Sixth-place Arsenal didn’t lose any ground on Chelsea, Tottenham, and Liverpool on Wed. Jan. 30 with their 2-2 home draw against Liverpool, but they didn’t gain any on them either. However, they did fall a further two points behind fifth-place Everton. It was another game of two very different halves and while the team can be praised for coming back from a 2-0 deficit, when you look at the big picture it was another two points dropped at home and to a team below them in the league table.
The defending was brutal on many occasions, especially on Liverpool’s goals, but the offense often looked quite lethal. Manager Arsene Wenger needs to find some better defenders by next season and he also has to properly motivate his players to show up for the first half of games instead of just the final 45 minutes. The draw means the team’s long run of Champions League appearances could come to a crashing halt at the end of this season. They have to leapfrog over Everton and Spurs to climb into fourth place. They’re currently three back of Everton and four behind Spurs while just three up on Liverpool and four above Swansea and West Brom.
A terrible misstep by right back Bacary Sagna led to some pinball in Arsenal’s 18-yard box early on and Liverpool’s Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez took advantage of the comedy of errors to fire the Reds into the lead in the fifth minute. Liverpool looked likely to double their total and they finally did it on the hour mark when Jordan Henderson made four Gunner defenders look foolish before depositing the ball into the back of the net.
However, Arsenal showed a never-say-die attitude and within just seven minutes of falling behind 2-0 they had leveled the game. Olivier Giroud scored on a powerful header in the 64th minute to narrow the score to 2-1 from a Jack Wilshere free kick. And then club leading scorer Theo Walcott slammed home his 11th league goal of the season just under three minutes later from the right side of the box after being set up by Giroud and Santi Cazorla. Both teams then had chances to win it, but failed to pull off a dramatic late goal and it ended as it began…all even.
Wenger was happy with the comeback, but naturally wasn’t too pleases with the defensive performance by some of his players."We didn't give out big security tonight defensively but on the other hand, when you see what the spirit is in the team, and what the quality is going forward, you smell that something can always happen at any moment."
It was an entertaining match, but Arsenal will have to forget about the two dropped points and try to take all three on Saturday at the Emirates when they host Stoke. The bad news for the Gunners was that left-back Kieran Gibbs had to be subbed in the 37th minute and replaced by Andre Santos. Gibbs reportedly has a thigh injury and will be out of action for about three weeks.
Arsenal Player Ratings Jan. 30 vs Liverpool
Wojciech Szczesny 5.5
The Polish international didn’t have one of his best performances between the posts. He was caught out of position several times during the game even though he did make some good save. He was lucky to have a header by Daniel Agger cleared off the line for him by Lukas Podolski after missing a corner.
Bacary Sagna 5
Lost his footing just before the opening goal and his crossing hasn’t improved at all. His passing was also under par.
Thomas Vermaelen 5.5
Looked bad on the opening goal like most of his teammates did. Got better as time wore on though
Per Mertesacker 5
Another defender with a poor game. He looked quite bad on both goals and his passing skills were nowhere to be seen.
Kieran Gibbs 6
Was the best of the bunch when it comes to defenders. The left back came off after 37 minutes though due to a thigh injury and will be sidelined for approximately three weeks.
Jack Wilshere 8
Again, Wishere was the main man in the midfield and put in his usual workmanlike and skilful performance. He’s arguably the team’s most valuable player right now.
Aaron Ramsey 6
Struggled on the opening goal with a poor clearance attempt. He improved after that nightmare and played a pretty solid game.
Santi Cazorla 6.5
Was more or less invisible in the first half, but played well in the second. Not his best or worst game in a Gunners uniform.
Theo Walcott 8
Walcott had numerous chances in the match and finally buried one when he beat keeper Pepe Reina with a laser to tie the game. He’s got 18 goals on the year now and is in a wonderful groove.
Lukas Podolski 6.5
Had a good second half and helped out defensively in the first when he cleared a header by Daniel Agger off of the goal line.
Olivier Giroud 7.5
Giroud scored another fine goal, this time on a powerful header after meeting Wilshere’s free kick from the right side. Like Walcott, he had several other chances and is also getting into a groove.
Andre Santos 4.5
Came on after 37 minutes for the injured Gibbs. I’m not sure why he was brought on since he’s struggled lately and did so again in this match.