I know the mood is not great this morning and there’s much to discuss but I’m going to start this morning with the positives from yesterday. As I saw them at least.
Thomas Vermaelen – magnificent. As fine a centre-half performance as you’ll see all season. Starting with the regular right back outside him at left back, and then playing the rest of the game with a Premier League debutant either side of him when Koscielny went off injured, he was aggressive, commanding and he dominated Andy Carroll. It was this level of performance which kept this under-strength Arsenal side from taking a real pounding.
Emmanuel Frimpong – the red card seemed almost inevitable. He was booked ridiculously harshly early on for a coming together with Jordan Henderson. It happened right in front of me, he thought it was an Arsenal throw and that Henderson was holding onto it. A referee with a bit of common sense might have realised it was a young guy making his full debut and just had a quiet word but unfortunately it was Martin Atkinson.
No complaints at all about the second yellow but that he left the pitch to a standing ovation tells you everything you need to know about what the fans thought of his performance. He tried his heart out, he was positive all the time, looked to drive us forward, wasn’t scared, didn’t hide, and it augurs well for the future. I loved him. I was very much of the opinion that he could do with going out on loan, and while some of the rawness needs to be worked on, and quickly, he’s a player that can definitely do a job for us this season. Just not this Sunday, unfortunately.
Miquel and Jenkinson – they didn’t stand out as much as Frimpong, and while their inexperience was obvious at times, they weren’t found wanting in terms of effort or heart either. And it was only when we went down to 10 men that we were exposed enough to cause them problems. As well as that, SZCZ continued his impressive start to the season.
The fans – the atmosphere was great, I thought. Really positive, people got behind the team and tried to provide a bit of ’12th man’ help. The dodgy refereeing helped, of course. Samir Nasri’s reception was muted just before kick off, there was probably one or two boos, but from where I sat it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I had feared it might be. And when Nasri played well, especially in the first half, that was rightly acknowledged and appreciated.
It didn’t get messy until right at the end. More people left in the immediate aftermath of the second goal than the final whistle, by my reckoning. And they did so in silence for the most part, some exasperation aside. At full time there were boos, but those boos were not directed at the team or the performance. They were an expression of frustration at the overall situation at the club right now. We’d seen youngsters come in and try their hardest for Arsenal but get let down by one or two of the senior players but most of all the management who are forced to play them ahead of time because of the threadbare nature of our squad.
And that word barely comes close to describing how weak we are right now. You can see the potential some of these kids have but we’re doing them a disservice by heaping this much pressure on them so early in their careers. It might be a case of throw them in at the deep end and who sinks or swims, but that’s really not good enough when you’re talking about players careers and the needs of this Arsenal team right now.
For all the effort yesterday, the result yesterday was a direct consequence of our lack of investment in the squad this summer and the reliance on inexperience. As I said, I loved Frimpong, but his red card changed the game. I wasn’t worried at all about Liverpool scoring but with 10 men, for the second week running, we couldn’t hold out. He made the kind of rash tackle a 19 year old debutant can often make. It might well have been his desire and combative nature but it was also naive. Who was there talking to him, telling him to be extra-careful? Nobody that I could see anyway.
Liverpool’s first goal came when Miquel, who had done very well on his debut, made a mistake that young centre-halves can make. And this isn’t meant to be a criticism of the player in any way. All centre-halves have had these things happen to them when they first broke into the team. The criticism is that we’re having to play them at all. All summer Arsenal have been crying out for a centre-half, a Djourou hamstring and Koscielny’s back spasm means we’re throwing on a kid. It’s just not good enough.
Even when it was 11 v 11 where were our options from the bench to change it? Both Arshavin and Walcott, in particular, were very poor (although it was funny to talk to some Liverpool fans at the airport who said they were scared stiff every time Theo got it. ‘Me too’, I said. We laughed), so who was there? We’re told Oxlade-Chamberlain and Ryo Miyaichi are top quality, they didn’t even warm up. Instead it was Nicklas Bendtner, a player who has wanted out all summer, and the other unused option was Chamakh. Hardly game-changers.
This was our second game of the season and that was possibly the weakest side Arsenal have fielded in a league game – which meant something – for as long as I can remember. Two games in and we’re in real, real trouble going to Old Trafford on Sunday unless we do something about the state of our squad. You look at what we had out there yesterday, and even if you count on the players we had missing we need four or five players before this transfer window closes. A left back, at least one central defender, at least one central-midfielder, certainly another striker and A N Other, I think everyone would have a different view on who that should be.
Arsene looked bedraggled on the sideline, but nowhere near as bedraggled as the fans who sat through the teeming rain to support their team yesterday. The most frustrating part of all is that you can see how these young players would learn and develop from having more experienced heads around them, in games and on the training ground. You can see how more experienced players would have got us a better result yesterday, probably a better result in the first game against Newcastle too. It’s hard to make any sense of what’s happening at the club.
We have a lot of money at our disposal and a real need to spend it. We don’t need ‘super quality’, we just need some good players. Without wishing to go all Championship Manager, put £25m on the table at Goodison Park and see if their precarious financial position allows them to turn down that money for Jagielka and Baines. Could West Ham turn down what we could afford to offer for Scott Parker? Three players, not ‘super quality’ but good, experienced professionals who would make this Arsenal team better, simple as that.
If we don’t spend there’s a real danger of falling too far behind early on this season. Yes, there’s plenty of time, but two games, 1 point, a home defeat, 2 sendings off, no goals scored, and a rake of injuries and suspensions means we’re in trouble already. And we face the Champions on Sunday. The Champions who, after winning the league, went out and bought some new players, good players, who add depth to their squad and allow them to properly blood the good youngsters they have in their ranks. We might not like it but there’s a lesson there.
Our situation right now is critical but also fixable. It’s not as if we don’t have the means or the funds. It’s down to Arsene, to Ivan Gazidis and to the owner of this great club, to quit the fucking around and do something about it before it’s too late.
The fans yesterday were behind their team but they’re fast falling out with the management and the way things are being run at this moment in time.