And can I start by saying that I have rarely seen such a bunch of diving, cheating, moaning, fouling, toss-pot bastards as this Liverpool side. They really are up there with Van Nistelroy's Man United sides. Although I expect very few will agree with me, Howard Webb did his very best to control a game that could easily have seen penalties and red cards galore. He probably should have booked several Scousers for exaggerating fouls and diving, but that is somewhat wishful thinking. Gerrard and Torres should be on Strictly Come Dancing the way they hit the deck from minimal contact.
Anyway, back to the action, and there was plenty of it. Arsenal lined up basically as expected, with Walcott wide right, Arshavin the lone midget striker, Nasri somewhere on the left, leaving three tight in midfield of Cesc, Denilson and Song. Now, I am not someone who gets too influenced by scorelines, and in plain speaking terms, Arsenal were absolutely shite for most of the first half.
The Scousers started at a massive rate of knots, and Torres was put in after 12 mins in a similar chance to that which fell to Vela in midweek, and like the young bandito, Torres scuffed it tamely to Almunia. But it was a big warning sign.
After about 25 mins, Gerrard drove straight at Gallas at the edge of the box, Billy stuck out a leg that had me rising to my feet shouting "noooooooo" in the deep way that happens in slow motion replays, for sure enough Stevie the ballerina took the invitation and threw himself in a heap. Now, Stevie had probably overrun the ball, but this was a blatant foul on England's Steven Gerrard (who does not dive), at Anfield. But as the sickness in my stomach rose, Howard Webb waved play on. And whilst there are any number of reasons why he did not give the penalty, I like to think that Howard Webb was remembering Dirk Kuyt at the Emirates, or Ryan Babel at Anfield, or Gerrard himself in Istanbul, Goodison or virtually any other ground he has played in, as he gave a goal kick. It was a decision which said "I know Gallas fouled you, got no contact with the ball, and it was surely a penalty, but you are a diving cunt and a don't like you". So thanks for that Howard, a good decision, well done.
As half time approached, it became increasingly clear that the kids had done a much better job in Athens at pissing about in midfield with no threat on the opposition. Cesc seemed to be in a slow daze, Denilson wasteful at best, Nasri, Walcott and Arshavin generally uninvolved and ineffective. But just when I thought we might sneak into half time at 0-0, a nothing sort of straight-at-him free kick was inexplicably flapped by Almunia, which fell to Kuyt to shin home for 1-0.
As Andy Gray droned on about it being the least the Scousers deserved, the whistle blew and the cameras panned to Jamie Rednapp in his stupid thin-tie in the commentary box, grinning from ear to ear in his cheap looking expensive suit, and the resentful tide of hatred began to mount for everything the Scousers have cheated their way to over the last 18 years or so since they last won the league. I still don't know how we lost the 2001 cup final, I really don't.
I expect the truth will never emerge from what happened in the Arsenal dressing room at half time. There will be rumours of course, of old-fashioned bollockings, of sticking Nasri under the hair-dryer until his eyelids blistered. And rumours of older magic still. Of a quiet room, with a tall, thin, grey Frenchman in the corner, who stayed silent for what seemed like hours. The players shifting uncomfortably as they occassionaly caught someone's eye. And then, as the bell rung and they rose to go to the door for the second half, one solitary sentence was said. We'll never know what elvish charm it was, of course, but judging by what happened in the next 15 minutes, it was a bloody miracle.
For suddenly the luck turned, not a little bit here or there, but a massive piece of Glen Johnson sized fuck-up piece of luck that really does not happen that often. The sort of own goal that trickled so slowly over the line that even the Anfield mole would have had time to dig his way from the penalty spot and pop up to nod the ball clear. It was the sort of bad-luck own goal that Vermaelen scored against Chelsea.
And at 1-1 after 50 mins, Liverpool suddenly seemed to re-discover their form as mid-table ball thumpers. Arsenal at last seemed to have a bit of space to breathe, Cesc began to pick some passes, Nasri seemed to actually want to play a bit of footy for his 50k this week. And then, with only 58 mins on the clock, Nasri (i think) floated it over towards Arshavin at the back stick, for Carragher (i think) to slightly miscontrol the interception, leaving Arshavin to collect it beautifully and cut right to find a precious quarter of yard of space, and unleash Sputnik 5 into the top left hand corner of the goal. It was a belter. This bloke really, really does like playing at Anfield.
So, 2-1 then at Anfield. Who's the daddy? Arsenal are right back in this title race. Except there was still 30 mins to play, and countless more times for a Scouser to fling themselves to the ground near the box. Its frankly a miracle that the Scousers did not get a penalty, not that they deserved one, but the tango routine that those cunts put together of foul, foul, then dive, sometimes mixed in with foul, foul, foul, then dive, or just the plain old dive, was a real pleasure for the average "every handball is a penalty" Rednapp type twat.
But Arsenal's back 4 looked very solid. Tommy V was a tower of strength, Gallas made some decent tackles, Traore put in a good shift before getting injured (what is with left backs?) and Sagna had his best 45 mins for a while. There were a couple of hairy moments when Flappy the Spanish Waiter tried to remember how to be a goal keeper, but the Scousers didn't really bother to have a shot on goal second half, which was jolly good news.
Whilst Arshavin will get the plaudit for the way he belted the ball for the winner, the hero of the day, for me, was Alex Song. In circumstances where Lucas and Mascherano were doing their very best to win FA Cunt of the Year, Alex Song put in the sort of strong, dependable performance that was truly noteworthy. I spent a lot of the game wishing that Denilson would simply get out of his way, and I quite like Denilson. Song has that knack when the ball is bobbling around between a couple of jostling players to magically appear through the melee with the ball at his feet. Not even the much lauded Flamini had that knack.
In fact, Song may be the best defensively minded midfielder we have had since Vieira. There you go - I've said it. But who else is there? Apart from a couple of bad experiments with Diaby and Nasri, its really between Song, Gilberto and Flamini for that title. And as things stand, I would pick Song ahead of any of them.
And if we can get through January without Song, we might just be on for a bright second half of the season. Because Lucky Arsenal are back in town.