For an hour, it threatened to be a turning point, a key stop off on "the journey" that Brendan Rodgers talks so much about.
When Jordan Henderson joyously managed to somehow win his duel with the entire Arsenal defence and put Liverpool 2-0 up at the Emirates Stadium, it looked as though this was going to be the standout moment of Liverpool’s season, the big win over a team above them in the Premier League table that the Reds have been craving.
With Henderson’s manic, ricochet-fuelled burst, the memories of two, frustrating 2-1 losses to Manchester United evaporated. Liverpool had shown enough in both games to get something more out of each, and the same could be said of matches against Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham and Everton. The notable scalp that the Reds have frequently deserved has always eluded them.
But when Henderson capped his typically energetic, often lung-bursting performance with a goal, it seemed as though that scalp was going to arrive. But then Arsenal hit back.
The Gunners are a completely crazy football team. Having observed them up close at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday night, Liverpool might just have to concede that title to them. It’s probably not even a close contest.
Arsene Wenger possesses some fantastic footballers, but the frequent brain freezes shown by plenty of his players threaten to undermine all of the good work that they and their manager do. Had Liverpool taken advantage of Arsenal’s frequent flaws in the first half, they could quite easily have been 4-0 up at the break.
Yet the only goal that the Reds had to show for their first half efforts was Luis Suarez’s deflected strike after five minutes, the ending to a suitably madcap few seconds which saw players slipping and sliding all over the Emirates Stadium turf. Wojciech Szczesny saved one from Daniel Sturridge before Henderson was able to keep his head, whilst all around him were losing theirs to tee up Suarez to score.
In fact, Henderson’s performance probably sums up everything about his team at the moment.
So clearly capable of plenty of good things, the Reds can also be painfully naïve at times.
Henderson had a couple of moments in the first half when a clearer mind would perhaps have made a better decision, but after his gloriously ridiculous goal to put his team 2-0 up―still one of the best moments of Liverpool’s season regardless of what happened next―the Reds demonstrated the problems that continue to dog them as they look to return to heights once regularly occupied.
Credit has to be given to Arsenal of course, as the Gunners sensed their chance to come back into a game that they would have feared was already beyond them, but as Olivier Giroud and then Theo Walcott found the Liverpool net in such a short space of time, it was possible to see plenty of negatives on the visiting side. Slack marking allowed Giroud to head home from a free-kick, before Walcott was given time and space to lash home a shot which, on closer inspection, the previously flawless Pepe Reina could have gotten closer to.
So do you want to focus on those three minutes which brought two Gunners goals? Or do you want to look at the previous hour, in which the Reds looked at home at the ground of a traditional big boy for the first time in a while? Even after Arsenal’s goals, the excellent Suarez could have stolen the game with his last kick.
It all depends on how you want to interpret the result. Is your glass half-full or half-empty?
Of course this was two points dropped―it doesn’t matter where you are playing, if you go 2-0 up, then you’re going to be disappointed not to take the three points―but having regrets after going toe-to-toe with one of the league’s big beasts has become commonplace for Liverpool this season. Having the strength to come back and try again is what counts in the future.
The immediate future brings a trip to Manchester City on Sunday, and another chance for the Reds to take a giant leap forward by beating one of the elite teams.
That didn’t happen here, but it wasn’t for the want of trying.
Glasses should be half-full, for now at least.
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