Yesterday’s match was a rollercoaster of emotions, and I thought it would be best to sleep on it before posting my thoughts. But the overriding feeling this morning is that despite what happened in those 90 plus minutes, it feels like a defeat.
The problem is Manchester City are a completely relentless beast. In previous seasons they have strung together 12, 13, 15, 16 and even 18 game winning streaks. They have a formidable squad and have a cheat code striker. Looking at their remaining fixtures, you wouldn’t bet against them winning them all.
If we win all our remaining games, we win the league. If Manchester City win all their remaining games, they win the league. Against any other team in world football, you could see them dropping points. But this is Manchester City.
Getting 3 points yesterday was vital as that would allow us to still lose at The Etihad and win the title. 1 point, which ever way you look at it, wasn’t enough.
And the painful thing is that we were 2-0 up and cruising. Arsenal were phenomenal in the first 40 minutes, and were deservedly ahead with Martinelli and Jesus getting on the scoresheet. Arsenal were causing Liverpool all kinds of problems and Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson (as well as Virgil van Dijk) were having a torrid time.
Arsenal had Liverpool exactly where they wanted them.
But then it happened. Anfield was as quiet as I’ve ever seen it and Xhaka lit the touch paper. If there were two Liverpool players you didn’t want to hype up and rile it was Alexander-Arnold and Robertson. Martinelli, Jesus and Saka were all over them. Henderson screaming at TAA after Arsenal goals summed up Liverpool’s mental state.
They were done.
I don’t care what anyone says, Xhaka’s actions cost us the game. I am a huge fan of Granit, he is a strong personality and one of the leaders in the dressing room, and this season he has been absolutely fantastic – one of our best players by far. But yesterday, he lost his head when Arsenal were ice cool. We had tamed the beast that is Liverpool at Anfield, and all Xhaka managed to do was to fan the fire.
And it’s no co-incidence that minutes after that incident, Liverpool scored. The crowd were hyped up, the players spirits had been lifted and they were back in the game before half time.
Instead of keeping the Liverpool players on the ropes (they were playing as if Arsenal might score 3 or 4) instead we gave them hope. And at Anfield, that’s the last thing you want to do.
From then on it was all one way traffic. Liverpool were all over us and it was summed up by the possession and shot statistics by the end of the game. If we kept playing the way we were, we would have scored 3 or 4 goals and taken home all 3 points. In the end, it ended 2-2 and we could have lost.
Salah missed a penalty in the 50th minute and at 2-2 with 40 minutes left, we could have got battered like Manchester United did a couple of weeks ago. Once Liverpool and Anfield are rocking, no team can cope.
Fortunately, some excellent defending and even better saves from Aaron Ramsdale saved us from defeat. And the fact that Firmino scored in the 87th minute, meaning we were so close to a historic victory makes it all the more painful.
We should have won that game base on the first, but we also probably should have lost based on the second. If a football match was going to put you through the mill, yesterday was it.
A complete rollercoaster of emotions. I think the most disappointing thing was that after Jesus scored the second goal, I actually believed. Obviously Arsenal have been phenomenal this season, but like most Arsenal fans I suspect you don’t really believe you’re going to win the league until certain tests are passed.
When Arsenal made it 2-0, that was the first time I actually believed we would win the Premier League. In that moment, I thought to myself wow, we’re actually going to do it.
We were so dominant, in complete control and I truly believed that we would go on and win because we were flying at 2-0 up.
But a moment of madness from Granit Xhaka cost us dearly.
You might think to yourself I’m a pessimist but don’t believe the media around our 8 point lead. With Manchester City’s game in hand, it was always a 5 point lead. And now our 6 point lead is only really 3 points as we’ve played one more game than City.
And a 3 point lead at this stage against this relentless machine isn’t enough. We have to go to the Etihad and hope we don’t lose. If Manchester City win that game, the title race is over.
But what do you think? Can Arsenal still do it or is the title going back to Manchester? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below!