Friday, 20 August 2010

Liverpool v Arsenal - Match review and ratings

A 1-1 draw at Liverpool isn't a bad result for the first game of the season. Before the match I would have taken a draw at Anfield and that's exactly what we got, so I won't complain.

Liverpool were eager to impress a new manager in the first game of the season on their own ground were always likely to be difficult to break down without the flair of Fabregas and van Persie, and so it proved.

Manuael Almunia got the nod in goal ahead Fabianski in goal, Diaby played the defensive midfield role, Wilshere also got a chance in midfield, Eboue started on the right of attack (quite rightly in my opinion after his excellence performance in the last friendly against Legia Warsaw) and the rest lined up as expected.

Arsenal had the majority of possession in a fairly uneventful first half but created little and it was Liverpool who had the better chances, with Clichy clearing off the line from a David Ngog header. Arsenal's best effort of the first half came after just four minutes when a powerful Thomas Vermaelen freekick was pushed wide by Reina.

Then the Gooners were given hope just before the break Joe Cole lunged rather recklessly at Koscielny and got a straight red card. I thought it was possibly slightly harsh based on the kind of two-footed lunges that were producing yellows last season. Still, as long as referees are consistent with it, I'm happy to see challenges like Cole's punished with a red card. But of course, that's the rub - we all know that they won't be consistent.

Unfortunately, things didn't quite go as planned for Arsenal in the second half because Liverpool (as teams who are down to ten men often do) came out for the second like a side possessed and Arsenal completely failed to weather the storm in any way at all.

Ngog scored just a minute after the restart. Arshavin, who found himself in the unfamiliar territory in the left back position, played a dangerous pass to Wilshere on the edge of his own area. Wilshere had to turn quite awkwardly and failed to make contact with the ball, allowing Glen Johnston to intercept and feed Ngog, who rifled it in at Almunia's near post.

Andy Gray blamed Almunia for the goal but although he and Wilshere were partly to blame it was Arshavin in my eyes who should shoulder the majority of the responsibility. Although Almunia probably could have done better with the shot, it came unexpectedly after we conceded possession on the edge of our own area and it was fired with some velocity. Arshavin however, gave a hospital pass to an inexperienced player in a dangerous position when he should be old enough to know better. To be fair to him, he doesn't normally get that close to his own goal and probably didn't know what to do.

Koscielny's sending off had the distinct whiff of the referee trying to even up the numbers after sending off one of the home side's players. His handball for his second booking looked accidental and what made it seem particularly harsh was that Ngog committed a particularly blatant and deliberate handball in the first half for which the ref gave a free-kick but didn't book him.

In the end it needed a mistake from Reina for Arsenal to equalise. The Liverpool goalkeeper fell onto the ball as it rebounded off the post from a Chamakh header and put the ball into his own net.

There is no truth to the rumour that the Liverpool players tried to pull an Arsenal shirt over Reina's head after the final whistle.


Almunia: 6 - flapped at a couple of crosses and might have done better with the goal

Sagna: 6 - Solid defensively but poor going forward
Koscielny: 8 - A good solid display, unlucky to be sent off
Vermaelen: 7 - good display overall, might have closed down Ngog more quickly to prevent the goal
Clichy: 6 - See Sagna above
Nasri: 7 - Had a lot of possession but couldn't find the killer pass
Diaby: 7 - Not at his best but did well in what is not his best position
Wilshere: 6 - Solid but unspectacular first start in the Premier League
Eboue: 7 - Worked hard defensively but couldn't find the space going forward
Chamakh: 6 - Can play much better but worked hard and created the goal
Arshavin: 6 - Great player but clearly not on form at the moment

Rosicky (Eboue, 59): 8 - Arsenal's best player by far in the second half, looked back to his best
Walcott (Wilshere, 59): 6 - Started up front then went out wide, given little space by a determined Liverpool side
van Persie (Diaby, 76): 5 - Not given enough time to affect the game

Apologies for the lateness of this post. It was written a few days ago but not posted due to PC problems. A preview of the Blackpool game will follow tomorrow morning.

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