the ball out wide. Rosicky’s low cross met the head of the on-rushing Diaby, who firmly planted the ball beyond the reach of Reina.
A special mention must go to Emmanuel Eboue. He replaced Sagna at right back and was positive throughout the match. He made runs from the back and basically supported every attack that Arsenal made. Defensively he was solid. Other than Diaby, nobody in the squad is a better dribbler of the ball than Eboue. Every team needs someone like that who likes to take opposing players on.
Nicklas Bendtner finally got the start he desired and the difference is so obvious compared to the last person who started in that position. Let’s face it, Arshavin was never going to be anything other than a short-term makeshift central striker. What Bendtner showed last night was his ability to lead the line. Yes, there were the few misplaced passes but you can see clearly on several occasions he won the headers off either Agger or Skrtel. Too bad that none of the other players were anticipating the flick-ons. It’s up to him to remain fit until the end of the season and show us in the possible 20 odd games (provided we go some distance in the Champions League) what he can do.
Saving the best for last, Abou Diaby absolutely wins my vote for the man of the match last night. On this kind of display, it is not hard to see why we missed the big guy during his time out with injury. We might have had different result were he to be available for the United game. Diaby was everywhere last night and his goal was a well deserved present for his all round display. He has appeared to incorporate defensive qualities to his game and was on hand more than one occasion to clear the ball from inside the penalty box.
If we do win the league, we will have to thank 2 person for that. William Gallas, for his wonderful last ditch tackle on Ngog and Manuel Almunia, for getting his hand on Babel’s shot and tipping it over the bar. Those 2 moments defined where the points where going last night. Are we really back in the title hunt? If we continue to grind out results like that till the end of the season, I have no doubt we will be.