Sunday 17 January 2016

Arsenal Away Day - Anfield January 2016

The older I get the quicker time flies. It makes me wonder if the person who coined the phrase 'time flies when you are having fun' knew what they were talking about. I am not having fun and time is flying. Surely I can't be in the minority. Someone please tell me. 

Unbelievable that January is almost gone. The month of May will soon be here and the identity of the English Premier League winner will be revealed. I am still hoping that this winner will be Arsenal Football Club. By far the greatest team the (WHOLE) world has ever known. :)

2016 has started on a good note for the Gooners. Newcastle, Sunderland and Liverpool all somewhat successfully navigated. You wouldn't call any of them emphatic performances but they all count in terms of results and where the Club will be come May. 

In 2016, I hope to continue my visits to iconic stadiums. A passion I have had since my teenage years and a passion rekindled by my group of friends and brothers when they organised a trip to the Estadio de Dragao and The San Siro 3 years ago. Since that trip, I have visited St James Park in Newcastle, The  Boleyn in the East end of London, The Allianz Arena in Munich, Wembley for many momentous occasions in the recent life of an Arsenal fan and Anfield last week. 

 I was looking forward to the Anfield trip for two reasons. About 7 years ago, before I ever heard of Twitter & before Instagram was founded and when Facebook was for time wasters, I visited a very close friend who lived in Manchester and worked in Liverpool. I went with him to work one day and decided to spend the whole day exploring the Liverpool City Centre. I was told it will take me 10 minutes. It was all going to plan until I got to the Liverpool Dock and discovered the Museum of Slave Trade. 

It is now renamed the International Slave Trade Museum. I spent time at the Museum then and I knew I will be back. So when the opportunity to visit Anfield came up a few weeks ago, I grabbed it with both hands. 

I have since visited Anfield and the Museum and hope that I will find the energy and comportment to write about my visit to the Museum on another occasion but today is very much about my trip to Anfield

Anfield is somewhat small - pitch and stadium itself. Development  to increase the capacity is ongoing and should be finished by next season. 

The Kop end singing YNWA is hair raising and to be fair appears as solemn as a funeral service. Far from being intimidating in a threatening kind of way I dare say. I see the intimidation from a different perspective. The opposing players could be potentially awed by the solemn nature of the singing. But trust us the Away fans, we were having none of it and were quite irreverent. 

The home support is quite unlike the Crystal Palace support though as they were very quiet for spells in the game and not just when Arsenal were on top. Trust the Away fans, they picked up on this quiet spells and severaly asked 'where the @£$%* @£$% is your atmosphere.' :) There were other politically incorrect and quite rude songs / chants from the Away fans as well and I enjoyed these to no end. 

On the downside, why is there is no video replay screen at Anfield? The screen in the stadium is similar to the small display screen you have in a GP Surgery. Surely Liverpool FC can do better. Maybe transfer the screen outside the stadium into the grounds. 

On the football itself, I believe Liverpool played a blinder in the days leading up to the game. The noise about the injuries was all that - noise. Designed to lower Arsenal's guard and it succeeded. How Ibe (HighB) miraculously recovered from his injury is anybody's guess. Sakho was meant to be out for 8 weeks after the Watford Clash. Eh. Yippee that was Sakho knocking lumps out of Giroud's fine face during the match. Lies. Lies Lies & Deception and Arsenal fell for it. 

Arsenal were firm favourites. Odds on. Sure banker. I fell for that too. Note to self, do not bet your trousers on Arsenal when they are favourites. There I was, dreaming of how I will stroll into the office like a boss the day after the match. Quite confident that the day of atonement for the 5 - 1 loss two seasons ago was here. Was it heck? 

As at today, Liverpool have Origi, Skertel, Lovren, Coutinho & Sturridge out. Of those 5 only Skertel & Coutinho are nailed on guaranteed first team starter. So don't be deceived that the Liverpool squad was decimated. It wasn't. 

Trust Arsenal, we started on the back foot. I suspect the in - your face Gengen pressing got to the Arsenal lads. A pity Liverpool can't do Genegen defending. :)

From what I saw and from replays / highlights of the match, there was a foul on Theo before the ball was nicked off him before  Liverpool scored their first goal. Having said that, Cech got down low to save from Can who committed the foul on Theo and Koscielny could / should potentially have blocked Firminho's shot. Laurent throwing his leg was a hopeful punt and not one timed towards the trajectory of the goal bound shot. 

To those who think Cech could have done better for the first goal, maybe they are right. I have been between the sticks before and it is a daunting place. For me, that the goal keeper reacts and pushes a goal bound ball away is enough. His defenders should anticipate and be quicker to react than the opposing team to clear the ball from danger. 

From where I sat, more like stood in the stadium , I could tell immediately what Firminho was trying to do for the 2nd goal. Forget the comedy of errors leading to Arsenal gifting the ball to Liverpool before that strike. As soon as Firminho took his first touch to set the ball up for himself, switched on defenders should have been crowding him out to cover the space & possible trajectory of the shot he eventually took but Arsenal defenders stood of him. 

For the 3rd goal, I don't think the Arsenal players showed enough commitment and desire. Two defenders on Benteke and he nicks the ball for a knock down to Joe Allen. How? Allen approaches to strike the ball and Bellerin's defending was non - committal on both the ball and the man. It is the 90th minute mate, what is the worst that can happen with a hard challenge that leads to a penalty? A penalty? Those get missed you know. What happened to games management? What happened to disrupting the match with fouls, needless argument, scuffles, pretend injuries when you are under pressure and there are a few seconds to go? Disrupt the match with sense. Get the players not on a yellow to commit yellow card offences. 

All over the pitch, I saw lots of poor decision making from the Arsenal players that could potentially have won them the match if they had made the right decisions. Ramsey's determination to get on the goal sheet is not always to the advantage of the team. The goal line clearance by Sakho could have easily been a Walcott goal if Ramsey had used his touch to set up Theo. The move by Walcott when he dribbled the entire Liverpool Team should have ended in a goal but Theo finished the move with a poor shot. Lay it on a plate for somebody else son. Giroud refused to pass to Theo at some point as well when it appears Theo was in a better position. 

Guys, when you are 4 nil ahead and cruising, you can then think about personal glory, stats etc. However when the game is finely poised, Think Team. 

Officiating was poor overall. I believe English Referees think its their God given right to even out weakness of the opposition by giving contentious decisions or allowing play go on in the face of  blatant fouls. I wonder if this is in there briefing note from the English Premier League (EPL) management. Something to feed the social media frenzy that the EPL is the best league in the world because of its competitiveness. 

I was drained at the final whistle. It was a very cold night. Thank God for my new gloves. I was somewhat relieved with the result especially as I am always worried that a poor performance is somewhat round the corner for Arsenal. I was disappointed at what I consider 2 points dropped. 

This season in the league, we have lost to Chelsea and Southampton, West Brom and West Ham in inexplicable fashion. We have drawn with Liverpool on both occasions, drawn with the Spuds and with Norwich in matches we should have won either with good luck or or just a win if we had taken our chances and defended better. I am hoping we don't regret any of these results come May.  

We are still in a good place. I'm not overly worried about today's match. A loss will not be a disaster. Our opponents today have beaten Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea at home this season. Although I genuinely want Arsenal to win today as we are due a result at the Britannia. 

Why am I not worried about a loss today? We have kept pace with the league leader Leicester . We are 1 point behind them but with superior goal difference. We are level on points with Manchester City, the team that was going to steamroller everybody and win the league at a canter. Also, we are expecting Leicester at the Emirates soon and go to the 'Emptyhad' or is the 'East Midlands' for our penultimate game of the season plus Leicester and Manchester City are also to meet.

So calm down everybody. Yes, we are not yet taking advantage of all the opportunities presented to us by a misfiring City. Yes we dropped 2 points at Anfield. But I can guarantee there will be more twists and turns on the road to May, when I hope Arsenal can prove to everybody they can last the distance. 


  1. Apart from the enjoyable intro and hard truths about the ol' Anield (I wonder about scoreboard, size of pitch and quiet fans these days), the fan in you shone through!
    I expected liverpool to be blown away but we weren't and just like you, more often than not Liverpool is becoming Arsenal in terms of expectation.
    After nicking a point in a game we should have won, we contrived to lose a game we were favourites to win.
    Like I said earlier this season (and the last... and the last season... and... get it), Arsenal remain my pick for the title, Won't wish you the best though.

  2. By the way, I envy your getting to fulfil a childhood dream I also have

  3. Great article, as usual. However, I seem more worried than you about the continuing frailties of Arsenal, as recurrent as they are. Sometimes, to win a league, you have to wear down the other contenders by picking up win after win when you should falter. I am not convinced that Arsene's Arsenal have the mental strength to hold their nerve in a tight finish.