As with all games there were positives and negatives, there were good performances and the less so, however overall I was generally encouraged by what I saw. In retrospect I think Arsene got his starting eleven slightly wrong, we did lack width and this meant Liverpool could defend a bit more comfortably than we should have allowed, especially after Cole had been sent off to leave them with ten men.
We started well, we controlled the first half and looked by far the better side. The problem was that we didn't convert our overt domination into chances and shots on goal. It was all a bit lacking in width and some of the the build up was a tad slow, the passing was quite as quick and sharp as it can be. Eboue and Arshavin offered very little and Chamakh looked a bit isolated. Nasri was looking dangerous, Wilshere had an ok first half and Diaby played with real discipline in a deeper role than he normally takes up.
The moment that changed the game when Joe Cole was quite rightly shown a straight red card for a reckless late lunge through Koscielny's leg, after he had cleared the ball. The expected banter of 'he's not that kind of player' and 'there was no intent' materialised on Guttersports but this didn't really cut the mustard. It wasn't a blocking challenge, it was a challenge that was directed through Koscielny's leg, this makes Cole that kind of player, it was a poor tackle that could have resulted in serious injury. Even Mark Lawrenson felt it was a clear red card on MOTD2. Well done to the referee for having the bottle to send off a Liverpool player at Anfield, they do so often get away with murder, in Gerrard's case quite literally. In fact Gerrard was very lucky to stay on the pitch yesterday, his first half tackle on Eboue was shocking, a yellow card at least and he then went on to be commit two or three yellow card offences in the second half.
At half time most Gooners would have been rather optimistic but this didn't last long. A bit of sloppy play saw a bit of a hospital pass sent towards Jack Wilshere who tried to be a bit ambitious with it, failed to control it, this then saw Ngog played in, he belted the ball into the top corner at Almunia's near post. Personally I don't think you can blame the goalkeeper for being beaten by such a pearler, the blame must go to those who gifted the ball to Liverpool in such a dangerous area. After that goal Liverpool sat back, we huffed and puffed but didn't really threaten, until the final twenty minutes or so.
Theo, Rosicky and RVP had come on by this time and all three made a real difference. Theo's gave us more of a cutting edge and some width. Rosicky gave us some push forward from the centre of midfield and RVP gave us that aggressive drive that he always does. We started to create a few chances, Rosicky swung in a nice cross that Vermaelen headed wide, Theo hid a great free kick with Reina saved well, Rosicky went on a brilliant run and after a neat one-two forced an astonishing save from Reina.
The equaliser then came, Reina and Carragher were caught napping as a cross was swung in, only the hard working Chamakh attacked it and he had his reward, he bundled it onto the post, it then rebounded to the back tracking Reina who fumbled it into his own net, 1-1 it was. We had a great chance to win it when Theo again found space in the wide right area, unfortunately his cross was headed over at the back post. The ref, who lost the plot in the second half, sent off Koscielny with an astonishingly poor decision for the second yellow card, the ball was belted into his arm from point blank range, he simply couldn't get out of the way. The ref finally booked the violent Gerrard in the second half but if anyone deserved red, it was this thug of a scouser who committed at least three stonewall yellow card tackles in the game.
Overall a point at Anfield is a good point, Liverpool will be very decent this season under Hodgson who always gets the best out of his players. The positive was the way we controlled and dominated the game with the teams even in number. The negatives included the lack of clear cut chances despite the possession and our lack of width. It is harsh to judge Andrei Arshavin on the basis of one game, especially when he has only just experienced a tough return trip to Russia, but he does need to up his game this season. Despite his slightly erratic nature Theo does give us something extra, his pace scares teams and pushes them deeper, he also creates a lot of space for other players just because of his threat. Koscielny also did well when he was asked to defend, that moment when he outpaced Torres was good to see. Overall a point gained, but the gaps in terms of goalkeepers and centre backs remain.