(Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Over the long haul of the Premier League season, where a number of draws and losses are inevitable, getting a draw at Anfield is not a bad result at all. Most Gooners would not deny that, but there are a number of questions in most supporters' minds that still hang over the club, and today's match did little to provide answers either way.
Arsenal dominated possession in the first half but with very little spark on the end of their attacks. Thomas Vermaelen lasered a free kick on goal that Reina palmed away for Arsenal's only real shot of note. On the other end, Almunia made an athletic save against Glen Johnson, and Gael Clichy cleared a header from a corner kick off of the line.
At the end of the first half, Joe Cole lunged in on Laurent Koscielny (who was excellent overall today), scissoring down the Frenchman. Referee Martin Atkinson did not hesitate to show the England midfielder a straight red card, and Koscielny went off on a stretcher. Arsène Wenger admitted after the game that initially the physio thought Koscielny had broken his leg, and Arsenal fans began envisioning Song or Sagna in at center half.
However, Koscielny shrugged off the blow, and emerged at the start of the second half, ready to go. Liverpool, down to ten men, pressed from the kickoff, and after one minute of play, an Arsenal error led to the opener. Jack Wilshere missed an interception, and the ball came to Javier Mascherano who shrugged off the challenge of Abou Diaby to play through David N'Gog on goal. The Frenchman rifled a shot towards the top corner from an angle that Manuel Almunia perhaps will regret not cutting off, the ball hit the roof of the net, and the Kop exploded with joy.
The goal gave Liverpool's ten men renewed energy while at the same time they seemed content to sit back and break up Arsenal's possession in midfield while looking to get the ball forward to David N'Gog or Fernando Torres. The half ticked away with Arsenal finding very little penetration. No shots were forthcoming until Tomas Rosicky stole in to Liverpool's area with about a quarter hour to go, only to see his effort go over the crossbar from 15 yards.
Arsenal introducted Robin van Persie, but continued to find it tough sledding in the final third until the 87th minute, when an invigoratied Arsenal created a mad scramble. After a cross, the ball sat tantalizingly three yards from the line until Liverpool managed to clear it away. Three minutes later, Arsenal's renewed pressure would pay off.
Marouane Chamakh, whose aerial game had foundered against the rocks of Jamie Carragher and Daniel Agger for ninety minutes, finally managed to creep in and get in front of Reina on a cross. He bundled the ball off the post, where Reina, perhaps surprised, managed only to fumble it into his own net.
Arsenal supporters everywhere breathed a huge sigh of relief, but there were four minutes of stoppage time to be played. Both sides probed carefully for a winner, and in the 93rd minute, Laurent Koscielny, booked already for a challenge earlier, handled the ball in midfield, and saw a second yellow. It was a harsh sending off for the Frenchman on his debut, and he will miss the next match. Wenger will surely be taking a long, hard look at the transfer market in the six days before the Blackpool match now. Atkinson called time on a 1-1 draw, in the end, probably a fair result.
Here is today's match chalkboard, asking why Arshavin stayed on and an effective Diaby was subbed off (one answer, which Wenger gave in his post-mach presser: "Arshavin is the kind of player who can always create something special"):