So. 2-0 to Liverpool. With the tweets flying about yesterday, some knew it was coming. I for one was confident we would win, but losing that match, unfortunately, was not surprising.
The starting XI was: Szczesny, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Jenkinson, Sagna, Frimpong, Ramsey, Nasri, Arshavin, Walcott, van Persie, with a bench of Fabianski, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Chamakh, Miyaichi, Lansbury, Miquel, Bendtner.
Not a bad starting XI, but have a look at that bench! Lots of talent, no doubt, but not a lot of experience.
The big news was that Nasri was starting, and everyone wanted to know the sort of reception he’d get from the crowd, what with the whole twitter and Man City brouhaha. Also, with Cesc gone, it was also a chance to see how we’d cope, and which of the players are ready to step into his shoes.
We started off nervously, misplacing passes here and there, but so did Liverpool. But after a few minutes spent settling in, the chances came. Mainly for Liverpool in the beginning, with Szczesny literally being a beast, and dare I say it, we kinda defended alright to start with. Then Koscielny went down. Back spasms apparently. Couldn’t continue, so had to come off. He even had to be assisted down the tunnel, as he could not walk unaided. Coming on in his place was Miguel Ignasi. Making his Premier League debut. Not the most ideal of circumstances to be making your Premier League debut, but you have to take it as it comes, and I thought he did well!
I still thought we’d be fine at the stage. Hell, it was only 15 minutes in, and we’d largely restricted Liverpool. No real signs of danger. Except from card-happy referee, Mark Clattenburg, who ensured that Frimpong’s over-energetic self earned him a booking, with only about 7/8 minutes on the clock. Yes, Frimpong should not have squared up to the Liverpool player, but it shouldn’t have been a yellow. I remember tweeting at the time that if he wasn’t careful, he’s pick up a Red. He started off a bit rubbishly, but as the match went on, he got better and better.
Chances here and there in the first half, but neither team could find the back of the net. There was the mega-save from a Carroll header by Szczesny, and the odd save here and there. Raina wasn’t tested as much, as out moves seemed to break down in the final third. There was a fabulous effort from long range from Frimpong, but it was saved by Reina! Not too long afterwards, there was a brilliant run by Nasri, all the way from our half, but his effort was wide! Really good to see that the crowd were pretty much behind Nasri today, applauding him and willing him on. And he put a shift in, so good play by all concerned. But I really cannot remember any other chances. So honours even at half time. No complaints.
No changes from either side at half time, but Liverpool started the second half brighter. Robin did have a chance, after Arshavin bullied his way in the 6-yard box, but Robin’s effort was saved. Back and forth, back and forth. No goals. And then the signs of danger became full-blown danger, as Frimpong finally picked up his red. With 20 minutes to go. He had it coming, unfortunately. After his shaky start, he got more and more in the game, and he was almost faultless! The fault, ofcourse, being his umm, over-enthusiasm! He picked up his second yellow for a late challenge, and he was lucky it wasn’t a straight red. He definitely one of the bright spots of this season, even though the season hasn’t really got going! But he needs to watch it, though. I worry it won’t be his only Red card of the season. But he’s a bright kid, I’m sure he’ll learn from it. He’s DEEEEENCH, afterall! (Gosh, CANNOT believe I just did that…)
But seeing as things were pretty much even at that stage, the Red card naturally tipped the scales in Liverpool’s direction. They could have had a field day! But King Szczesny, the guy we could have ‘killed’, had Arsene bitten the bullet last season, came to our rescue! He made some top saves today, that you couldn’t help but feel especially bad for him, that we didn’t end up with a clean sheet. I bet if we weren’t down to 10, we probably would have. Szczesny is going to be our No. 1 (or 13) for a long long time! Have I mentioned that he’s brilliant?
Despite it all, he could not nothing about their first goal. *Sigh*. It was an own goal. Shouldn’t have counted though, as one of the Liverpool players was offside before Ignasi’s clearance bounced in off of Ramsey’s chest. But as they say with these things, it was “marginal”. That goal came about 12 minutes from time. We’d made our second substitution not long before, Lansbury coming on for Arshavin, who was unfortunately ineffective, with misplaced passes, and mistimed kicks! Would the real Andrei Arshavin please stand up? We need the real you back, Andrei. Honestly. Our final substitution came after the goal, with Bendtner replacing Theo, who’d had an anonymous game. Jose Enrique handled him quite well. I hoped and prayed we’d get the equaliser, but we just couldn’t. Couldn’t find the right pass, the ball was falling right for us, nothing was working. The second goal wasn’t far off, and it even had an air of inevitability about it. Who scored, again? Oh yeah, Suarez. *sigh*. Definitely game over then, if it wasn’t already after the first goal. Then full-time. Our awful start to the season just got worse.
It was a bit of a strange match, this. Strange in the sense that it wasn’t your typical Arsenal home game. Liverpool actually had more of the possession! Our passing game was not on point. I don’t know the stats, but I bet Liverpool had more completed passes than us. I guess it was generally a tentative match, with a lot of unsure performances (apart from Frimpong who was all guns blazing, and Vermaelen who was his usual impeccable self).
The question has got to be how long can it last? It partly depends on what happens the rest of the window, but honestly, I’m not holding my breath. We NEED to strengthen, but I’ve got to be prepared for the fact that it might not happen. And I’m not liking what might happen if we don’t. Things aren’t great right now, we all can see that. I bet (hope) Arsene sees it too. So I’ll try not to dwell on them, as there are actually positives we can focus on. Like how good a player Frimpong is going to be this season. Like how brilfantastamazing Vermaelen is! Yes, I had to create a new word! Excuse the cliche, but he totally had Carroll in his back pocket! I’ve got so much confidence seeing his name on the team sheet, and I’m sure the team do too. Miguel did quite well on his debut, I’d say. Apart from the own goal cock-up, which was just one of those things, he handled the ocassion well. He’s got good composure on the ball, but I’d rather he didn’t get thrown in the deep end like that too often. But well done, Iggy. Well done. I could be totally wide off the mark, but I think generally (at least while we still had 11 on the pitch!), we defended fairly well today. Yes, there were scary moments when we let Liverpool through, but I don’t remember being worried when Liverpool were in a dangerous position, that we’d sudddenly lay an egg and gift them a goal. I felt more confident in the defence, more than usual. Maybe that’s the Vermaelen effect, I don’t know, but I certainly felt so today. Our attack was a bit blunt today, unfortunately. Half chances here and there, but we didn’t quite have enough today.
It’s hard to tell how damaging today’s loss was/is, because it’s way too early. But it is proof that we need to strengthen. Also with the three players we’ll be missing next game, against United- Gervinho, Song and Frimpong, it’ll be an even weaker team playing, so we really should not expect any miracles. But Arsene could surprise us (haha) and sign two world-class non-teenage players during the week, and we’ll all of a sudden have a much better outlook! But don’t hold your breath! It’s Arsenal, we don’t do easy, especially when it comes to transfers.
Just to wrap up, I hope Koscielny gets better soon, as he really looked bad when he came off. And we’re travelling to Udinese mid-week. There’s no way we’re getting knocked out of the Champions League, is there? I’ll give up on football if it happens! Also, there’s no need to despair. Yet. We’re only 2 games into the season, and whatever happens against United next weekend won’t change much. We are struggling at the moment, but the good thing about struggles, is they don’t last forever! It’ll end soon, I promise. The window is still open. van Persie is still fit. BacMan is still world-class. Tommy V is still a beast. We don’t need a goalkeeper. Youngsters are stepping up. There’s still hope. We’ll be fine, just wait and see.