Joe Allen may have represented an unlikely hero for Liverpool in the dying embers at Anfield but in many ways, the Welshman's fine 90th-minute volley amid the snow and sleet on a cold Merseyside night was the only natural conclusion to an at times barely believable Premier League encounter. Excellence and incompetence was evident in equal measure during a roller-coaster game that worked as an apt definition of the season to date.
The brilliance came in the form of Liverpool's mercurial Brazilian, Roberto Firmino, the dazzling feet of Olivier Giroud and a pace to the game that was at odds with the recent schedule, which both Jurgen Klopp and Arsene Wenger have heavily bemoaned. But among the standout moments, there were performances of ineptitude that have littered a campaign of inconsistency across the division.
Both sides pride themselves on ball retention; however, those skills were not evident on 13 January and neither side could assert their control on the contest. Arsenal (71%) recorded their lowest pass success rate of the season – perhaps due to Liverpool's "gegenpressing" and the overhead conditions – while the home side played with desperation in the second half, which contradicted the situation despite matching their season average (80%), according to WhoScored.com.
Statistics very often warp the perception of a match and on this occasion, while neither Liverpool nor Arsenal could put their foot on the ball, the continual changes in possession meant both teams played on the counter-attack, leading to a vastly more open game. The helter-skelter 90 minutes had no time for accuracy or to showcase work on the training ground, it was instead a jumpers-for-goalposts encounter.
Much like lesser players can be inspired by an occasion, the most reliable performers found themselves consumed by the lack of quality. The opening goal saw Hector Bellerin dragged out of position, Petr Cech lacking with his save from Emre Can and Laurent Koscielny slow to react to Firmino's finish – untimely and uncharacteristic mistakes. The manner of the closing act continued the theme of ineptitude with, for all the swashbuckling football, route one prevailing.
Simply, it was a microcosm of a season, which while there is a platform for a thrilling race for the title, European places and to survive relegation, there are some woefully poor teams involved. No disrespect to the likes of Leicester City, Crystal Palace and Watford but a season defined by the successes of sides not among the Premier League elite is unlikely to be deemed as vintage.
Earlier in January, UK Athletics proposed a plan to reform the sport whereby world records be erased and reset. The Paula Radcliffe's and Usain Bolt's of this world would require an asterisk next to their impressive personal bests. Perhaps the Premier League might consider something similar, such is the graceless nature of a season plagued by bumbling performances.