Arsenal drew against a determined Liverpool side today in a result that makes it incredibly difficult for Arsenal to catch Manchester United at the top of the table, and indeed, makes it more possible that Arsenal could drop into third, as Chelsea lurk two points below the Gunners at the moment. It was a match that, for 95 minutes, went as Arsenal's matches at the Emirates have been going lately: lots of possession, nothing to show for it. Then the match became a wild display of folly, a sort of grotesque of a football match.
There's not a tremendous amount of action to recount from this match. For the bulk of play, it looked much as the matches against Sunderland and Blackburn at the Emirates did: Arsenal patient in buildup play, either looking to break through the pace of Theo Walcott, or building in the middle through Abou Diaby and Cesc Fabregas. Liverpool didn't attack with a great deal of threat, and mostly dug in deeply and defended well against listless Arsenal crossing. Only twice was Pepe Reina tested in the first half, Laurent Koscielny climbing above him to head a corner off the crossbar, and Theo Walcott lasering a swerving shot that the Spaniard clawed away at his near post.
Liverpool began the second half playing well and having the bulk of possession, but were unable to fashion any real chances except for a shot wide from Luis Suarez, who also had a shot saved by Wojciech Szczesny later as well as spraying a shot way over the bar late on. Andy Carroll, who was neutralized well by Johan Djourou and Koscielny, had to come off for Jonjo Shelvey after being unable to run off a leg injury.
Jamie Carragher also had to leave the match, Sotirios Kyrgiakos replacing him, after a scary incident when teammate John Flanagan and the captain challenged for the same ball, the latter taking the former's head right on his chin and going out cold before even hitting the turf. The medical staff for both clubs attended to the defender for close to seven minutes before stretchering him off the field; reports came in later on television saying that Carragher was conscious again in the dressing room. Hopefully he can recover and suffer no long-term effects.
Arsenal, meanwhile, brought on Nicklas Bendtner and Andrei Arshavin for Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott. This led to the usual wacky routine of Nicklas Bendtner, all 6'4" of him, crossing from the right touchline to the 6'0" Robin van Persie, and Arsenal, although threatening around the edge of the area, only managed to test Reina once. Cesc Fabregas finally found a pass through the Liverpool line, springing Robin van Persie free in on goal. Reina, though, was quick to the danger and came out to smother any angle the Dutchman had, and saved the shot.
There was always going to be extra time, and lots of it, and the board went up showing eight minutes. Arsenal pressured, but couldn't manage anything until quick footwork from Fabregas caused Jack Spearing to trip him in the box for an Arsenal penalty. Robin van Persie coolly put it home on 97 minutes, received a yellow for his celebration, and all looked well for Arsenal.
It was patently not; the match, in fact, got incredibly asinine from that moment forward. In fact, let's just list some stupid things:
The ref awarded Liverpool a free kick which, after an Emmanuel Eboue yellow card, took two minutes to set up. This is no one team's fault, it's not time wasting, and no time should've been added. Referee Andre Marriner: stupid.
Eboue's retaliation: stupid.
Arsenal's play after their goal: stupid. Clumsy, panicked; all they had to do was see the game out.
Giving away a free kick on the edge of the box: stupid.
The free kick by Suarez, blocked, then steered away towards the left edge of the area: fine.
Eboue chasing it clumsily: stupid.
Lucas obstructing him, Eboue bumbling into Lucas: both stupid.
Lucas' fall: stupid.
Marriner not blowing the whistle immediately after the block anyway, on 100 minutes: stupid.
Let me be clear about this: I do NOT see any way that a 30-second celebration can somehow add two minutes more extra time. I don't think Arsenal or Liverpool wasted time thereafter, not enough to cause Marriner to not immediately blow his whistle after the free kick. For me, Marriner simply has to find the courage to end the match after Liverpool takes that free kick. Immediately. There's no reason to let it go on any longer there; there was no reason to add more than thirty seconds to eight minutes.
That being said, Arsenal had no reason to panic the way they did.
Falling for Lucas' shenanigans, Eboue and Marriner: stupid.
It was just a very stupid last ten minutes of the match, really. Nothing that happened made any sense, other than Arsenal somehow finding a way to collapse with sixty seconds to play out. It was a horrible way to drop two points, but Arsenal have now droped 17--SEVENTEEN--points at home this year. Being six points behind United, who have dropped TWO at home, well: that's how you come in second.
Arsenal simply have to find a way to pick themselves up right now, or they could find themselves in danger of losing out on more than first place.