Sunday was a chance for Arsenal to wipe the painful memory of Anfield eight days earlier and prove that losing 5-1 was a mere blip. The team certainly grasped this opportunity with both hands by knocking out one Merseyside club and setting up a Quarter Final tie with another, Everton. In essence, the match suggested that February 8th 2014 was a freak accident. Liverpool are not the world-beaters that the media would have you believe after one game and Arsene Wenger’s side are not horrendously awful. To use managerial speak, the big test in football is how you react to disappointment and I believe we have answered any questions well.
Oxlade-Chamberlain again put in a fine performance, (he was the only decent Arsenal player at Anfield) and arguably won us the match. He finished well in the first half, when the ball dropped to him in the box, and set up our second goal latching on to a perfectly timed ball from Özil, before passing it across to Podolski. I think the Ox adds that much needed injection of pace that the team have been missing since Walcott’s injury back in January. The 0-0 against Man United on Wednesday illustrated that we pose no attacking threat if a player like Chambo or Gnabry is not playing and making the defenders work.
However, my man of the match was another 19-year-old called Yaya Sanogo. The debutant may not have scored but showed all Arsenal fans why Wenger has faith in him. Dare I say it, but the young Frenchman reminded me of Adebayor when he was at the Emirates, winning flick ons and chasing balls effortlessly. There was one particular moment when a cross-field ball looked to have too much power on it and was going out. He sprinted out of nowhere and managed to get there. For such a big, powerful man, the acceleration is very surprising and is a nice combination that gives the team something different to Giroud which provides an interesting dilemma for the manager.
The big talking point at the end involved the referee. Not long after Arsenal conceded a stonewall penalty and the match was delicately poised at 2-1, Oxlade-Chamberlain looked very fortunate to not give away a penalty when he clearly brought down Luis Suarez in the box. The only reason I can think that the decision went in our favour was because of Suarez’s theatrics in the past. Also, I’d like to point out to any Liverpool fans, who feel rather hard done by, that Howard Webb had an atrocious game. Gerrard should have got a second yellow, Cazorla had a fifty-fifty penalty shout, and Sanogo was persistently fouled by the centre-backs. Therefore, the decisions evened themselves out this time.
The horrific defeat 11 days ago had me fearing that our season was collapsing around us, but a draw against the reigning Premier League Champions followed by an impressive victory in the FA Cup has been a very good way to bounce back. Now, these fixtures are coming thick and fast so I’m back off to the Emirates tonight for the small matter of Bayern Munich. I’m not expecting a win to be honest but it would be nice so that the positive momentum continues.
By Glen Shorey