Monday, August 16, 2010

shit performance, better result: Liverpool 1-1 Arsenal

That ninety minutes encompassed the good and the bad of this Arsenal vintage, but there was no sign of the great that now seems consigned to the past.

The first 45 minutes saw some tidy football, but- and this is hardly unfamiliar territory- an almost total lack of penetration, of chances, of dynamism. Liverpool eased their way into the Hodgson era, and were content to play a game of containment. While this made it difficult for Arsenal to find openings, it also gave the fresh partnership of Vermaelen and Koscielny a relatively easy ride at the other end.

Then Joe Cole got sent off for a pointless lunge on Koscielny, just before half time. Could Arsenal take advantage, or would Liverpool be galvanised by the adversity?

Liverpool were galvanised. Wilshere lost the ball cheaply on the edge of his own area, Mascherano passed to Ngog, and he blasted a shot in high at the near post. Andy Gray made a point of questioning Almunia, and while it's clear to all and sundry now that the Spaniard is out of his depth, I thought it was a bit unfair. That was a fine finish. For all the peddling of that cliche that keepers shouldn't be beaten at their near post, it happens all the time, and to better keepers than Almunia.

The bigger mistake was Wilshere's. Playing in central midfield, his naivety leads him to do final third things in the middle or back third. It's probably the result of playing further back than he is accustomed to, but it's a dangerous habit. It hardly helped that his "senior" partner today was that clown, Diaby.

For the next fifteen minutes or so, the extra man looked irrelevant; Arsenal barely got into the Liverpool half. And for the last half hour, they displayed a lack of urgency that either displays an overall lack of sharpness, or a lack of hunger that is going to be terminal to this side's hopes of silverware. Obviously, Liverpool's massed defensive ranks made things tough, but Arsenal set about the challenge at a snail's pace and looked incapable of a single move that could surprise the opposition. That same old parody of themselves, they funneled almost every pass through a congested central area, and when the ball went wide, Liverpool were happy, because Clichy and Sagna still can't cross a fucking cheque.

For me, outside of the two centre backs, the only Arsenal players emerging with much credit were Nasri and Rosicky, who looked sparky after coming on and almost scored a lovely goal late on.

The equaliser was undeserved, and worse still, a fluke, a mess, Reina shovelling the ball into his own net after the ball hit the post from a Rosicky cross. Chamakh deserves credit for putting him under pressure, forcing the first mistake. But it was an embarrassingly lethargic performance overall, in which Arsenal's much-vaunted pass-pass-passing game looked utterly ineffective. Again, you have to worry about the character of this team when they fail to show much of a reaction to Liverpool taking the lead.

At the same time, Fabregas and Song have to come back. Hopefully, Diaby won't get many more games in midfield. Surely, another centre back will come in (especially now that Koscielny faces a suspension for an amazingly harsh second yellow). And maybe, just maybe, Wenger will sign a goalkeeper. Things should get better, so a point from Anfield, even if undeserved, is a good haul.

No comments: