So, you’ll already know I am perennially optimistic. Take a look at the squad – lacking, certainly, but sewn with pockets of excitement, talent and an exciting future. I can be optimistic about the squad as it is, despite being dissapointed that we’re so lacking – I have a genuine belief that one or two additions to the squad could make us title winners – we have a good starting 11 right now, but nothing past that. The bench is empty, metaphorically, and we need fresh, experienced blood. We need to address deficiencies certainly, but in some cases the game on Saturday was a game that filled me with hope.
I am able to see the bright sides of Saturdays performance – at the back we were solid, TV5 was fantastic, Sagna was solid in an unfamiliar position and Jenkinson was great – threatening when required yet solid at the back. Considering our back four consisted of two league debutants, we were spectacular at the back. Now consider a third league debut immediately in front of them, Arsenal aquitted themselves fantastically well. Considering 2 of those players are back ups and a third was in the wrong position it bodes well for the future, defensively.
How many times have you seen a corner being lined up and had that sinking feeling that this is the goal the opposition will score? Not on Saturday, set pieces were no problem. There is a robustness to the team in set pieces that is unfamiliar and very welcome – it’s that change that we’ve all been begging for. Make no mistake, there are few teams in the league that will try and exploit the perceived aerial weaknesses in Arsenals game more than a Liverpool team with a solitary Andy Caroll up front – and we dealt with them all.
The game largely passed Nasri and Ramsey by, no doubt due the overwhelming presence of five Liverpool midfielders – however a special mention must go to Frimpong. That he was given a standing ovation despite being sent off tells you everything you need to know. He was solid in the tackle, clever in the pass, had a shot from distance that could have changed the game and generally ran the Arsenal team. He got sent off for a second yellow and despite the first being incredibly harsh, the challenge that saw him walk could easily have been a red, so we can’t have too many complaints. Remember when Jack started out in the Arsenal team and got sent off? He learned. I expect Frimpong will to. It’s a mouth watering prospect, as my Liverpool supporting collegue said this morning “£20m+ for Henderson looks like an awful deal when you see a player like Frimpong – if he hadn’t of been sent off he’d have been MOTM”. Quite.
In goal, with Wojciech Szczeny, Arsenal have one of the best keepers in the league. Commanding, strong, solid decision making and great reflexes – as in the Carling Cup final he will make mistakes, but those mistakes will be more than made up for with his presence in goal settling the team and the saves he makes. Any mistakes will become rarer to.
In some respects the result was flattering to Liverpool – the first goal was just that awful slice of luck that you always get served to you when your down. Face in a puddle, life always shits on your head. Miquel actually had the beating of an offside Saurez, expertly shepherding the ball away from him, only to see his clearance shank horribly of Ramsey into the goal. One down and shit happens.
They were always going to score a second against a tiring ten man Arsenal who were chasing the game – thank god it was fantasy league forward Suarez. I felt awful picking him, but I guess I was vindicated.
Arsenals problems were up front however. Van Persie was off the pace, and with no midfield to speak of with Nasri in Manchester already and Ramsey chasing shadows, Walcott was just not in the game. Two passes in the first 45 minutes outlined his performance – toss. Arshavin was hungrier and got far more involved, tracking back and eventually fashioning our best chance winning the ball in the area (a touch unfairly) and squaring for Van Persie whos shot struck Reina’s leg. Luck would have seen the ball go in, but Arsenal don’t have any luck at the moment. Unfortunately for Arshavin his distribution and passing were woeful. It’s a shame, because he showed everything on Saturday that he lacked at times last season – principally a hunger to be involved.
We created virtually nothing and that was frustrating, because without a cutting edge of any kind, we just wallowed and invited Liverpool onto us.
If Oxo-Chambers and Miyaichi are as good as Arsene keeps saying, why didn’t he throw them on? We’d created nothing, we were down to ten men and we were one nil down. Throw both of them on and let them prove something, shit or bust. Instead we went defensive, removing an attacker for Lansbury to replace the sent off Frimpong. We just wanted to see the game out in damage limitation mode.
And that is Arsenals problem right now.
Kieran Delaney @kieran_delaney