Last week I said I was a little unsure about how I felt following the trip to Anfield. In the end a point gained was what I settled on. Yesterday however it is very much two points dropped. For the second time in a row we threw away a two goal lead and now. After we started incredibly, each penalty had a massive impact on the course of the game and now we’ve paid the penalty for failing to kill games off.
The day started in high spirits until one of our travelling party ominously announced that he had a “funny feeling” about the day. However with a smooth journey to an incredibly awkward ground to get to we took to our seats in the East End sunshine. Despite our journey being easy it was clear some other struggled, the person next to me arrived shortly after kick off. “How have we started?” he asked, as I was about to reply not bad Jesus rolled the ball in at the far post. Chaos ensued in the away end. Three minutes later and we doubled our lead as Odegaard hit his volley first time low and under Fabianski. It really was liquid football and it felt like we could score as many as we wanted.
However we failed to turn to the screw and West Ham grew into the game even without threatening much. Then there was a moment of madness from Gabriel. You can debate whether it was or not but there was contact and when you fly in like that you give the ref little option. I’d expect and of our players to go down as well. Ramsdale who I’ve still not seen save penalty went the wrong way and once again we went in defending a one goal lead.
West Ham came tearing out the blocks in the second half and we were immediately under pressure, buoyed by the then livening crowd they pressed. But we were thrown an unexpected lifeline as the referee judged there to be a handball in West Ham box which was appealed by every Arsenal player on the pitch and every fan in the away end. A penalty to make it 3-1 and restore our lead.
Saka has been central to so much of our season, goals, assists, drive and passion. When he took the ball off Jesus I was confident. Then in one of those moments that’s impossible to explain to a non-footballing person, my confidence flipped and I knew he was going to miss. And miss he did. In all honesty it wasn’t even close. If the keeper saves it then so be it, that’s football, but you MUST hit the target from the penalty spot. It was a crushing miss.
Football is a cruel mistress and two minutes later down the other end West Ham levelled. We huffed and puffed, played a little better but in reality we never looked like getting a third. We slowly drained out of the away end and the mood was as low as it’s been for a long, long time.
So where does that leave us? Well, it’s still in our hands but we have zero margin for error now. With so much still to play for in the league every game is huge for one team or the other. Yesterday is done, we have to learn from it and focus now on a Friday night match against bottom of the table Southampton who are fighting for survival.
I’ll see you there.