glorygunner

Arsenal 0 – 2 Liverpool: The Aftermath

In Arsenal, Nasri, Preimeri League 2011/12, Uncategorized, Wenger on August 21, 2011 at 8:11 am

Pre-match feelings on Saturday were very much a mixed bag.  Anticipation, trepidation, caution and hope.  When you have hope you enter dangerous world and hope breeds contempt and we all know about that at the moment.  This does stem from the fact there is so much uncertainty at Arsenal at the moment:

Why does Arsene believe that the current crop of fit and non-suspended squad players are capable enough to challenge for the Premiership crown, let alone qualify for the Champions League group stage?

What has happened to Samir Nasri’s supposed and very public move to Manchester City?

How many more games do Arsenal need to lose before fundamental changes are made?

There are no easy answers to any of these questions yet at the moment it would seem that our manager is not close to providing answers himself. 

Yesterdays game was a watershed moment for the club and for the fans in attendance the realisation that this season is going to be a very hard season, this for a club that has very much become accustomed to recent success and flowing football.  Both were obvious by the absence yesterday.

The starting line-up was certainly the best that could be put out in terms of those currently available.

Szezesney

Jenkinson  –  Koscielney  –  Vermaelen  – Sagna

Walcott  –  Ramsey  –  Frimpong  –  Nasri  –  Arshavin

RvP

Whilst the line-up looked very raw and untested in previous games, this deflected from the big talking point as the crowds were taking their seats, what reaction was Samir Nasri going to receive when announced to the crowd?  Inevitably, he received a mixture of boos and mild encouragement but there certainly wasn’t the same warm welcome afforded to the rest of the team.  Unsurprsing though for someone who has either personally or had his agent’s team court a move away from Arsenal.  If he loves the club as much as Arsene claims he does then my has a new contract not been signed yet.

If you compare the two line-ups though, regardless of potential and mental strengthness there was a clear difference in the Premiership experience of the two line-ups and this may have provided a few clues to the final outcome of yesterdays match:

 There were some bright moments to talk about but not enough to ensure a win.  In the opening encounters it was clear that Liverpool were looking to leverage Andy Carroll’s aerial ability but this was well countered by the two centre backs and this summed up their first half.  Not too many chances to talk about and if Arsenal had been stronger with the final ball on the break then they could have gone into the half-time break one up as the Liverpool defence was not at its strongest, or fastest.  A failing on the day from our wide men.  However,  the best two chances came from Nasri and Frimpong who both took runs to set up shots from outside the box that challenged the Liverpool goal.  The former’s run started from outside Arsenal box and ended with the ball zipping just past the post and the latter forcing a fine save from Reina who tipped the ball behind.

Emmanuel Frimpong was extremely lively from the outset and was clearly relishing his starting debut on home turf.  However, if you were look for a surrogate marker within the team for the current climate at Arsenal, Frimmers would be a prime example.  After today’s performance Frimmers was clearly the best player throughout his time on the pitch and within 3 minutes a Liverpool player, Carroll maybe, felt the full force of his hard tackling style.  Shortly after, Frimmers earnt himself his first yellow card for trying to delay a throw in and one that he would go onto to rue when receiving his second yellow for a strong and slightly high challenge on Lucas which any midfielder enforcer should expect to receive every now and then.  This is why you need to protect your yellow card status in matches and earn a card when you deserve them but we now have three midfielders currently under suspension and between them only one deserved yellow card.  Some discipline needs to be instilled across the team as these absences are being felt.  The sending off of Frimpong was a turning point in the game and one from which the young team could not recover from.

In the final quarter of the game the inexperience of the squad was harshly evident and whilst this is not their fault, the team, club and fans continue to suffer as a consequence.  Arsenal lost their shape completely in the second half, the flow of passing was absent and the defence were unable to get the ball up the field.  Both Arshavin and Theo had poor games and if your outlets are ineffective then chances are not going to be created.  Theo was worryingly poor yesterday and seem to be very one tracked in his approach and the Liverpool defence soon learnt and read every intent.  If Ronaldinho opened up a magic and trick shop then Theo should pay him a visit.

Unusually, the substitutes warmed up at the opposite end to the normal warm up area and for those of us in the bottom left hand cornered we were shown the difference in squad depth with Mai Rodriguez, Mierieles and Suarez ready to come on.  The latter two did come on and Arsenal were unable to adapt to the change in style.  Yes, the first goal was unfortunate and there may have been a suggestion that both were offside but this is football and you have to play in the moment as results have never been changed in retrospect.  There is no point moaning about what could have been, the scoresheet at the end of the game reads a 0-2 defeat for Arsenal.

So what can be taken from the game?  There were a few bright spots but not enough to grind out a point or 3 for the homing home game of the season.  I’ve already touched on Frimmers performance but this was soured by his sending off.  Thomas Vermaelen was very strong in defence and it’s great to see him back.  If anyone knows if thee are an cloning factories out there then can we get a fast-track pass for Vermaelen?  Can you imagine a defence made exclusively of Thomas Vermaelen quadruplets!  

Hats off to the crowd today.  It’s really hard at the moment being an Arsenal fan with all this ongoing uncertainty.  The crowd played their part today, they appreciated Nasri’s contribution through the game, advised a weak referee on what decisions he was missing and made the point that no matter was turmoil the team is going through the club and fanbase are bigger than that and they will give undeterred support.  If you could convert that passion and desire from the stands to the scoreline then the game would have finished 2-2 at least!  There were certainly very audible chants for the manager and board to spend some money but this is because the fans want to see success and not to struggle but the lack of financial investment.

In terms of poor performances, as mentioned our wingers were poor.  Neither Theo or Arshavin were unable to get hold of the ball and take players on.  If this was down to the defensive prowess of the Liverpool fullbacks then fine but there was too many deadend runs and poor ball control to be able to give any credit.  Samir Nasri was bright in moments and his turns and runs were lively but as with the back end of last season Nasri drifted out of the game when needed and if he were every to replace Cesc then this was what was needed.  Another sign that £25M could have been another astute bit of business BUT ONLY if replacements were found.

The potential is certainly there and when you see how Frimpong, Miquel, Jenkinson and Lansbury (for a shorter period) were willing to step up to the challenge then you have optimism for the future.  But not now, not against Liverpool where every point counts.  I know it’s early but at this rate we run the risk of entering September in the Europa League which only 1 point from 9 in the Premiership.

As discussed in Friday’s blog, the concern was going to be how well will this squad acquit themselves against the big spending Liverpool.  Liverpool certainly have a different squad to last years they have strengthened as a unit which is important if success is to be achieved at the end of a long and challenging season.

So there are 10 days left of the transfer window.  How the team will change over that time we cannot predict.  One thing is sure – the next two games, away versus Udinese and Manchester United, will define where this season will end and what the future for the team is.  I’m nervy but still have the faith.  It’s tough this blind faith thing isn’t it!

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