I forget how many times I have asked the same question: are we good enough to win the title this season? A justified argument as to why we are still at the top of the table (we might not be tomorrow if Chelsea wins) is because of the favouring results of other games in which the teams gunning for top spot lost points too. We will see what happens at the end of the season.
The only silver lining in the draw against Arsenal today was the goal scored by Keane. A superb one too. A pity he doesn't do that every week.
We created enough chances to win the game. Now, how many times have we mentioned that this season? The fact that we only managed a draw is a wee bit heartbreaking as usual. I am still wondering what happened in this game. And let's not talk about the misses we had because it is nothing new.
Reira was mostly a passenger throughout the game, whether as a winger or in defending Arsenal attack on the side of his flank. We were lucky that Arsenal did not really exploit this, especially when we had Insua in fullback there, although Arsenal did most of their attacking on that side. Probably they still lack a better player with more experience to do the damage.
In the midfield, we always lose the vision and creativity of Alonso when Lucas is playing. As to why Lucas always gets the nod by Benitez still baffles me. If Mascherano as holding midfielder were to play, Alonso would always be deadlier with his freedom to create chances for the forwards, with his killer passes and attempts. We lost the battle in the midfield and also forward today when Gerrard had to leave Keane alone at the front.
And with our flanks keep drifting into the midfield, the middle of the pitch was really packed much to Arsenal's favour playing compact.
Now, what really confuses me was what happened after Arsenal was down to ten players. We played better against eleven men in this game. It is always mentioned that a team down to ten men always raise up their efforts to make up for the shortage.
But Liverpool went into a coccoon when we started to have the one man advantage. Maybe the players did not know what to do since it would require a quick tactical change and since Benitez was not at the sideline, an instant decision was not possible. Sammy Lee, as we could see, had to refer to Benitez through the phone in all instances. After taking out Keane, Kuyt was asked to play upfront. Only towards the end of the game we saw the introduction of Ngog. By then, it was too late.
Someone suggested that our players were affected by the jeers from the thousands of spectators. To me, they were mostly lost in deciding what to do. They looked worried, played worryingly as if Arsenal had the upperhand which resulted in Arsenal really having the upperhand in most situations, which made them looked far more superior than us. Maybe our players were waiting for instructions from the sidelines to change the game plan, which did not come or came too slowly.
We can start to ponder on what has happened to the normal decisions a team makes when it has one extra player on the pitch. You know, the opponent without the usual strike force would start defending. They play deep and hope for a quick counter-attack. You push them to play deeper by ensuring you do more of the attacking. They can't really attack well because you force them to defend. And you stretch your opponent wide with your flanks. You tire them with your passes. Eventually your opponent will have a lapse in concentration in which you deliver the killer blow. In this game, nothing of that sorts happened. But of course, that is easily said than done.
I am sure in the papers tomorrow, Arsene Wenger and Arsenal would be described as the winners in this game. I can see the headlines now "Ten men Gunners held Liverpool to a draw' with Arsene complaining how unjustified the sending off was and how, if that did not happen, Arsenal would have won the game. How the referree is ALWAYS against Arsenal and how Arsenal are the heroes to have almost beaten 11-men Liverpool. Not to forget the fact that they play a beautiful game. You know, the usual stuffs we read about Arsenal in the papers.
A team that leads the table on Christmas day wins the league for that season, they say. Of course we know that it is not true. Getting a draw away against Arsenal is always a good result. Yes, we might lose the top spot tomorrow after the Chelsea game. But they will be having only one point lead over us if they win. And that is a big IF. And if they do, we know that the season end is still so far away. And of course we know we are still not champions even if Chelsea loses tomorrow. But of course too I would not mind for us to remain at the top of the table come this Christmas.
Merry Christmas!! Ho! Ho! Ho!