How often does the first game of the season give us so much to discuss? Away at Anfield was always going to be a difficult trip but we left there honours even after having controlled much of the game. Some of our passing game in the first half was sublime with Nasri doing a great job of running the mid-field.
Two red cards and a goal a peice thanks in part to goal-keeping errors left me feeling that we could have done better. Joe Cole was sent off just before half-time for a late two footed challenge on Koscielny that had me draw a sharp in-take of breath as apart from the not quite fit Song we had no centre-back on the bench. Luckily Koscielny jogged out for the second half.
So with Liverpool down to ten men and Arsenal all over them, the next 45 minutes should have been a walk in the park but three familiar occurances haven’t changed since last season – Almunia is not a good enough goal-keeper, We have loads of possession so the game is great to watch and WE GET INTO GREAT POSITIONS AND DON’T SHOOT.
Thanks to 26may1989 for some good comments following the game that are being rolled out again here.
International break affected everyone, and yet Liverpool had an inspired (if defensive) second half today, and Chelsea decimated (an admittedly very poor) WBA yesterday. Plus today was another example in a long list of Arsenal games in which we fail to break down determined, well-organised defensive football. These happen often with our best team on the field, so the return to the starting line-up of Fabregas, Song and van Persie may not cure the ill. Our next league games see us play Blackpool, Blackburn, Bolton and Sunderland, so there may well be more tests of this kind very soon.
But the game today was pretty frustrating: a good first half performance, albeit without creating enough chances, but a really slow, turgid second half performance. Nice to scrape the point but a suitably horrible equaliser to cap such a laboured second half performance.
My take on individual performances:
Almunia: 3/10. At fault for the goal and made at least two other big mistakes on crosses, and Skrtel could easily have made it 2-0 on one of them. Sorry to say, because I like Almunia’s character, but hopefully the end of his time at the club.
Vermaelen: 7/10. Solid performance, did little wrong in defence and could (should?) have got a late late winner.
Koscielny: 7/10. Excellent start, worked well with Vermaelen and did little wrong. Very harsh second yellow card.
Clichy: 4/10. Poor performance, lots of weak play and mistakes with little attacking penetration. Would hope Gibbs is brought in quickly, but Clichy can and will do better.
Sagna: 5/10. Not great, not terrible.
Wilshere: 6/10. Tough game for his first Prem start for us. Faded and made a bad mistake in the build-up to Ngog’s goal but was as bright and lively as almost anyone else in yellow before he went off other than Nasri.
Nasri: 7/10. Excellent first half, didn’t deal so well with Liverpool’s tightened defence in the second half.
Arshavin: 3/10. Dreadful, deadened performance, offered little in attack or covering for Clichy.
Chamakh: 6/10. Tough debut, up against a talented, well-organised defence.
Rosicky: 7/10. Great cross for the goal, good effort saved by Reina, improved the team.
van Persie: 5/10.
The real story of the game: Liverpool defended (at Fortress Anfield) heroically, as well as Blackburn or Stoke would have done, and Arsenal failed to break them down despite being a man up for half the game. The result was better than I feared but the performance was worse than I hoped. United and Chelsea will hardly be quaking in their boots watching either us or Liverpool. Cole was rightly sent off but Koscielny shouldn’t have been red carded. Leaves us with a problem next week, as does yet another poor performance from Almunia.