This will most likely be a very short ‘check in’ post today, because it was the wife’s birthday yesterday and so a) I didn’t watch the game yesterday as we had a family meal, and b) I’m blogging on my phone for about 10 minutes before we have to drive home.
But by all accounts and from what I have read online, we can be very proud of a resolute Arsenal performance that absolutely keeps us in this tie going back to The Emirates next week. That’s all I said I wanted – to keep the score respectable – and we got more than that on a tough night for those men in blue.
It felt like it was going to be one heck of an uphill struggle even before the game; Ødegaard was confirmed to have contracted COVID, Emile Snith Rowe and Tomiyasu were also still out, which meant whilst Arteta went as strong as he could, that still included the likes of Cedric in the team. Only for the first 10 minutes though and his injury gave Chambers the opportunity for the remainder of the game and by all accounts it sounds like he acquitted himself well for the rest of the game. Given the fact Tomiyasu is a style of defender which is like a hybrid right back and centre half, I’ve always thought Chambers should be the natural understudy for that role, so to hear him play that well with our backs to the wall against an opponent like Liverpool, I do wonder if Arteta might think twice about using him more from now on.
He might be forced to on Sunday, given our injuries and players missing, because Xhaka’s clumsy red card means he won’t be there and that now places an immense strain on the squad. Xhaka, Tomiyasu, Elneny, Partey, Aubameyang, Pepe, ESR could all be missing on Sunday now and in a North London Derby to have that many players out is a massive disadvantage.
But our players should be proud and take confidence from last night. They were made to suffer for a massive chunk of the game because of Xhaka’s red card and those that remained really fought well against a – surprise surprise – practically full strength Liverpool side. As for the red card itself, I’ve watched it and it’s a difficult one. Back in the old days I would have said “last man, got to go” and so it’s probably a red card. I think it’s ‘denying a goal scoring opportunity’ and so he probably should go. But I’ve seen some suggest it was ‘no attempt to play the ball’ which has seen him off. If it is the latter than that’s nonsense because his eyes were on the ball and there’s no way he’s trying to wipe out the player. But There didn’t look to be any other players near and I think if Jota controls it then he probably slots it away. It was clumsy, it could have made for a painful night, it was Xhaka. Xhaka gonna Xhaka but I can’t really go in hard on either side of the debate as I didn’t watch it much in real time and have only seen certain pockets.
So down to 10 men for most of the match and I turned my phone upside down so I couldn’t see any of the inevitable pings to let me know we were battered and the tie was over. But it never came. I didn’t hear a peep from my phone. Then looking at full time all I saw was positive responses and proud Gooners. It made for a wonderful rest of the evening, that’s for sure, and going in to the North London Derby, there is a bit more positivity after the Nottingham Forest debacle.
The fallout from the injuries, COVID and suspensions, however, may loom large with the derby on Sunday. We now look really depleted and with no Xhaka in the midfield, we’re once again left scratching our heads as to who plays in there and how. More pondering on that front tomorrow though. For now, I’m a happy man and we still have hopes of a cup final on the horizon.
Catch you all tomorrow.