I don’t know what Wenger said at half time but it must have been some team talk, it certainly had the desired effect because it changed everything and we had been woeful up until then. Well, perhaps to be a bit fairer, we were woeful except for the first ten minutes when we looked the more composed side, going through the gears with ease but the through ball to Torres giving him a one on one with Almunia and the Gerrard penalty shout against Gallas seemed to give Liverpool belief and strengthen their resolve to win this extremely important clash for both sides.
Our reassured football gave way to poor passing and nigh on panic after they scored. I still think that it was right to play both Denilson and Song in front of the back four: their job is to brake up play and give the ball to Fabregas who, in turn, is supposed to find the runs of either Arshavin, Nasri or Walcott but I do not recall any one of these three collecting the ball and moving towards the goal with any purpose or threat during the whole of the first half. Every time the ball was played to Walcott’s feet he was unable to control it the result being that Liverpool regained possession and drove forward putting additional unnecessary pressure on us. Half time couldn’t come soon enough and we were lucky to go into the break only one down.
The only snippet of information we have as to what was said at half time comes from Fabregas relaying that Wenger was so unhappy at the players first half performance that he accused them of not being worthy of wearing the Arsenal shirt. There is no doubt this had the desired affect as they took to the field with more determination and moving Walcott more centrally would also , no doubt, have pleased many but it was the stroke of luck that changed everything.
The own goal drained the belief out of Liverpool and into the Good Guys. From this point on we went from strength to strength: Fabregas started to dominate the midfield, Vermaelen was winning everything in the air, Sagna started to make Torres look ordinary and then it happened, after determined running, Arshavin scored with a piece of individual skill that I hope stays with me for the rest of my life. There were still nails to be bitten before the final whistle but we got the precious three points. Whether we deserved them I don’t really care, we are back in the title race.
Almunia: at half time I was so angry with him for flapping when the ball came over that lead to the goal that I was screaming that he should never be allowed to wear the Arsenal shirt ever again………but at the end of the game I noticed in a replay that the ball deflected off of Lucas just before it got to the Spanish waiter, making it extremely difficult to deal with. Even so, he is surely just keeping the green jersey warm for Fabianski. 6
Sagna: this guy gave 100% from start to finish. The last time he did this was against Ireland; it seems that he does need the rest to maintain his optimum performance. 10
Gallas: every time he pulls up, for no matter how small the injury may have turned out to be, my heart sinks; we all know that we cannot afford to lose this much quality — and quality he is. 9
Vermaelen: Sky’s man of the match, my man of the match and I find it difficult to believe that he isn’t your man of the match. The Belgian Rock was immense; he was the one true leader on the pitch; he looked as though he was prepared to give everything to the cause: the cause of winning and making Arsenal great again. 10
Traore: it has to be said that he is getting stronger and stronger and he needed to be because Kuyt gave him a very stern test. I became more and more worried as the game went on that if Liverpool were going to get back into the game it was going to be from Armand’s flank. But he held firm, although, I must admit that I was greatly relieved when Silvestre came on. 8
Denilson: no one in the midfield covered themselves I glory in the first half but we won and because of that the young Brazilian deserves his share of the praise. 8
Song: in the first half he was playing in such a way that you could so easily imagine his critics tearing their hair out in anger at the wasted passes but some how he seems to make amends enabling his fans like me to keep championing his cause. 8
Fabregas: for me, in games like this, it makes sense to have him playing a free role in front of Denilson and Song. This enables him to play safe in the knowledge that they have his back covered in the sense that they will do all the heavy work of recovering the ball while he can focus on being creative. Whether you agree with that or not I don’t know but one thing I’m sure we can agree on is that he worked hard for the cause, never gave up and for that reason we love him. 9
Nasri: he owed us, his away form in general is poor and so it continued in the first half but whatever Wenger said at half time worked because he came out after the break a different player. 8
Arshavin: worked tirelessly throughout the game. His goal was one of the best pieces of individual skill I have ever seen at Arsenal. With the collective talent of Arshavin, Fabregas and Nasri it is hard to work out why we don’t beat every team every week but this combination is still not clicking as well as it should. Arshavin was making the runs but Fabregas is still not finding him although he is finding him more than Eduardo when he plays so more of the same, I suppose. 8
Walcott: his control is so poor I want to scream. 6
Wenger: the right team selection given what was available and a half time team talk worthy of winning the game 9