Arsenal desperately need new defender after Liverpool draw
Giroud and Walcott save the day after Gunners' back four look more like a pub team than usual
Arsenal 2 Liverpool 2. Arsene Wenger has approximately 12 hours to save Arsenal's season. If he can buy a decent defender before the transfer window closes tonight, the Gunners might yet finish in the top four and qualify for next year's Champions League for a 16th consecutive season. But if the Arsenal boss sticks with what he's got, then his side is doomed to finish outside the golden zone.
In a season of back four blunders, yesterday's shambles at home to Liverpool plumbed new depths of incompetence. Only the finishing skills of Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott got the Gunners out of the deep hole dug by their hopeless defence, in which Thomas Vermaelen, Bacary Sagna and Per Mertesacker all gave passable impressions of a pub team with a particularly bad hangover.
The less said about Andre Santos the better, without question the worst player to don an Arsenal shirt in living memory. When he replaced the injured Kieran Gibbs on 37 minutes, many of the Arsenal faithful watched the rest of the match through their fingers.
Admittedly Santos had no part to play in Liverpool's opening goal on five minutes; that disaster was down to Sagna and Vermaelen, and the predatory skills of Luis Suarez. But the Brazilian left-back was at fault for the second as Jordan Henderson waltzed past him, danced past the limp challenge of Mertesacker and fired past the erratic Wojciech Szczesny. And to think a couple of days earlier the Polish keeper had been telling the press to lay off the Arsenal defence.
"We didn't give out big security tonight defensively," admitted Wenger, "but on the other hand, when you see what the spirit is in the team, and what the quality [is] going forward, you smell that something can always happen at any moment."
Unfortunately spirit can only take you so far in football, as Arsenal have discovered in recent weeks in losing to Manchester City and Chelsea, and more tough games lie ahead between now and the end of the season that will require a defensive performance infinitely superior to the comedy of errors witnessed at the Emirates on Wednesday night.
Liverpool deserved their share of the spoils, the Reds showing no ill-effects following Sunday's FA Cup humiliation at the hands of Oldham. With the veteran pair of Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard leading by example, Liverpool's only fault was to wilt as the game wore on. Having gone two up on the hour mark they then conceded twice in four minutes as Arsenal launched a frantic assault on the visitors' goal.
Giroud, who was at the heart of all Arsenal's creativity, scored his fifth goal in a week when he headed home from close range on 64 minutes, and the Frenchman then teed up Theo Walcott for the equaliser with the striker powering a low angled drive past Pepe Reina.
Giroud and Suarez both had chances to snatch a winner late on but defeat would have been harsh for either club in an entertaining if error-ridden encounter. The result leaves Arsenal in sixth, three points behind Everton in fifth.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers admitted he was "disappointed" at allowing Arsenal back into the game but added: "We could have had a few more goals but my overriding emotion is one of pride. These players have been brilliant."
The same can't be said of the Arsenal defence. Asked why they looked so nervous, Wenger replied: "Because they want to do well and they want to win games. The games have massive importance for them and that's why… we have to learn to trust these players and keep faith in them."
Then again, Wenger could dip into his pocket today and purchase a defender who actually knows what he's doing.