By Michael Clements
While the picture at the top of this blog could be unfair on Mertesacker, it is perhaps an illustration of his performances lately. He's a beast, let's not forget that, but he's not the same beast we've grown to adore over the last couple of seasons. He's a more timid BFG when one on one and in set pieces. But seriously, what the fuck is he doing in that picture? Someone please explain to me why he's avoiding Skrtel's towering header?
We can't just blame the BFG for this one though. It seems the tables were turned on us at Anfield on Sunday. Generally we're the ones who have 80% possession after 20 minutes, dominating the passing game, closing the opposition down and taking away any space they might have. Liverpool shut us down in a clinical way in the first half, and their goal was certainly no less than they deserved. That Arsenal immediately back to equalize right before the half time whistle was both a relief and a shock.
Great first goal for Debuchy, playing his center back role well both at the back and up front. He hustled and he fought for every ball, and considering he's only recently returned form injury, it's quite impressive. To be honest I forget how good he was at the beginning of the season, due to his long spell out injured. I can't be happier to have him back in this squad right now - an underwhelming signing at first glance, but a truly valuable player for this team.
Cazorla's cutback and Giroud's goal early in the second half was another pleasant surprise, although we had a bit more of the ball after the break. We looked to really gain momentum and even looked good for a third goal, but then we began to sit back....
Szczesny played the best game he's played in yonks, and it was him alone that kept us in front as Liverpool pelted our goal towards the end of the match. I love the arrogance that lad has, because I know opposition teams/fans hate it. If he was the 'keeper wearing the opposite colors I'd yell obscenities at him and wish for him to contract serious, yet non lethal diseases. But he's not. He's ours, and he's brilliant.
This game had plenty of blood, sweat and dirty scousers in it - exactly what you hope for in an Arsenal, Liverpool matchup. Skrtel got curbed by Giroud, Cazorla got kicked in the nipple, it really had it all. It was the former incident that apparently warranted 9 minutes of injury time. Go back and keep track of how much time Skrtel spent on the floor and tell me where that 9 minutes came from. But it was in the 97th minute that the Slovakian headed in the equalizer. You would have thought Liverpool won the league (ha!) with the way they celebrated, but I suppose when you're a bottom half team it's moments like this that you've got to try and enjoy.
In fairness it was a good result for both teams - Liverpool scorned too many chances and paid the price with help from their poor defending. Arsenal were lucky not to be down 4-1 at half time but did well to get into the game. However, when there's two minutes to go and you're 2-1 up.... you've got to get the 3 points, no excuses.
A seriously tough stretch of games await us as we play 4 games in 10 days. QPR join us on December 26th - almost exactly 20 years after my first Arsenal game when a certain John Jenson scored his first (and only?) goal for the Gunners. We lost 3-1 but it's the stuff dreams are made of. Seriously, check this goal out, not only is he wearing #17, but it's the sort of goal Sanchez has made his since joining us.
Christmas is about Football. So, Happy Christmas! And Up The Arsenal!