It probably wasn’t the best time to write an objective and balanced article straight after watching a football match, but yesterday I told it how I saw it.
And with Arsenal having over 64% of the possession at Anfield then it’s hard to disagree with it.
But putting things into perspective, you can’t really blame Liverpool for trying to shut Arsenal out. We had just come from a 7-0 win in the Champions League, showing everyone the range of attacking play which can destroy teams. If Liverpool played an open game they would have lost, quite convincingly. So yesterday was a game they couldn’t afford to lose, especially with their current form.
And for large parts of the game they frustrated Arsenal, and frustrated me.
They did play very deep and obviously looked to hold on to their lead. I pointed out that a so-called top 4 team would push on for the security of a second goal but when you’ve got something to hold on to it’s easier said than done – especially when you’re against a freescoring Arsenal side.
So Liverpool resorted to playing deep and catching Arsenal on the break.
And it could have worked for them.
In a strange way I’m glad Liverpool played like they did. If Liverpool pushed out, looked for the second goal then if Arsenal had equalised then people and ‘pundits’ would be saying that’s what we expect from Arsenal, and that Liverpool shouldn’t have given us time and space in key areas.
But by playing with 5 in midfield at home, it gave Arsenal a real test to overcome.
Piling 10 men behind the ball at Anfield is a daunting prospect especially when you are behind and I’m sure many teams have failed to break through a resilient and defensive Liverpool side. That gameplan from Rafa Benitez was designed to suffocate Arsenal and to come through it with an equalising goal is more important to the character and growth of our young side than an open, and in many respects routine, game for us.
So in the end, although Arsenal probably should have taken all 3 points, we ended up taking away so much more in terms of resilience, character and confidence to compete at the top.
The performance of Arsenal wasn’t lost on BBC pundit Alan Hansen, who finally had to admit Arsenal are possible title-challengers.