The Premier League season started in earnest today for the Gunners, who were away at Liverpool. I didn't watch the game live because I was at the bike races at West Clay, but I recorded it and watched it while I pedaled on the trainer in the basement. I'm happy to say I survived the full 90 minutes on the bike without too much strain to my back, hips or legs.
Arsenal were the better team throughout the first half, which ended scoreless, but with Arsenal up a man, as Liverpool's new man Joe Cole was sent off for a bad tackle (maybe deserving of a yellow card more than red) on Arsenal's new man Laurent Koscielny. Obviously, this was good news for the Gunners heading into the second half.
However, the Gunners came out after half time acting as if they had already won the match; they were not nearly as sharp as in the first half, and much less aggressive than the fired-up Liverpool side. Liverpool quickly too the lead after bad giveaway young England hopeful Jack Wilshire. Liverpool's Ngog punished Wilshire for the error by firing a shot in, high and hard, at Aluminia's near post (maybe Alumunia should have done better, but it was hit with real venom). For most of the rest of the second half, the Arsenal players wandered about as if in a daze. Samir Nasri, who shined in the first half, seemed to lose energy and inspiration. The same cannot be said of Andrei Arshavin, only because he never seemed to be in the game in the first place. The Gunnre started playing with a bit more fire in their bellies after Wenger inserted Theo Walcott and Robin van Persie. Still, as the game wore on, it looked increasingly like the Gunners were going to done in by a self-inflicted wound.
Fortunately, another self-inflicted wound, this time from Liverpool goalie Pepe Reina, saved Gunners' blushes. Reina was surprised on a soft cross into the box, when new Arsenal striker Marouane Chamakh suddenly cut in front of him. The ball came off Chamakh, rebounded off the post, and Reina quite literally carried it in the net. Arsenal defender Koscielny was subsequently sent off for a second yellow card, but the game ended 1-1.
Final Analysis: A strange opening game for the Gunners, who looked quite good in the first half, and pretty abysmal for most of the second. They were fortunate to salvage a tie score from what should have been a victory, after playing half the game with 11 men to Liverpool's 10. I'm a bit concerned about Arshavin who seemed slow and sloppy with the ball, and defensive midfielder Abu Diaby who, somewhat typically, seemed to want to play the game in slow motion. One thing I particularly liked about Chamakh's Arsenal debut was his willingness to come back to help out on defense. On several occasions during the match he back-pressured the Liverpool midfield to help the Gunners regain possession.
Arsenal's next match is home to Sunderland next Saturday.