The Gunners Claw Back From the Jaws of Defeat
After two victories against West Ham and Brighton, Liverpool offered the Gunners a stern test to prove if they were worthy of the top four finish the fans crave, since buying a player is now out of the question. Elsewhere, Tottenham had a tricky trip to Norwich while Everton hosted West Brom.
Arsene Wenger made wholesale changes to the squad that struggled to assert themselves against Brighton, opting for the exact lineup that decimated West Ham with consummate ease. In defense, the captain and Kieran Gibbs came in, in midfield, Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla returned to the starting XI while the red-hot Theo Walcott replaced the Ox in attack.
As early as the fifth minute, the visitors took the lead after more atrocious defending from Arsenal. Luis Suarez mistimed a pass to Glen Johnson but Bacary Sagna slipped without a challenge, allowing the fullback to run into the box. Johnson crossed the ball into the danger area and Vermaelen miscued his clearance, leaving Danny Sturridge a clear cut chance with Wojciech Szczesny.
Sturridge’s shot was parried by the keeper and the ball waltzed past Aaron Ramsey to Jordan Henderson’s path, that laid it on for Suarez and the Uruguayan’s effort deflected off Per Mertesacker to hand Liverpool an early lead.
Jack Wilshere tore open the Liverpool defense with an inch-perfect pass to Walcott but the Englishman blasted his shot straight at Pepe Reina when Olivier Giroud was free on his left hand side.
Liverpool almost went two up when Szczesny tried to become a libero in his attempt to dribble Sturridge from a back pass but Liverpool failed to make the goalie pay.
Arsenal continued to press on for an equalizer and almost got it when Walcott’s sweetly curled shot to the far corner was parried to safety by Reina. Walcott instigated another attack with Ramsey, Cazorla and Lukas Podolski in the thick of things but the German’s cut back but cleared by an onrushing Steven Gerrard.
Arsenal’s defensive frailty was on show again when Mertesacker uncharacteristically passed the ball to Henderson that wasted no time in teeing up Suarez but Sagna recovered on time to block the ball for a corner kick.
There was a major concern for Arsene Wenger when Kieran Gibbs was in some discomfort and he was replaced by the appalling Andre Santos shortly afterwards. Gibbs has been a consistent player and it’s been a long while since he visited Arsenal’s treatment table. It’s really sad to know that he might face a spell on the sidelines, especially when his replacement is Andre Santos.
According to Wenger, Gibbs has a thigh strain and he’ll be out for three weeks, which means that Andre Santos might play against Arjen Robben next month. *gulp*
Late on, Liverpool carved open the Arsenal defense yet again and Henderson was one on one with Szczesny, so he chose to chip the goalie but his effort bounced off the roof of the net.
Like recent times, Arsene Wenger must have given his lads some harsh words in halftime and they came out all guns blazing in the start of the second half. Podolski made a mazy run on the left before swinging a cross that was nodded over the bar by Walcott. Wilshere darted forward to win a free kick on the edge of the area, but Podolski’s dead ball hit the Liverpool wall.
Arsenal’s misery was compounded when Henderson evaded Mertesacker like he wasn’t there before shoving off the challenge of Andre Santos as he crept into Arsenal’s box. His initial shot was blocked by Ramsey but Szczesny was in No Man’s Land, allowing Henderson to guide the ball to an unguarded net to make it 2-0 for the visitors.
Podolski executed a neat one-two with Giroud but he blasted his shot wide off the mark. When it seemed as if this was going to be one of those days for Arsenal, Wilshere swung in a free kick that was headed home by Giroud, to give his team a glimmer of hope.
Two minutes later, Cazorla found Giroud with a pin-point pass but the striker cushioned the ball for Walcott that rifled his shot past Reina to make it 2-2. When it seemed as if Liverpool was going to run away with the game, Arsenal popped up with two quick-fire goals from nowhere. Typical.
Walcott fashioned a chance for himself with his left foot but it missed the goal by a lick of paint. Mertesacker came on the end of a Cazorla corner kick but he nodded the ball over the bar.
Liverpool got a corner kick and were on the end of a swift counter attack from Arsenal. Walcott used his blistering pace to cover some ground before finding Podolski on his left. The German supplied a quick pass to Cazorla but the Spaniard’s drilling drive at goal was too much for Giroud.
Within minutes, Arsenal launched another counter attack from another Liverpool corner with Cazorla and Walcott involved this time. The English forward found Giroud with a tame pass but the Frenchman did well to bring the ball ahead of him before blasting a shot that was saved by Reina.
Arsenal almost went ahead when Giroud and Podolski combined superbly on the left. The German’s drilled pass came off Daniel Agger so it was miscued by Giroud with a gaping goal in his sight. Right at the death, but teams pushed on for a sucker punch and Liverpool almost got it when Andre Santos chose to pass the ball to the opposition but Suarez’ shot was parried by Szczesny.
At the end, a draw seemed like a fair result but the impact on the table showed that Everton turned out to be the big winners with their victory over West Brom that has given them some breathing space from Arsenal below them. Tottenham dropped points against Norwich, making the battle for fourth place more intense than ever.
At the end, getting a draw from a superb fightback showed great spirit but the sooner Arsenal learns to kill off games, the better for everyone.
Stoke visits the Emirates on Saturday and they’ll offer a different preposition.
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