Saturday, August 20, 2011

From Bad to Worse At the Emirates

Arsenal's starting line-up today at the Emirates for the match against Liverpool resembled the kind of second-best 11 Wenger would usually pick for a Carling Cup match, such is the shortage, through sales, loans, and injuries, of available bodies. Add to that an early injury to central defender Laurent Koscielny (exposing even more the lack of depth in Wenger's squad), and Arsenal's line-up today included at least four names that many neutral fans would never have heard before, including Frimpong, Jenkinson, Miquel, and Lansbury. The youngsters did their level best. Frimpong in particular made a few impressive plays and runs, but he was a bit too energetic, diving in on a couple of bad tackles to earn the red card he received in the middle of the second half.

Liverpool won for the first time ever at the Emirates, 2-0. The first goal was a fluke, as Miquel's attempted clearance struck Ramsey and bounded over the goalkeeper into the net. That goal should not have counted anyway, as the Liverpool player, who was the target of the pass Miquel attempted to clear was plainly in an offside position. Liverpool's second goal was, however, well earned, and exposed the frailty of the Arsenal back-line.

Gunners fans cannot have too many complaints about the way the youngsters performed today (Frimpong's injudicious tackles aside). And Thomas Vermaelen was outstanding leading the defense - he really does deserve the captain's armband as much or more than Van Persie. What we can and should complain about, however, are poor performances from more experienced Arsenal players, including most notably Walcott and Arshavin. Walcott plainly is not improving, and Arshavin has past his sell-by date. The only true offensive threat from Arsenal today came from Samir Nasri, who quite likely was playing his last game in an Arsenal uniform.

I hate to keep beating a dying horse, but unless Wenger signs some more talent before the transfer window  closes at the end of this month, Arsenal will struggle to keep a place in the top four to qualify for the Champion's League. The good news (or at least, a break from the bad news) is that Wilshire's return to the starting line-up is imminent.

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