The opening home fixture of the new season ended in defeat as a ten-man Arsenal side failed to hold out and conceded two late goals. The result did nothing to reassure those Arsenal fans who are convinced that the manager has long passed his ‘best by’ date. The manager’s position has not been helped by an injury to Koscielny, who had to be helped off in the first half with a back spasm. Ignasi Miquel – who is still listed on the club website as a reserve team player – came on to replace him and make his first team debut. He did pretty well even though it was his attempted clearance that cannoned off Ramsey’s chest for the OG.
Given the number of injuries that are depleting the team at the moment, and the loss of a certain spaniard who shall remain nameless, the team played reasonably well for a lot of the game. Frimpong, another Premier League debutant, had a very good first half, but he got himself ‘needlessly’ booked and this turned out to be critical in the second half (when does anyone ‘need’ to incur a booking?). Unusually, our opponents shaded possession for the first half, and as against Newcastle last week, we failed to make the most of the possession we had. Nasri started the game and behaved professionally; there was no significant negative reaction to his appearance and he played reasonably well. But neither he, Ramsey or Arshavin seemed able to take control and provide a useful supply to van Persie. Arshavin in particular continues to disappoint – he seems to play with his head down for much of the time, and finds himself crowded off the ball. I felt he might have stayed wide on the left and targeted Liverpool’s inexperienced full-back Kelly, but that didn’t seem to be part of the game plan.
Liverpool started with Andy ‘Porn Star’ Carroll up front, and although Szczesny was forced to make one very good save from a header, he didn’t trouble our defence as much as he or his manager would have expected. However, once Frimpong was sent off for a dangerous tackle with twenty minutes remaining, Dalglish swapped Carroll for Suarez. Not long after that the scousers went in front from an unlucky Ramsey own goal (Suarez had clearly been offside). We were unable to respond and Suarez made it 0-2 on 90 minutes.
Frimpong will be a disappointed man this morning and rightly so. He played well, and showed no sign of nervousness despite having less than half an hour of first team football under his belt. His inexperience got him sent off and he’ll have to learn to pick his battles more intelligently. It’s all very well wanting to fight for your place and give everything on the pitch, but you can’t do that when you’re sat behind the substitutes in your civvies. Now he faces suspension and we are left with even fewer options in midfield.
There is even more pressure on AW to make some signings, but the clock is ticking. The performance of the team has been disappointing but hardly surprising. The manager’s frustration was readily apparent on the touchline yesterday, and the pressure is mounting upon him. I hope – for his and the team’s sake – that we have some good news over the next few days. Will this be the month that defines our season? If we fail to get past Udinese on Wednesday it probably will be. If we do, events seem to be conspiring against us – so perhaps this is the season that defines AW’s term in office.