Arsenal 1—Liverpool 1
Arsenal drop two more points in final seconds of stoppage time.
With one win in five Premier League games, Arsenal is doing its best to distance itself from the title race. Heading into March, Arsenal was challenging for four trophies and appeared to be on the cusp of purging the dogged issues that have left the club flailing helplessly in seasons past. Doubts about the squad’s resilience were legitimate, but coming off a win against Barcelona in the Champions League and having gone undefeated in league play since December was evidence to almost convince one that this season would be different. Five weeks later Arsenal’s primary battle is fighting off a full-blown crisis rather than for the title that was once there for the taking.
On opening day at Liverpool, Arsenal were gifted a late goal in the first 1—1 draw. A tidy symmetry for the big picture doesn’t say much, even for karmic balance. Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll have replaced Fernando Torres. Steven Gerrard is out. Kenny Dalglish’s weathered face holds greater hope than his predecessor’s. The despondent atmosphere has been replaced with a helium excitement. However one feels about Roy Hodgson and his six months in charge, Liverpool are a different team; rejuvenated, at times playing really well and exciting to watch, which must be taken into account, especially when keeping in mind how truly dull they were last season. An unwatchable dull.
Since early January, they have won 3 of 8 away matches on the road, and 4 of 17 for the season. Liverpool is now in the category of the good team with a poor road record.
None of this matters too much since Arsenal is squarely to blame for their fall.
Arsenal’s descent toward crisis is not marked by the inexplicable or a ‘wtf?!’, but by the all too familiar. It is a painstaking effort to comment on the repetition of narratives: the irreversible March collapse that ends in May’s slow writhing death, the week-to-week match dominance/impotence equation that results in the negation of the draw, and the spontaneously generated catastrophic melt down. The last being the category in which the 3-2 loss to Tottenham, the 4-4 draw with Newcastle, and now the second 1-1 draw with Liverpool, have been placed.
This leaves little left of Arsenal’s matches to analyze, but opens the door for a comprehensive reëvaluation. In previous seasons, the crises have been averted or contained to a degree that Arséne Wenger can deny their existence. He can fend off the necessity of structural change with tweaks, subtle rebalancing, economic restraints, and principled philosophy. It will take a deeper, more explosive crisis to force Wenger to admit that more assertive (in his eyes perhaps disfiguring) changes—likely requiring, by his standards, immoderate investment—can bring about a greater return. It is like an old forest that requires a significant fire to give it that chance to seed.