Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Sunday August 21 2011
Upon viewing the roster of available players for the game yesterday, you couldn`t help but wonder how the manager has allowed our squad to enter the season in this shape. The pre match tittle tattle revolved around the prospective involvement of Samir Nasri. That we had to start a player who has one foot out of the door is a quite farcical situation. Fair play to Nasri, he put a shift in. But had he broken his leg in the game, a farcical situation could have become a catastrophe. One has to ask why we are at a stage where the cusp of catastrophe is a necessary default position. The dithering and indecisiveness in a make or break summer has left the beginning of our season in maelstrom.
Nasri was indeed named in the starting line up; there was a murmuring of boos as his name was announced. Why I can`t quite fathom. There will be plenty of time to boo him when he`s left. However, Nasri won the crowd round simply by visibly applying himself. All 14 players that were used did. None more so than Emmanuel Frimpong; but he learned a valuable lesson in channelling that enthusiasm. He picked up an early booking for trying to wrestle the ball off of Jordan Henderson for a throw in. I thought the referee lacked a little common sense here. I don`t think Frimpong was being petulant, I think he genuinely thought it was his throw in. Around twenty minutes later, Stewart Downing punched the ball away on the touchline and was not punished. The referee was swift with the card when I think a quiet word would have sufficed.
Arsenal`s list of available players depleted further when Laurent Koscielny pulled up fifteen minutes into the game with what appeared, to my amateur eye, to be a slipped disc. Sebastien Squillaci has not yet been on the bench this season, which probably tells you the extent to which he figures in the manager`s plans. 19 year old Ignasi Miquel entered the fray. With Sagna out at left back and Carl Jenkinson looking considerably out of his depth at right back, Vermaelen was left with a big job in holding the back line together. It was an undertaking he performed admirably. The Gunners were indebted to their goalkeeper too when Jose Enrique was given time and space to swing a left wing cross into the area. Which Andy Carroll towered above Sagna to head goalwards. Szczesny was alert to the danger and tipped the effort around the post.
Arsenal were once again carved open on their right hand side. Like a lot of the young lads on display, Jenkinson was put in the rather unfair position of making a full debut in a Premiership match, six months after he last played. As an 18 year old. In League One. Jose Enrique found the pass down the line to Dirk Kuyt, Kuyt hooked a cross back into the box for a free header for Jordan Henderson. But he couldn`t generate enough power to trouble Szczesny. Charlie Adam had a cheeky attempt from the halfway line which just whistled over the bar as Liverpool`s footing in the game became more assured. But the Gunners did briefly give cause for excitement when Emmanuel Frimpong motored past Stewart Downing on the edge of Liverpool`s area and his fulminating drive was tipped just wide by Reina. The opportunity appeared to lift Frimpong`s confidence and he began to take a hold of the midfield for the remainder of the half.
Want-away Samir Nasri was the next to cause a flurry when he dribbled past Lucas on the edge of his own area and tore forward unchallenged until he side stepped Agger`s tackle on the cusp of Liverpool`s area, but the Frenchman dragged his shot just wide. The effort was enough for the home fans to re indulge the Nasri ditty. But at half time, you were still left with the impression that the Gunners are going to struggle to score goals in lieu of van Persie pulling off something special. Of course, we sold the best creative midfielder in the world this week. It apparently didn`t occur to anyone at the club to go about filling that gap. Liverpool sold Torres and already had a deal for Suarez lined up. Arsenal`s dithering means they`ve already played three games and are no closer to making amends.
Liverpool looked only the slightly more likely of two quite ordinary sides. Henderson found Charlie Adam in midfield, Adam`s pass to Carroll inside the Arsenal area was over hit, but Carroll touched back to Martin Kelly whose rasping drive hit the outside of the post. Arsenal`s best opportunity came via some poor officiating. Van Persie`s pass to Arshavin in Liverpool`s area left the little Russian with a great deal to do. Arshavin hauled Martin Kelly to the ground, but the referee waved play on. Arshavin cut back to van Persie, but his close range shot was beaten out by the legs of Pepe Reina. But Liverpool were to get the ultimate advantage as the Gunners were reduced to ten men. Frimpong did very well to intercept a pass from Lucas, but as the ball broke loose he went in high and late on Jordan Henderson. The referee was left with little choice but to award a second yellow. It could easily have been a straight red. Frimpong`s inexperience proved costly, despite an encouraging performance.
Liverpool scented blood and brought Suarez off the bench to make the difference with his movement. Jose Enrique played a simple ball into the channel for Suarez, who tried to steer the ball past Szczesny with his right foot, only for the Pole to block him. Charlie Adam then found Stewart Downing marauding into the same area, with Jenkinson seriously lagging. Downing`s shot was brilliantly tipped around the post by Szczesny again. But the ultimate punishment was hanging over Arsenal like the sword of Damocles. It would be inexperience again that would lead to the hammer blow. Suarez found Meireles, who in turn found Suarez again, clearly in an offside position. Miquel came across to cover. But not wanting to clear the ball with his weaker right foot, he took a sloppy touch and tried to clear the ball with the outside of his left, succeeding only in striking it against Ramsey and into the net. Ramsey for his part failed to track the run of Meireles. 19 year old boys making understandable errors, only to find they`re being covered by other 19 year old boys.
Thomas Vermaelen strode forward with a 30 yard effort to try and rescue the game. But Arsenal were put out of their misery in injury time. Liverpool cut a tiring Arsenal to ribbons as a one touch passing exchange between Lucas and Meireles found Suarez inside the area to stroke into an unguarded net. Chants of "spend some f****g money" were nipped in the bud and drowned out by the Red Action section. After an initial flurry of boos, the players were applauded off by the support, who continued to sing. I think we all recognised that the players on the pitch but their all into the game. But most of them are more accustomed to Monday nights at Underhill. They were put in an unfair position by a manager who gave them too much to do too soon. That we are in this situation three games in is negligible. If it`s not sorted quickly, it could be fatal. LD.
13.SZCZESNY, 25.JENKINSON, 6.KOSCIELNY (49.Miquel '17), 5.VERMAELEN, 3.SAGNA, 26.FRIMPONG, 16.RAMSEY, 8.NASRI, 14.WALCOTT (52.Bendtner '77), 23.ARSHAVIN (46.Lansbury '69), 10.v.PERSIE(c). Unused; 15.Chamberlain, 21.Fabianski, 29.Chamakh, 31.Ryo.
Follow me on twitter @LittleDutchVA
Date:Sunday August 21 2011
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