The way I see it – Liverpool v Arsenal

Last updated : 14 February 2006 By Jason Hogan
Without boring everyone to death I have been having all sorts of problems with my laptop and it has definitely curtailed my ability to put my tuppence worth in where the Arsenal are concerned. But, where there's a will there's a way and I have found a temporary solution that has put me back in business.

It was around the middle of December when I wrote my last piece. It's fair to say a fair bit of water has gone under the bridge since then, eh?

So, after all this time, where do I start? Well, when I wrote my last article, the lads were still in both cups and as far as automatic Champions League qualification went (i.e. finishing second) well, our destiny was in own hands. But of course, a woeful defeat at Bolton, followed by a rather acrimonious loss at Newcastle changed the whole equation to such a degree, that the subsequent defeat at home to the Phoney Russian Franchise just before Christmas was academic.

It was at that point, after the defeat at Newcastle, that I realised we had a fight on our hands just to get into the top four never mind the top two and, having dismissed any ideas that Arsene would bring anyone in the January in my own mind at the at the end of November, I was certainly praying that Arsene would actually take some action in the New Year by the time Christmas came around.

Come January, day after day went by with not so much as a whiff of any activity from Arsenal and then suddenly… there were signs of life! In came Messrs Diaby, Adebayor and Walcott – I have to admit to you all, I was gobsmacked – and not for entirely pleasant reasons either.

I mean, here we were finally making a move, shelling out an initial amount of around £15 million – but once again Arsene had resisted the urge to invest it in players of any genuine experience, he went out and bought another batch of, for want of a better phrase, rookies!

Were these the sort of signings we need to be making at this stage of the season? I struggle to be convinced of that and that's putting it mildly. Mind you, from what I have seen of young Diaby in particular the initial signs are fairly positive. He certainly has an engine on him as they say in the trade and I didn't half enjoy it when he clattered Bolton's Ivan Campo in the cup game at the Reebok the other day.

I think most Arsenal fans did come to think of it and I'm sure that I don't particularly need to spell out why. Of course, we met Bolton again on Saturday in our own back yard and I don't mind admitting that I wanted to see us win this particular game so badly I could almost taste it. I am sick to the back teeth of Allardyce, his smug posturing and cheap innuendos. In fact, I for one would LOVE to see him get the England job and you know why? Nobody but nobody in football gets built up and knocked down as quickly as someone who takes over as England manager.

Bobby Robson, Terry Venables, Glenn Hoddle, Kevin Keegan and even Graham Taylor were sworn into the England job and hailed as Messiahs. Yet as soon as the slightest thing went wrong, all of them ended up getting slaughtered without reservation and all of them were hung out to dry. How I would love to see that happen to Allardyce. For me, it couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

There are times when it doesn't always pay to be right. I mean, how many times over the last few years have I said that Arsenal, regardless of whether we field a full strength side or a vastly weakened side, regardless of whether were playing AC Milan or Crawley Town, are the only club in this country that has something to lose EVERY TIME we play? Saturday was a prime example of exactly what I mean.

Regardless of the fact that we were deprived of the services of BOTH of our recognised left backs, all THREE of our normally designated right backs plus Toure, the mentally unstable and increasingly injury prone Campbell and Cygan (OK, maybe I'm scraping the bottom of the barrel a little where Cygan is concerned) through injury and other reasons but NOT by choice, we were still pilloried in the press and the media.

It was Bolton who given all the credit. Some sections of the press and the media even went as far as saying that our equaliser was rough justice on them given the "character and intensity" that they showed amongst. So much for objectivity and impartiality, huh?

Given all the problems we had going into the game, what about the character WE bloody well showed? It's true we weren't great to say the least in the first half and maybe we deserved to be behind at the break but I'm sorry, if it wasn't for their goalkeeper and some desperate last ditch defending they would have been on the wrong end of a hammering long before Gilberto stepped up to actually salvage a point for us.

Of course, why let the facts get in that way of a good story? After all, it didn't stop the likes of that little piece of shit, Oliver Holt, coming out in the Daily Mirror with this warped assertion that Bolton are better side than Arsenal these days. Well, on seeing that I did what any decent Gooner would do in the circumstances. I'll give you a clue – think "toilets" and you can just about guess the rest from there.

I was quite proud of the lads in the end and if the standing ovation our players got at the end was anything to go by I wasn't alone. So many theories are going around about Arsenal, so many people are saying that we don't have a happy camp and this and that. But on the evidence of what I saw I defy anyone to tell me that we lack team spirit if we can come out and fight the way we did in the second half on Saturday. Now, it's time to look forward to Tuesday's game at Anfield.

After a rather iffy spell, Rafa's boys came away with a hard fought but nonetheless welcome victory at Wigan on Saturday and now they are back on track in their quest to book a place in next years Champions League.

The revival that is happening under Benitez at Liverpool has not surprised me one bit. I remember saying before we last played them at Anfield in league back in November 2004 on this very website that Liverpool will have a team that everyone will need to watch out for come the end of the 2006 season and that's exactly how things are starting to pan out.

Now, whilst it's true that I am a self-confessed fan of Xabi Alonso as a player and the world and its mother knows all about the ability of Steve Gerrard, I think the two danger men that Arsenal will have to watch out for will be Harry Kewell and Robbie Fowler. I know, this may sound a little bit out of left field. But for all the problems both of them have had over recent years and all the question marks that still hang over them, the fact is both of them are no strangers to putting Arsenal to the sword and giving us problems.

Having played Bolton, we Gooners should all know about bogey teams and how they can cause problems no matter how well you seem to play against them. But you can also get certain individual players who develop a knack of being able to produce against certain teams even though their form has invariably been indifferent for weeks on end against anyone else.

I don't know why but ever since 1989, this is the away fixture I have always looked forward to the most. When you think about it, our trips to Anfield have often been pivotal as to how our season has panned out over the years and I don't think this game will be any different. I think it will be an intriguing battle. Liverpool haven't really scored goals as freely as they should this season but of course, we have struggled to score goals away from home.

But despite that, there is plenty of quality on both sides and I will be very surprised if the game finishes goalless. Whether we mange to come out on top, given our makeshift defence, is a different matter entirely.