15 January 2016

From three points down to one point up, Arsenal are ascendant after Anfield...

Look, I know that we have to gnash teeth, rend garments and punch holes in dry wall with our bare fists (mind the studs, though...) after holding a one-goal lead at Anfield for most if not all of the second half. To then concede the equalising goal in the first minute of stoppage-time is especially aggravating. After all, we were just a few precious minutes of earning three points away from home, three gilt-edged points that might make quite a bit of difference in middle-May. However, we caved. We conceded. We capitulated when victory was within reach. Meh. In my eyes, we still earned a point—even if we were minutes away from snatching all three.

Liverpool, for all of their hamstrung ways, are still a tidy outfit managed by an ambitious, shrewd manager. Klopp's got a bit of imagination and energy, both of which should go a long way after the ho-hum Hodgson-Dalglish-Rodgers doldrums that squad has suffered through in recent years. We went into hostile territory, twice fought back from a one-goal deficit, and seized a well-earned lead. I have to say, after just ten minutes of play, I would have gladly signed any paper you'd put in front me offering me a point on the day. Liverpool are a far-cry better than their current mid-table form suggests, and I wouldn't be surprised to see them enter the fight for a top-five spot sooner rather than later. Despite their uneven form, they're only the second side to defeat Leicester, and they've thrashed their hosts at the Etihad and Stamford Bridge.

If none of that offers little more than cold comfort, look at all of the results for matchday 21. Liverpool, Chelsea, Man City, and Tottenham all dropped points at home, and only Liverpool can claim that they kept a point against superior opposition. Chelsea hosted West Brom with a chance to climb a few more points clear of relegation but couldn't quite pull it off. Heck, if anything, they can count their blessings after a McAuley own-goal gave them a 2-1 lead. Man City hosted Everton, and in what should have been a free-scoring affair, could barely be bothered to preserve a scoreless draw. Tottenham welcomed Leicester in and did manage to hold Leicester to one goal—but it was the only goal in a 0-1 loss.

At the end of the day, we remain top of the table, which is all well and good even if it's not quite the same as carving out some space between us and the pack. Had we won at Anfield, we would be two points clear atop the table and five points clear of Man City. As the saying goes, the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. I'm willing to trade two points at Anfield for news that Vincent Kompany is out for the foreseeable future and that Sergio Agüero continues to fight through his injury-woes. There's a difference, remember between wishing harm on opponents and recognizing the strategic benefit of that harm. I genuinely like both players and enjoy watching them play, but I'm not blind to the advantage their injuries offer to Arsenal.

Speaking of injuries, we've whittled ours down to just one: Jack Wilshere. Everyone else—Alexis, Coquelin, Cazorla, Welbeck, Rosický—is back to full training. While that's not quite the same as saying that any of them is available to face Stoke, it's welcome news indeed. We've gone without quite a few lynchpin-level players, namely Alexis and Coquelin, for weeks now, but we've done quite well in their absences. with only the shocker at Southampton and the angst at Anfield as aberrations to what has otherwise been a strong run of form. We've added Mohamed Elneny to the mix as well. Time will tell whether he's enough to fortify our defensive midfield or whether he'll be our only addition the January window, but we do at least have all of those LANS (Like A New Signings) to boost our spirits.

By comparison with our rivals, then, we might be gathering strength for the second half of the season as well as the final run-in. We do have a history of surging into that second half. Even after emerging from Anfield with only one point when we had legitimate designs on all three, We didn't lose the Prem on Wednesday any more than we won it on Saturday.

Next up, of course, is Stoke. At Britannia. It would be nice to avenge Wenger there after what transpired during our last trip, not to mention the long-standing Shawcross Revulsion. What I wouldn't give for Ramsey to remind us all of his resurrection...