The way I see it - Arsenal v Liverpool (Part 3)

Last updated : 07 April 2008 By Jason Hogan
By the time the BBC started transmitting the first of three days coverage of the Grand National meeting at Aintree, my hangover had subsided - but my brooding sense of anger had not abated one bit.

My mood wasn't helped when I saw ex-Liverpool striker John Aldridge being briefly interviewed at Aintree talking about his love of the place and then crowing about the great result Liverpool had gained the night before at our expense. If I could have reached into the telly and ripped out his jugular, I would have done.

Aldo's smug grin brought the events of the night before back to me in vivid Technicolor and I spontaneously let fly with a volley of expletives that would have made even Bernard Manning blush.

I don't need to tell any of you what was at the root of my brooding anger and resentment. In a time when people have been touting the idea that foreign referees should be brought into the Premier League, Arsenal fans can testify to the fact that a chronic level of incompetence exists on the continent as well.

I know that there is a much more relaxed attitude to drugs over in Holland but if I didn't know any better, the referee on Wednesday night must have passed up on a cup of tea at half time and elected to go for some magic mushrooms instead. How else do you explain the fact that he failed to award Arsenal a penalty after Hleb had been blatantly dragged to the ground by Kuyt?

It was an incident that reminded me of the incident at Old Trafford when Ljungberg was taken out by Ferdinand when he was en route to goal in that oh so painful defeat to ManUre in 2004-5. It wasn't a penalty incident as such like Hleb/Kuyt situation but, as I said at the time when that incident happened, what really angered me more than anything, was that Mike Reilly just waved play on as if nothing happened when an incident had clearly taken place. If he had taken some action, even against Ljungberg for diving that day, I wouldn't have liked it. But at least the referee would have been seen to have addressed the incident.

It was the fact that Riley waved play on and ducked his responsibility to even make any kind of decision either way, right or wrong, that I found absolutely scandalous that day.

And that, in effect, was exactly what this idiotic Dutch referee did on the Hleb/Kuyt incident. He copped out or if you like Kopped out of making a decision on what was a genuine incident because, conveniently for him the ball ran over the touchline and he chose to give a corner rather than show some balls and make a decision on what actually happened. And like Riley was at Old Trafford on that fateful day, the actions of this Dutch referee were absolutely scandalous in my opinion.

Arsenal may have deserved to win that game last Wednesday but to fair that wasn't the case when we met the Scouse again on Saturday. For the first half hour in particular, the Arsenal were all over the place and Sky guest Graeme Souness was spot on at half time when he said that Arsenal were second to everything for most of the first half.

The Arsenal did play better in general in the second half. Nicklas Bendtner even brought us level from a set piece. But for all our huffing and puffing in the second half, we looked more like side playing from memory rather than one that was living in and living for the moment. It was only late on in the game that we played with any degree of urgency and whilst there were claims once again for a penalty when Fabregas was grabbed by the shirt it was an incident that went unnoticed, least of all by me.

As the final whistle went I got a text from none other than the brother of my buddy Gazza's brother Eamon. He had emigrated to Australia a few years back and I hate to think what time it was when he sent me the text but he said that any hope of the title had gone for us. He was saying what I already knew really.

After all, at a time when Arsenal were in dire need of urgency and a win, the Arsenal side looked indeed like it was running on empty. And, if anything, Saturday's game was largely all about one man - and he didn't play for Arsenal. Peter Crouch was a thorn in our sides for most of the afternoon and for a man who has hardly had a look in all season long at Anfield, he was invariably too hot for the Arsenal defence to handle.

I will shamelessly admit that I am a fan of this boy, Crouch. Having had spells earlier on his career at Norwich, QPR, Pompey and Aston Villa, I think he became a real player when he moved to Southampton and from that moment on he has never really looked back. Whilst it's true to say that he is not the quickest thing you have seen on two legs and whilst he is not as dominant as you would expect from a man that stands six feet seven, the fact is that he a lot better than people give him credit for.

As one tabloid reporter said on Monday, the Arsenal could do a lot worse than sign this bloke up and personally, I agree with that 100%. He may not exactly be a white version of Drogba and he never will be. But unlike anyone in the current Arsenal ranks, he can at least hold the ball up and bring others into play. In my opinion, the Arsenal haven't had anyone in their ranks with the ability to do that sort of thing consistently since the days of Alan "Smudger" Smith.

It will be interesting to see whether Crouch plays any part on Tuesday because he has proved beyond any reasonable doubt that he is awkward enough to cause us problem at the back, never mind Torres.

Of course the likelihood is that he will make way ultimately for the Spaniard which is, from Liverpool's point of view a bit of a shame really. I have not seen anyone come up with a decent explanation as to why Crouch and Torres cannot play together on a regular basis.

But of course that is something that is an issue that is not our problem. That belongs to Benitez. This brings me nicely round to the second leg of our Champions League tie at Anfield.

Now, it would be easy for me to go down the conspiracy route. I mean, whilst Arsenal were denied a stonewall penalty in the first leg that would have potentially given us a lead to take to Anfield, the whole world has known for years, decades even that Liverpool have got penalties for far less down the years particularly in front of the Kop.

And there is a part of me that wonders what price you would get on the Scousers getting one at Anfield in the return leg for an offence that was relatively innocuous by way of comparison in the second leg. That may be me looking for something that is not necessarily there but, my fellow Gooners, I will guarantee you all this.

Come Tuesday, the Anfield crowd will be baying for blood even if an Arsenal player so much as looks at an opponent the wrong way, never mind of makes a challenge in the box. My fellow Gooners, don't be surprised if we somehow get screwed again somewhere down the line up there.

I'm not saying that our interest in the Champions League is over though. A lot is made of the atmosphere at Anfield on European nights and I don't deny that it is going to be hot. But as far as I am concerned, we have a score to settle up there now. For me, it's not just about revenge it's about seeing that justice is done.

And you know what, fellow Gooners? There is no reason why we cannot get it. There are a few reasons why I think that but at the end of the day, the main one is that I think we are, quite simply, better than them.

Don't get me wrong; there is not a bigger fan of Stevie G in Britain than me. He is the best English player around and for me, pound for pound, only Paul Scholes has ever commanded my admiration in the way he has over the last ten years. And I have watched enough of Javier Mascherano and Fernando Torres (ever since he was 17) to have liked what I have seen of then both long before either of them ever pulled on Liverpool shirts.

But, whilst this may sound like defiant bravado but I really do think that we can score up there not just in open play but also at set pieces. Their back four can be got at particularly if Carragher continues to be deployed at right back.

And even though their new boy Martin Skrtel has shown signs of improvement since he came to Liverpool in January, I still think he can be exposed. In other words it's not a question of ability that will stop us getting a result at Anfield next Tuesday it's a question of desire and application on our part.

All I can hope is that can we get the kind of justice that we deserved last Wednesday. We were not better than Liverpool over the piece on Saturday but we were last Wednesday and there is no reason why we cannot be that way again.