Monday, March 5, 2012

Liverpool 1 Arsenal 2

It was not our best performance, but we had all three points, which matters most. Earlier in this campaign on this Blog, we asked which is better, excellent performance without winning the game or getting the result without playing well. Now we are sure which we prefer: winning regardless. We have to make sure that we finish top four this season in order to attract world-class players so that we can rebuild the team and keep RVP for the next season.

The result was massive, sending us 10 points clear of Liverpool. With Chelsea losing and Newcastle only managing to draw, we have secured solo possession of fourth place, 3 points clear of Chelsea with a better goal difference than them, and with a 4-point cushion over Newcastle. Even before the Liverpool clash, I was surprised to hear some pundits claim that the fourth spot was between Arsenal and Chelsea. How many times have they written off Arsenal for a top-four finish before? Now with the defeats of Tottenham and Liverpool, we are in an even stronger position. Some have even started talking about Arsenal finishing third. After Tottenham's defeat to Manchester United, the gap was reduced to just four points, which makes it look increasingly likely that we will finish above Tottenham.

Talking about the media fickleness, Arsene Wenger was last week shocked to learn that he was selected as the Premier League Manager of the Month. It seems that the award reflected Arsenal's impressive league form in February: 3 wins and 1 draw scoring 14 goals. February was supposed to be the lowest period of Arsene's entire carrier, according to the media.

Arsenal may have been lucky to snatch a win in the injury time, but we think our players deserve credit in many ways. Arsenal goals may have come against the run of play, but they constantly looked dangerous on the break. Their defence may have been all over the place in the first half, but they withstood the pressure and limited the number of goals conceded to only one, which we scored for them. In the second half, they dealt with Liverpool attack very well, keeping Suarez quiet. Mikel Arteta's serious-looking injury did not led to capitulation. In fact, the dynamism of the game changed in favour of Arsenal immediately after the incident. I don't know if it was due to the introduction of Abu Diaby or Liverpool affected negatively by the incident. This game showed some untypical aspects of Arsenal's game and we don't mind them at all.

Liverpool did not take chances in the first half when they could have won the match and it came back to haunt them. We have been often at the receiving end of the same criticism, so it was good to see somebody else getting stick for a change. After the match, Dalglish said Liverpool have to learn how to win ugly. A couple of weeks ago, we heard exactly the same expression coming from Samir Nasri about his old club. This game convinced us that Arsenal can win ugly.

We have no player ratings for this game. Man of the Match is a close call between the defensive hero and attacking hero, Szczezny and RVP. Szczezy's double saves from Kuyt among other numerous stops and saves were as important as RVP's two goals. RVP expressed his appreciation of the goalie's heroics by handing over his Man of the Match champaign to the 21 year-old Pole. It is nice to see our captain appreciate his team-mates' contributions. He kissed Alex Song's right boot during the celebraton of his injury-time winner. He also tweeted his gratitude to Sagna and Song for their superb assists. (Sagna's cross was inch-perfect, while Song's lofted through-ball was just like the one he set up for RVP's exquisite volley against Everton.)

The result of tomorrow's Champions League match is now irrelevant. We are not expecting a miracle to happen and the 4-0 deficit will be overturned. We just hope that our players will deliver decent performance, give AC Millan a good game and not let down the home crowd. The next league game against Newcastle will be far more important. It's a home game against a club who are still in the mix for a top-four finish. Now we have dented Liverpool's hopes for a Champions League spot, we have a chance to do some damange to another contender's aspiration Monday week.

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