Arsenal Champions League Heartbreak – Match Analysis

By Tom Mac

After the smoke is clear, the hangover has faded, the tears have dried and the swollen knuckles have healed, all that remains is the overwhelming sense of injustice from a night that promised so much, in a tie that was ultimately decided by inconsistent refereeing. The most exciting team in this year’s competition has been knocked out, and all of England can rejoice at the prospect of another exhilarating Chelsea vs. Liverpool showdown.

We rightfully complain about being completely and utterly robbed, to a penalty undoubtedly less obvious than both the appeals we had against Liverpool in the last two games, and inevitably, our complaints will see us labelled as whiners. Why can’t opposition fans, Liverpool’s in particular, concede that they won the game thanks to the crucial decisions made by two referees? I would congratulate the opposition for winning, albeit behind gritted teeth, if the victory was deserved, but it clearly was not.

Rafael Benitez, of course, claimed Liverpool were worthy winners, and for years now, the world has been trying to unravel the secret to Rafa’s exceptional record in Europe. Well I think I’ve got it – he’s the world’s luckiest manager! Arsenal have many celebrity fans, from the Queen to Osama Bin Laden, but Liverpool’s trumps them all. They have God cheering them on. So good luck for the next round Rafa, not that you need it.

We dominated Liverpool for three out of four games, and were certainly worthy of a share of the spoils last night, but we come out with three draws and a loss. Yes, abysmal officiating played its part, but our players must take a share of the blame, for missing chances, and for some dreadful lapses in concentration. It was certainly a debatable penalty decision, but what was Kolo doing? Flapping his arms around like he thought he could fly, Toure has been a mess since the African Cup of Nations. Senderos, meanwhile, was simply useless. Hyppia scored a fantastic header, but he should never have been allowed the space to convert it. Torres scored from an excellent finish that Liverpool fans have become accustomed to, but how could Senderos give him such freedom in the box? I have stood by Senderos for a long time, but I am no longer convinced he has the makings of a world class Premiership centre back.

As a final gripe, I’d like to ask how on earth was Mascherano not booked? He had already made two sly fouls before he cynically slid into Diaby from behind, scissoring his legs to pull him down and still he didn’t see yellow. Liverpool’s entire defence would have been severely compromised had Mascherano been on a yellow card for the second half.

Many will argue that Walcott deserved to start. They certainly have an argument, but Arsene’s gameplan worked pretty well for me. Eboue actually had a decent game, although his distribution was poor at times. Theo wouldn’t have gaps like that to tear into earlier in the match. Adebayor demonstrated his Jekyll and Hyde like ability to cause Liverpool untold problems while constantly running offside, and to both score and miss a sitter, but I am confident he will continue to improve, and justifies his place in the team.

So, not for the first time in a game of football, and undoubtedly not for the last, the better side lost. But have you ever felt such an overwhelming sense of unjust? Bitter fans of other clubs please join in (Everton fans are especially welcome – I remember how you were defeated against Liverpool at Goodison, and I’ve seen the league standings at www.therightresult.co.uk). The next most painful, undeserved loss I can currently remember has to be the end of the Invincibles at Old Trafford, but last night’s defeat eclipsed even that.

Tonight, Barcelona take on Shalke, and they are surely the only challenge to the prospect of another English club winning the Champions League. Please Thierry, give us one last memory to love you for, and stop the Scousers, Mancs and Chavs achieving a triumph that they would never let us forget.

  • Anonymous

    Get real, wont ya? Ade is totally rubbish despite the goal. That goal was better attributed to Walcott’s effort. Ade is famous for offsides, poor ball control, trying fancy stuff as if he’s henry II. What crap! Give Walcott a run of games, and you’ll see him grow in performance and confidence. Stuart Pearce didnt recommend him to Fabio for nothing!

  • Anonymous

    You’ve said it all young man. Watched the game over here in Dublin and I have never been as upset. Well maybe the Champs League final but we were hanging on in that one so losing was always likely when Jens went off. But last night, to watch that travesty, and then to put up with rows of smug Pool fans, having seen rows of Chelsea grins two weeks ago and Man U fans when they trounced us … well we’ve put up with a lot of pain this year, more, far more, than our fair share.
    I think we can all name players that have to go but I think we should pause now and watch the rest of the season. Only in the cold light of the off season should we make drastic decisions … all that matters to me is that we need the flamster … we fell apart when he went off.
    Arsene has been brilliant with his frugality over the past few years, now he has a new challenge, one he has not yet shown any mastery of … show me you can spend money and buy established winners … and please no more building for the future, we desperately need our faith and loyalty to be repaid soon. I can’t take another night like last night, well OK I can, but I don’t want to

  • Anonymous

    I totally agree with what you send about Senderos and Toure, but I never thought Senderos was good. He did play well while Toure was out but he is too slow even to play center back.

    Wenger should have started Walcott and moved Eboue back to right back. Have you noticed that since Sagna got hurt we haven’t been crossing the ball as much but have been more direct right down the middle approach.

    I think Walcott deserves to start. I would prefer him up top over Bendtner any day.

  • Anonymous

    LMFBO

    You can lock up the trophy cabinet for this year you muppets…LOLOLOL

  • Anonymous

    There is no point in starting Walcott, seeing as he only seems to have an impact on games when the oposition is on its last legs; (Milan, Liverpool…). Though he is better than the arrogant Bendtner.
    As for Toure, you are quite right, what the hell was he trying to do? I’ve never seen a weirder way to try and get the ball. And why the hell was Toure playing at right back? He should have played where is most comfortable, centre with Gallas. Senderos has never been and will never be a world class centre back. We definately needed Sagna for more stability and better quality crosses.
    Overall, I feel incensed at the unjust inconsistency of refereeing over the three Liverpool games. Arsene Wenger needs to get some more experienced players soon, before Ramos can elevate Tottenham to 4th.

  • Anonymous

    Now that refs are the rage can someone compile a list of cockups by match officials starting with the spurs -mu game.The ball had crossed the line bf the goalie retrieved it. Yet the linesman did not flag for goal. The conniving ref blew for play on.