Liverpool Arsenal? That was so last week. Well, you're right. But with all the hype and importance around the trilogy, this series is worth reflecting on.
In my two previews of the Liverpool Arsenal trilogy, I looked at some important factors that I thought might affect the outcome of the series. I wanted to look back and see where I was right and where I was wrong, as well as look at some other aspects of the matches.
How did the leadership factor play out?
Steven Gerrard seemed absent during some of the matches, but he showed up when it counted. In the final minutes of the second leg, he drained a penalty shot to give Liverpool the go-ahead goal they needed to secure a spot in the semi finals.
After Arsenal scored off a corner in the 23rd minute, Gerrard also seemed to just make up his mind to get Liverpool back in the match. Three minutes after the Gunner's goal, he determinately took the ball around a few defenders, tapped the ball into the middle to Kuyt, or possibly an Arsenal defender, and evened the score for Liverpool.
Nothing against William Gallas, but he wasn't clutch like Stevie G was when it counted.
Arsene and Rafa… who was the better strategist?
Arsenal seemed to play better in most of the two Champions League matches. But Rafa pulled out two draws at the Emirates and a home win. Wenger looked like a frantic two-year old throwing a tantrum at some points.
Rafa kept his cool.
The verdict? Rafa was the better strategist in this series. How do you play worse than the other team for a good majority of time, but still advance?
Good job Rafa.
Is Liverpool made for Europe?
The evidence for this would be in the fact that Liverpool advanced to the CL semis, even though they seemed to play worse than Arsenal. I know. I know. I'm not saying that winning the CL is better than winning the EPL. Read the previews to see the point of this question.
Are Arsenal's priorities England or Europe?
At this point, Arsenal would take anything. But in the first match at the Emirates, the Gunners came out to play. After they drew against Liverpool in the EPL match at the Emirates, the Gunners had to play for Europe.
This series didn't really reveal Arsenal's priorities like I thought it would. Part of that was how the circumstances played out. But it was unclear which league was Wenger's priority.
He ended up with an outside shot in the EPL, forcing him to go for gusto in the second Champions League match... which didn't work out either.
Did Anfield matter?
What do you think?
How did the experience factor play out?
Experience mattered in this series. Sami Hyypia hit his second goal in a Champions League quarter finals match. Steven Gerrard iced the penalty shot as mentioned above. These seasoned veterans came through when it mattered.
Arsenal played very strong for possibly the majority of the CL matches, but Liverpool's ability to pull it out shows that experience was a factor.
Is the third match what people will remember?
Yes, but people will also remember the penalty that should have been awarded to Arsenal in the first leg when Dirk Kuyt dragged down Alexander Hleb.
If the penalty had been awarded to Arsenal, would it have mattered?
Definitely maybe. If the penalty had been awarded, and if the penalty had been converted, that would have put the aggregate the Champions League aggregate at 5-4 Liverpool. So statistically, it wouldn't have mattered.
But psychologically, it might have given Arsenal an edge of confidence stepping into Anfield. Or, it could have fired up Stevie G and his boys. There's no way to know, and its speculation at this point.
What was the best goal?
There were so many. Torres' at Anfield. Hyypia and Adebayor's headers off of corners in the first leg. Babel's goal to end the series… but my favorite was by Adebayor in 84th minute in the second leg at Anfield.
It was great not because of what Adebayor did, but because Theo Walcott took the ball the length of the field past the entire Liverpool defense to pass it off so Adebayor could knock it in.
It was a great run by Walcott. It also put Arsenal back in the match and added to the excitement of the last ten minutes.
How were the aggregate predictions?
I predicted a 5-5 aggregate for the three matches, with Liverpool advancing in the Champions League. The aggregate was 6-4, so I got the total number of goals right, but not the amount per team.
What about you?
Do you have anything left to reflect on, gripe about, or something worth remembering?