Reina (og) 90+1
Patience was the key as Arsenal snatched a 1-1 draw against a rejuvenated 10-man Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday.
Arsene Wenger started the game with his favoured 4-2-3-1 system, a formation that is used by many teams in this modern era of football, but one that has not treated the Gunners too well over the past few seasons. Inspirational skipper Cesc Fabregas was missing through a lack of match fitness, so England’s newly capped Jack Wilshere was given his first Premier League start for the Londoners.
3 Sagna – 5 Vermaelen – 6 Kocielny – 22 Clichy
2 Diaby – 8 Nasri – 19 Wilshere
27 Eboue – 29 Chamakh – 23 Arshavin
59 – 11 Walcott on for 27 Ebout
60 – 7 Rosicky on for 19 Wilshere
76 – 10 Van persie on for 2 Diaby
Wilshere played deep in midfield alongside Abou Diaby, both received plenty of time and space but took too many touches which resulted in a failure to start any decent moves. Both players had equal responsibility defensively and did well to contain Steven Gerrard who had little attacking input on the game. Going forward was where these players were expected to shine but they failed to do so. Wilshere never got into advance positions to help lone striker Marouane Chamakh and his passing never stretched the opposition. Diaby did advance with the ball but was far too slow in feeding Andrey Arshavin and Emmanuel Eboue on the wings which played a big factor in the struggle Arsenal had to break down Liverpool even with 10-men.
The three advanced players were even more disappointing. Samir Nasri started with a lot of endeavour but as the game wore on his passing was sloppy and creativity nonexistent. Arshavin never managed to stretch Glen Johnson, gave the ball away cheaply and was over-powered by the Liverpool defenders. However, he did contribute to the fortunate equaliser with the cross that flustered Jose Reina. On the right, Eboue could count himself unlucky being substituted as he was given a lack of service from his teammates when in good positions.
After much debate, the No.1 shirt was given to Manuel Almunia and his performance yesterday will force Arsene Wenger to complete the signing of Mark Schwarzer from Fulham. Almunia was unconvincing throughout, his punching weak and his positioning for David Ngog’s goal poor. The shining light for Arsenal was Tomas Rosicky who when introduced looked back to his sharpest with incisive passing and link up play with Chamakh which almost resulted in a goal. Chamakh was unlucky – void of service and decent support most of the afternoon until Robin van Persie and Rosicky entered the fray. The debutant was outnumbered by the Liverpool defenders and found it hard to find space as Arshavin and Eboue drifted infield. His work-rate was impressive and his striker’s instinct forced Reina into the mistake for the equaliser.
There was a similar pattern to last season – plenty of movement and intricate play but a lack of ability to break the top teams down and create opportunities in the final third. This will be a worry to the fans who know more crosses and a new goalkeeper is essential if Arsenal are to sustain a title challenge this season.