Arsenal 0 – Liverpool 2: Gunners Undone by Injuries, Bad Discipline, Lack of Quality, Poor Finishing, Bad Linesman, Bad Luck…By: Lachlan | August 20th, 2011
I’d love to hear from Wenger’s supporters after this one, because it was pretty much all on display in the second half today. Of the 10 men who finished the game on the field, 2 of them got their first action of the season (because they’re about to be sold), 1 got his first ever Premier League start, and 2 got their first ever Premier League appearances. And that’s without even mentioning Mr. T Junior, Emmanuel Frimpong, who got sent off in his first Premier League start.
So we now have a single point from our first two matches, we’ll almost certainly be five points behind the leaders after this weekend, and we’re three points behind our closest rival for a Champions League spot. And I have no idea who’s going to start next week at Old Trafford at numerous positions, due to suspensions, sales, and injuries. So getting past Udinese on Wednesday is really shaping up to be the most critical match of the season, and we’re still in August. Lovely.
The starting lineup was about what we were expecting. The only questions were who would start in the center of midfield, and how we’d set up the back line. Wenger shifted Sagna to the left side, to allow Jenkinson (HFP) to play his more natural right side. And Djourou was clearly injured, as he was left off the bench. In a surprise move, Miquel was on the bench, while Squillaci was dropped. I’d like to think this is a clear indication Wenger will buy another CD before the window closes. I mean, if Squillaci is going to be dropped below Miquel, and no other purchase will be made, then why would Bartley be loaned out? Anyway, let’s not get into too much transfer speculation during a match recap.
In the midfield, JG predicted a “Theo van Oxlavin” front four, but Nasri was given a surprise starting role. I spoke out against that in the comments’ section yesterday, but I was proven wrong by Nasri, who looked up for it in the center of the field.
Both teams had a number of decent chances, corners, and free kicks in the first half. The stats from ESPN showed 51% possession for Liverpool, while Arsenal had more corners – 7 to 3. Arshavin whiffed on a decent chance in the 5th minute, Frimpong had a nice shot from distance saved in the 30th, and Nasri fired wide in the 35th after a long run through midfield. At the other end, Liverpool’s best chance came off a Carroll header in the 20th minute, which forced a fine save from Wojo.
The second half was a bit more of the same for a while, with both teams having a few chances. But then things turned for the worse in the 70th, when Frimpong got sent off for his second yellow of the day. I was holding my breath every time he was around the ball after the 8th minute, which was when he picked up his first yellow. I suppose he’ll turn out a bit like Song in that regard, which is a shame. Anyway, I think the second yellow was merited on the part of the ref, and from then on, fans were just hoping to keep Liverpool off the scoreboard. But that didn’t happen, as they brought on Suarez and Meireles right after the red card, and the game quickly turned.
Finally, in the 78th minute, Liverpool broke through with their opener. I’m not really sure how to assign blame for this one. Replays showed that there should have been a whistle for offside, so I suppose we can complain about the refereeing again. Miquel got in a foot to knock away the pass, and it bounced right off Ramsey, past Wojo, and into the net. It was a very fluky sort of goal, but if a team can consistently attack and create chances in the opposing box, eventually those things will happen.
After that, we obviously had to press for an equalizer, but that was hard to do with 10 men and only one substitution left. Bendtner came on in the 80th for Walcott, but that didn’t help our cause either. To add insult to injury, Suarez tapped home a cross from Meireles in injury time. Again, Suarez looked offside when the ball was passed ahead from Lucas, but he was onside when he received the final ball. Someone well-versed in the intricacies of the offside rule can tell me whether that goal should have stood, but I tend to think it should not have. It might just be due to my Arsenal goggles though.
Anyway, I’m not going to make this report about the linesman. Again, if a team is able to attack enough, eventually they’ll get a lucky bounce, a penalty awarded, a questionable offside call, or something like that. And after Frimpong went off, it was all one-way traffic from there. So I think we have to look ourselves in the mirror on this one.
I’m sure we’ll have plenty of time in the weeks ahead to discuss where we go from here, what purchases will (hopefully) be made, and so forth. It’s just frustrating to me that Liverpool got their business done before the start of the season, while we’re still messing around after two Premier League matches are in the books, and a matchup with Man Utd is looming. But I won’t dwell on it too much now. So I’ll just get on to the ratings, and then we can discuss it from there in the comments’ section. As usual, feel free to tell me how wrong my ratings are.
Wojo – 8. Man of the Match. I can’t blame him on either goal. The first was a bizarre own goal deflection, and the other one left our defense sliced apart. He made a fine save on Carroll in the 20th minute, and was assured on numerous other occasions. If I had to split hairs, his distribution could still improve. But still, I like the looks of what we have in goal right now.
Sagna – 7. He switched to left back so that HFP could play in his more natural position at right back, so I have to tip my hat to him for putting in a good performance out of position.
Kos – No rating. I don’t recall any real mistakes, but he didn’t play enough meaningful action to really get a rating. Let’s cross our fingers that he bounces back from this injury, because we can’t afford to lose him at the moment. Again we could all repeat the same line about how this will remind Wenger we need another CD, but we’ll have to believe that when we see it.
Vermaelen – 7. He was going to be my co-man of the match before he was somewhat at fault for the second goal. Still, he dealt well with Carroll in the air, and defused a number of other attacks.
Jenkinson – 7. He was surprisingly solid today, and put in a good effort going forward as well. He appeared to suffer through some cramps at the end, after we’d already used all of our subs. But I don’t think he was to blame for the goals or too many chances, so maybe he’ll have a good future with the club.
Frimpong – 4.5. When he wasn’t making reckless challenges and getting sent off, he was pretty good. He had one of our better chances of the match with a shot in the 30th. And while I pity the fool who challenges him for a ball, he’s simply got to stay under control more. His lack of discipline was our biggest undoing today.
Ramsey – 5. I can’t really blame him much for the own goal, but he was still very anonymous. He didn’t really create much of anything. I don’t recall glaring mistakes, but he’s got to create more than he has been.
Nasri – 6.5. I’ll have to say I was wrong about him. I thought he might give a half effort, or he might not connect well with teammates. But he seemed to run hard and try to create things. Still, he looks like more of a winger than a creative force in the middle of the field. So hopefully Man City will play him in the middle if/when that deal goes through this week.
Arshavin – 5. We didn’t get much from our wing players today. He whiffed badly on a chance that fell to him in the 5th minute, but helped set up RvP for a chance in the 68th. He was subbed off in the 72nd when we were still holding out hope of a 0-0 draw.
Walcott – 5. I always like his running and effort, but there was no end product today. As with Arshavin, we didn’t get enough in our attack.
RvP – 5. He forced a point blank save from Reina in the 68th, when he didn’t really get everything behind his shot. That one could have been our breakthrough, and it came just before the match turned for the worse with the red card. Beyond that, there wasn’t enough out of our new captain. I may have been generous with the rating, but after the 70th minute, there wasn’t much that any of our attacking players could do.
Miquel – 5.5. He really wasn’t too bad today, considering what might have been expected. Let’s just hope that if Wenger has seen enough of Squillaci, that will signal a new arrival at that position this week. Anyway, I can’t blame him too much for the own goal, but it’s also hard to give out a high rating either.
Lansbury – 4.5. He was mostly anonymous, until getting booked in the 88th minute. I have no idea why, after a bad challenge, a player needs to get up and shout at the ref. Just take your yellow and move on, rather than risk a second yellow. Our lack of discipline is getting to an alarming level in my view.
Bendtner – No rating. He wasn’t on too long, and there wasn’t much a player at his position could do in limited action with 10 men on the field. Could this have been his last Arsenal appearance?
A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches. Proverbs 22:1a.