Liverpool 1-1 Arsenal: Debutants provide the highlights, Wenger gets his final warning

AFCB editor Andrew Weber reviews all the action from Anfield on the opening day of the season…

Arsenal snatched a late equaliser to draw 1-1 with Liverpool as Pepe Reina’s calamitous own goal denied the hosts an opening-day win at Anfield.

Reduced to ten men after Joe Cole’s poor tackle on Laurent Koscielny just before the break, Liverpool responded well to take the lead early in the second-half when David Ngog punished an error by Jack Wilshere.

But Marouane Chamakh’s brave header panicked Reina into putting through his own net and ensured our boys came away from Anfield with a result.

In a game in which the key moments all involved players on their debut, a pair of very late Koscielny’s bookings left both sides with ten men at the final whistle.

Arsene Wenger sprung a couple of surprises in his starting team with Wilshere named in the middle alongside Abou Diaby and Samir Nasri and Emmanuel Eboue selected on the right ahead of Theo Walcott.

The young Englishman had a tough debut, giving the ball away for Liverpool’s goal and misplacing one or two passes, but impressed with his workrate and willingness to establish a physical presence.

Hopefully we will see much more of him this season.

Nasri had a busy game at the heart of the midfield, spraying passes around delightfully despite hanging onto the ball too long on occasion, while Diaby struggled to show off his best qualities from a slightly deeper position.

All three midfielders had decent games but quite understandably, given the trio had never played together, the balance didn’t appear to be quite right at any stage of the match.

Manuel Almunia was given the No 1 shirt in goals, as well as the captain’s armband in Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie’s absence (why not Thomas Vermaelen?), but failed to convince as both a goalkeeper and captain.

Almunia’s first effort was to flap at a Liverpool corner and although he made a couple of routine stops to deny Glen Johnson and Steven Gerrard’s long-range efforts, he did not exude confidence and was partially at fault for not standing tall on Ngog’s opening strike.

The two remaining debutants, Koscielny and Chamakh, were quite impressive.

Koscielny read the game well, made some smart fouls, showed good pace and strength to beat Fernando Torres on a couple of occasions late on and was desperately unlucky to be sent off for a Thomas Mueller-esque handball.

Chamakh meanwhile had a strong debut, never shirking out of the physical battle and forcing the goal by doing what he did best for Bordeaux: putting his head in where other players simply wouldn’t.

Liverpool had the better of the first half in terms of chances created with Milan Jovanovic firing over when he should have crossed and Ngog forcing Gael Clichy, who had a very quiet game at left-back, to clear off the line.

But the game’s complexion changed on the stroke of half-time as Cole, who endured a poor opening 45 minutes and was clearly over-eager to impress, dived in late in the corner to scissor Koscielny’s leg.

Although replays showed that the contact was not as bad as it appeared from the referee’s viewpoint it was still a ridiculous and pointless challenge from a player who had nothing to gain from making such a tackle.

At 11 v 10 one would have expected Arsenal to come out and dominate after half-time but it wasn’t to be as David Ngog capitalised on a mistake by Wilshere to hammer home a shot into the roof of the net.

Wilshere was visibly frustrated with his mistake and his general performance deteriorated from that point until Wenger replaced the 18-year-old with Tomas Rosicky, one of a pair of substitutions that also saw Emmanuel Eboue, who had been fairly anonymous throughout, make way for Theo Walcott.

The chances finally started to flow soon after: Walcott forcing Reina into a decent save from a free-kick and Rosicky pressing the goalkeeper into a wonderful flying save after quick feet and a clever interchange with the third and final substitute, Robin van Persie.

Andrey Arshavin popped up from anonymity to provide a good cross for van Persie that Walcott almost pounced on to open the scoring, but the crucial goal came a minute later when Chamakh’s bravery flustered Reina into an awful fumble.

Koscielny’s red card concluded a frantic final twenty minutes that saw Arsenal come away with the result they just about deserved and spared the blushes of losing to a team that played with ten men for the entire second half.

This was not a brilliant attacking performance: for all of our possession the passing and movement was not crisp enough to move Liverpool’s ten men around and create the space required to punish them.

If there is a real positive to be taken out of this game – other than the impressive debuts of Chamakh and Koscielny – it is that without losing the match, Wenger has been given a final warning of what needs to happen for Arsenal to realistically challenge for the title.

Pre-game I stated firmly that a new first-choice goalkeeper and fourth central defender needs to come in to complete this squad.

If Almunia’s indifferent performance and Koscielny’s red card, which leaves Arsenal with just Vermaelen as the only fit centre-back for Blackpool next weekend, doesn’t force Wenger into acting on making the two signings then put simply, nothing will.

In the end a point was a good result for Arsenal at Anfield and there is plenty to feel optimistic about.

Have your say on Arsenal’s 1-1 draw with Liverpool by leaving a comment.

Check out ‘Yemi’s player ratings from Arsenal v Liverpool here.



  1. We are meeting Blackpool next and not West Bromwich Albion. I think Amulnia was one of our best players on the field yesterday. People should stop criticizing him for nothing. I have seen Shagiven or Swerzer so many occation makes useless error and nobody talk about that, so why Amunia? Fools

  2. Great summary.

    In my opinion, Almunia was given the armband as he has been second in line for the captaincy for some time now. I believe that even with RvP, Almunia would have been captain. To remove this from him would serve only to kick him while he was down. I stood behind him with my son as he warmed up and he was more focused than ever; normally he is all smiles, last night he meant business. He knew how big a game it was for him and I thought he did okay. As usual he was indecisive but still made a couple of good stops.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’d take Given right now. But if Wenger doesnt replace Almunia, let’s at least get behind him.

  3. RvP is vice captain not the clown Alumina who probably dropped the arm-band when he was given to him, he simply isn’t good enough and it’s very difficult to get behind him when he repeats the same mistakes all the time, he hasn’t got a clue about positioning any decent keeper would have saved that shot from Ngo, he doesn’t know where the goal posts are. When he goes I hope he takes flapinski with him

  4. I wish blog writers would not change facts to suit their agendas.

    If you admit Koscielny had a good debut, then how did this game Show Wenger that he definitely needed another CB?

    Presumably if Kos and TV were first choice then that extra CB would be sitting on the bench.

    The next game might show we need another CB, if Djourou, Nordveit or Song dont play well, but this game did not show that.

    Almunia had an OK game. Certainly don’t blame him for the goal, thought he could have dealt with a few crosses more confidently, but didn’t seem to get himself into too much trouble.

    Liverpool were lucky considering Arsenal were missing their top 3 players. But for a lapse of concentration by Arsenal when they came out after half-time, they would have lost at home.

  5. Almunia made some good saves, but the negative will always standout, And people if you have a problem with the team now is the time to vent it because on sep 1st you can’t. The manager knew we are short on defenders yet he bought only 1. This area is a problem because no player wants to come and be second or third choice so may be it is difficult to find the write player who understands this role
    But as far as the goal keeping situation is there is no excuse that wengre can make almunia is not a bad keeper he is just not a number 1 at a big club like arsenal all our keepers made errors that are unacceptable at this level. The players have to take some blame but wenger must take the most because the players are a reflection of his flawed philosophy. How could he not address the needs of the team this frustrates me so much. He had three months to sought out this goal keeper issue and today the same problems from last season i would prefer mistakes from VM and Szczesny because there new so try them . People say am critical of wenger but this was not always so the problem is he insults the fans intelligence we let in too much goals last season how do you fix it? Look at the bad defending on set plays yesterday we can’t defend four four seasons now and the manager has not fixed the problem it starts with the keeper

  6. Arsenal played an OK match yesterday, but i still want to see players such as diaby, nasri and walcott make a bigger threat 1vs1. Wenger said they lacked spark in the final 3rd, and i couldnt agree more. In my opinion arsenal play way to much along the wings and our crosses usually ends nowhere near an Arsenal player.
    Regarding our goalkeeper-situation i would love to see the likes of Schwarzer or Given standing in goal at Emirates. I bet 10 of PL`s keepers could have saved N`gogs shot. Surely the shot was great, but Almunia didnt even stretch his arms fully! It looked like he got burned or something. He also was insecure in the box.
    Please Wenger sign a GK!
    The thing is: I dont have trust in Almunia but i do believe in Wenger. No matter what i respect Wengers decision.

  7. @ TT – I see your point. But Wenger needing another CB has nothing to do with Koscielny’s good performance – it has to do with the fact that one injury (very nearly sustained in the tackle) or one suspension (which he now has) puts us in a precarious position. I’m not expecting Nemanja Vidic to arrive, but without a fourth CB I feel our squad is short in this area and given Djourou’s injury problems and those of the squad in general, it’s not a reassuring position to be in.

  8. @Tony: that’s ‘cos they don’t make those errors all the time…whereas our beloved almunia makes atleast a dozen every game…it’s just as simple as that…think about yourself before calling others fools..!! 😛 😉

  9. Strange selection by Wenger yesterday, Nasri, Diaby, Wilshere and Eboue have never played together in this formation, while Kosc and Chamakh were debutants and to throw them in at the deep end at the start of a season at a Liverpool side who may not be anymore fired up or upbeat this season under their new manager was to be honest a little baffling. What was wrong with Song? How many pre season games did Diaby feature in before he got the nod yesterday???? He was poor, still refusing to play the simple 5 yard pass in favour of trying to beat an opponent. really I dont know what his role is or what he offers.
    Yes Nasri did spray passes about but how many of them were forward or half threatening???? Like Iv said a thousand times before teams will retreat to their own 18 yard box and dare you to break them down…..theres nothing special about lateral passing to sagna and clichy, the opponent is happy for you to have possession here and wait a misplaced pass, aimless cross or most likely Diaby falling over himself…other than ros7s shot we never threatend yesterday and it was only a poor Liverpool teams defensive frailties that gave us a glimpse of goal.
    Behind the lads…..always.
    But to be honest Iv seen nothing new from Almunia, Nasri, Diaby and co to make me think were in for anything different from last season.

  10. I like the comment of shambogunner in special, then I think Almunia can’t be blamed for the goal received, I saw some of these during the world cup, I wished another keeper as well but as long as he stands between the sticks the criticism should be a bit more fair I think, of course if the defence and the keeper can’t spread confidence . . it’s difficult . . .

  11. I think the arsenal squad is lacking physical presence, no offence to players like song and vermalean who has showd some strength when called for. The likes of chelsea have no less than 6 physical players or more on the pitch and they are not always skillful bt they frighten opponents leading to lack of composure. Teams like man u and chelsea have physical power thts why they defeat my beloved gunners whenever we play with them. All I am saying is, if a physical and tall defensive back is not added then I can see the likes of didier drogba etc strolling into our goal post. Dnt blame a keeper who has to deal with world class strikers when dey come through. Almunia is not great bt is good. Will like to szczesny in goals bcos I think he would have saved ngogs shot with his eyes closed. Bt reina made a mistake and is not criticised dt much, pleas can we all bak almunia if wenger believes in spending our money on sumtin else ratheR than putting a contest, gunners for life

  12. Almunia is a liability and that’s a fact, I agree with you Andrew about the captain’s armband on Almunia. He definitely dosen’t exude any confidence and that definitely has an impact on the players he’s supposed to lead. Althought the shot by Ngog was a bullet I really thought Almunia would save it. I wouldn’t say Chamakh was impressive but he did well enough, taking into account that he was virtually man marked the whole game. I was more dissapointed with Shava and Diaby, at least Shava admitted he was craptastic, Diaby..welll…Diaby is just Diaby.

    Wassup bro good to see you back. Seems that we pass sideways more whenever Cesc or Rvp is out. If Arsene’s game plan was for Clichy or Sagna to cross for Chamakh then I think its time for our wing backs to improve their crossing. Maybe Arsene could put in Gibbs for the Blackpool game. I definitely think Gibbs will surpass Clichy in a years time provided he plays at least 50% this season.

    Sometimes I miss the old days of the fast 1-2s exchanges that Ljunberg, Limpar, Merson, Parlour, Henry use to do all the time and of course. Bergkamp was the master in realising the ball just a second early resulting in a deadly counterattack or 1 to 1 situations. The pass-move- into a forward position art has been lost somehow. Only Rvp, Cesc, Ros even Hleb seems to be adapt at this.

  13. I was pretty pleased with the way the team played. It was the first game, away, against a team with a new coach and new spirit. I think that we should be very happy that we were able to come away with a point! I do have one issue with this team, and it has been my issue for the last few years. I don’t necessarily quibble about players (though I STRONGLY believe that towards the end of the season either Clichy or Sagna will lose his position to Gibbs). We have some of the best young players in the world. My issue with the team is that we don’t go after the ball as vigorously as other teams, and we are muscled off of the ball too often for my liking. When Jovanovic shouldered Sagna out of the way, that was emblematic of the most important issue with this team. If the team could play with more fight, I am convinced that we’d win the league, EASILY.

  14. @TT “If you admit Koscielny had a good debut, then how did this game Show Wenger that he definitely needed another CB?”

    Well, because Koscienly is now banned for several matches and we have no expert backup. I believe that’s the point Andrew is making – we’re desperately thin at the back. Last season, we’d have Sol or Silvestre backing up.


  15. One thing I haven’t seen mentioned many places is the poor crossing from the fullbacks that still seems to be an issue. Clichy is particularly bad at this. It hasn’t ever seemed to improve. How is Chamakh going to get good service if we never seem to ever practice this?

  16. playing against 10 men is no guarantee that you will win the game…at higher levels it actually disrupts the flow of the game…l’pool didnt need to change anything with loss of j.cole as they were already defending deep around the 18 yard box… walcott was sent in as a second striker to occupy the centre halves however that did not work as l’pool cont to defend deep and narrow… wenger reacted quickly by sending on van persie and switching walcott to the wings that created space for nasri and rosicky in the middle of the park…bcos l’pool started to double up along the flanks…on walcotts side as well you’d have to give credit to l’pool for a defensive master plan as they shut out arshavin…they has gerrard, kuyt and johnson tripling up on him any time he got the ball that meant efectively only nasri could link up with chamakh…that explains the ineffectiveness of our attack in the last third…..with the 4-3-3 system the idea is always outnumber the opposing players…unfortunately we had 2 against 3 in the final third … if eboue had sstayed on the flanks then we could have created chances by leaving space in the middle of the park but bcos he kept cutting in it meant all l’pool had to do was to keep their shape…agger just sat deep acting as a spare centre back at times overall i’m happy that wenger made the necessary tactical adjustments asap unlike in the past when he’d wait till the last 15 minutes…he ruthlessly pulled out wilshere who is to blame for the goal….and not almunia. sure almunia flapped at 2 or 3 crosses into the box…but for that goal i will cut him slack as he had just set his feet expecting the ball to go across the face of the post….more than 90 percent off fans also expected the ball to fly across the post…at least he made an attempt to save the ball but was beaten by the sheer pace of the ball.

  17. Darragh,

    I agree wholeheartedly about crosses coming in from Clichy and Sagna. They are pretty bad at this.

  18. For those who still ask fans to not moan and complain, you are totally wrong. The club in “footballing” terms, which is the priority, has not been moving forward at all. I fear for this season too, because we have 2 1/2 centrebacks at the moment, and there will come a time in march where one of them is injured and our defence will be in shambles again. Wenger it seems is an amazing accountant at the moment but wheres the manager in him. NO trophy since 2005. Money should have been splashed on a world class goalkeeper for the next few years and yet again we seem not to have a sight set on spending more than 2-3 Million. Things need to change, there is so much frustration in the team for the past 2-3 seasons where we just arent effective in big games or we cant step up to the challenge. And sadly that hasn’t changed. If you think about it, is Wenger getting the best out of a majority of players in this team? No. Arshavin has gone down, walcott hasnt progressed. Im not hating on wenger, just how i see it. We can aim for the top four and have profitability, but I WANT MY FOOTBALL BACK, THE WINNING MENTALITY BACK. and its time the club stopped lying. Wengers not been keeping his word nor have the board, which is extremely disappointing.

  19. Hello Andrew,
    Thank you for your email. The game on Sunday was not the greatest, but what do you expect from Liverpool who played like a bunch of frightened rabbits, their policy was keep it tight and hope for the best that we get a breakaway goal. Arsenal were the better team and deserved the draw. They tried to play their beautiful football, but Liverpool were’nt having it. Still not to worry its early days it is a long old season

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