The following is a guest post from Mark Thompson, a London-born Berlin-based Gooner who is filling in for me while I take some time off in Sweden.
Two games in to this 2011 Premier League campaign and a quick number crunch reads one draw, one loss, no goals scored and two conceded; Gooners haven’t seen an Arsenal start this bad since TV was in black and white.
But I believe these stats are more a consequence of how AFC has been run since the tail end of last season instead of an indication of what we can expect for this season. The squad has been allowed to shorten while new recruits have not exactly set the pulses racing and key positions, namely at the back, in attack, and in that gaping Cesc shaped hole in midfield have not been dealt with. Yet Arsene still has money and time to try and remedy our problems and it’s a long season, so I’m not exactly hitting the panic button.
As for today I think every Arsenal fan out there would have settled for a draw, what with our extensive injury list and suspensions to Song and Gervinho who both fell foul of the Barton factor last week at Newcastle. Now we can add Frimpong to that list. Before he became the third player in a year to see red on his league debut, Frimpong made a promising start to his Arsenal career, breaking up play with some important tackles and adding support to the attack with some surging runs. I think inexperience got the better of him today, resulting in too many clumsy fouls and a dangerous challenge in the second half saw him receive his marching orders. We now go into the game against Man United short of any midfield destroyer. Yikes.
From then on a tiring ten-man-Arsenal began to be exploited by the tactically astute Dalglish substitutions which saw a fresh Meireles and Suarez enter the fray. Everyone could see a Liverpool goal was on the cards, just not in the manner it actually happened. Ignasi replaced the injured Koscielny mid way through the first half, and despite some nervous early moments, went on to have a good debut performance, albeit one he will probably want to forget. After the Liverpool wide men got round the back and attempted to play through to the middle of the Arsenal box, Miquel made an important interception clearance. Unfortunately it was straight into the onrushing Ramsey’s shoulder, looping the ball freakishly over Szczesny’s head and into the net. All that was missing was Almunia.
I never really saw any way back into the match for us then, and would have felt that pinching a draw would have been robbery. Walcott and Arshavin’s continued wastefulness out wide quashed any dreams we might have had of stealing a point, and with an overrun midfield the main man RVP wasn’t getting the ball as much as he should have. After a limping Jenkinson brought Arsenal down to nine men, the Pool virtually walked the ball in for the killer second goal.
The next couple of weeks will be one of the most decisive in Arsenal’s modern history. We need to stay in the Champions League, get a win in the league and make at least one of those signings we’ve been promised by Wenger and numerous members of the board.
While Andy’s frolicking around Sweden looking for the next Ljungberg, I’d love to hear what you thought of what could be Nasri’s last outing, and what you your shouts are for the midfield we could/should play this week at Udinese. I’m stumped.
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