by Walter Broeckx
When the fixture list comes out in June every team is anxious to know what the first match will be. An easy home game against a new team? Going away to a team that should be struggling to avoid relegation? But one can be sure that one thing most teams don’t like to see is a trip away to one of the top 4 teams. But for Arsenal it was no home game against a new team, no away game to a possible struggling side. No it was being thrown in the deep end and make sure you can swim: an away trip to Liverpool.
There are easier things to start the new season. With the world cup we had quite a few players missing and with our early injury crisis we also had some players who hardly have played in preseason. Cesc came back with a soar throat from Mexico and wasn’t even on the bench but Robin Van Persie was. Together with Song who also hasn’t played for us in preseason.
Liverpool with their new manager wanting to show he can do better than Benitez. Now we can all not agree with the spending of the money from Benitez but he played normally some kind of attacking football at home with great passion, the way they like it up there. Hodgson was not a bad manager at Fulham but when I saw them play against us in the past seasons they always played a very defensive line with always some 9 players behind the ball and one or 2 players who sometimes tried to start an attack. Let us say mostly mid table or lower table tactics, well against us anyway.
After half an hour I was thinking: are we playing Fulham at Anfield? Because at that moment a statistic flashed on my screen telling me that we had some 3 or 4 shots on goal but at the other end of the statistics it said: Liverpool : 0 shots. Zero, nothing. I checked again and noticed that it really was Liverpool who was playing at home. If I remember right it took them another 6 or 7 minutes before the first attempt of Liverpool at our goal was seen and it was a shot very, very wide.
So yes we were very on top of the game, had more possession and kept Liverpool away from our goal. Was this Anfield? It seemed so. The only thing that was missing for us was a goal. We had a couple of possibilities but Reina made a good save on a Vermaelen free kick to deny us an early goal. Right at the end of the first half Liverpool tried to attack themselves which resulted in Joe Cole being a true red. If Atkinson is drawing the line there, fine with me. Intent or not, I think Cole went in with both feet to Koscielny. Always a foul, and always at least a yellow card. The ref did what more refs should do: show a red card until these dangerous tackles stop.
The reason why he gave the red card was that Cole went in a frontal way in to Koscielny. If it would have been a sideways tackle and he would have hit him he would have come away with a yellow card but I told you on a few occasions that a frontal tackle is the most dangerous tackle there is and should be out of the game.
The second half started with two shocks: Koscielny back on the field and Ngog scoring a goal. We lost the ball where we shouldn’t have lost it. Wilshere and Nasri had a misunderstanding and Ngog could score. Those things happen. Part of learning I guess for Jack who showed that he can become a great player but also that he has to learn a few things. But I think I will let him have the time to learn it as he will be a great player for us. I think it was great from our manager to go for him and let him start at Liverpool. It was a big example on how Wenger gives a young player the chance to prove himself.
After the goal we lost our composure a bit. But with bringing on Walcott and Rosicky we turned it around. Rosicky had a great half our and showed what a great player he can be. If he hadn’t lost some 2 years with injury we maybe would have more trophies as he is a player who can play many positions and is experienced enough. It was no coincidence that it was from his cross that Chamakh showed that we have other options now. All he needed was one great cross to give us a goal. Yes I know it was Flapreina who pushed the ball in his own net but it was Chamakh that beat Reishit for the cross and made him look poor.
Could you imagine if it was Arsenal that had conceded such a goal? Some would have asked the head of Wenger, of our goalkeeper, tell that Wenger hasn’t got a clue, tell that the board are filling their pockets, tell that well you know the usual stuff when a keeper makes a mistake. But now we have a laugh with Reina and find it great. And that is the difference with our keeper making a mistake and the other. When we suffer the mistake it hurts so much we can lose perspective. But those who have seen the goals in the EPL this weekend will agree with me when I say that a lot of the goals were down to very bad mistakes by the keepers.
So saying that our keeper(s) is(are) the worst in the EPL is very hard on them.
By the way did I mention the fact that we need another centre back? I just did so if you comment by saying that we don’t want us to sign another defender only prove that they don’t read the article, or at least not until the end.
If you look at some match statistics we won them all. We had more shots on goal, in fact we had the double of the shots that Liverpool had and it really was them that played at home. We had more corners, we had more of the ball, we had more territorial advantage as we played mostly in their half. Yes, we played away from home and at Anfield but the way they defended in 75 minutes it looked as if they was a scared team and didn’t dare to come at us.
So the first game is done. One point at Anfield is always a good point. I still feel that we should have won the game. We were the better team but Liverpool defended in their Fulham style and we have struggled against the Hodgson tactics in the past.
Can’t wait till next Saturday when the Emirates becomes more a bit Highbury but bigger. The North Bank, the Clock End back with their old names. Will be great to see the Highbury history getting a new live in the Emirates.
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