Sunday, 21 August 2011

Arsenal's Squad Depth Is Exposed Again As They Lose 2-0 At Home To Liverpool.

Arsenal played their first home game in the Premier League this season against Liverpool yesterday, and they lost 2-0 after yet again being reduced to 10 men. The Arsenal team on the day was a weakened one due to injuries and suspensions, as well as the sale of star player Cesc Fabregas. The result leaves them with only one point from their opening two league games, and the prospect of a visit to champions Manchester United next Sunday.

Before that trip to United next week Arsenal have to travel to Udinese on Wednesday night for the second leg of their vital Champions League qualifier. It's a game Arsenal need to get a result from to ensure qualification for the group stages, and if they fail the pressure on Arsene Wenger will be huge. This summer has been a very difficult one for Arsenal fans, and he needs to strengthen the squad or the growing feelings of unrest could possibly tilt the balance against him.

The team selected against Liverpool was as expected with the exception of Samir Nasri getting his first start of the season in midfield. His expected transfer to Manchester City still hasn't gone through, and Arsenal's need on the day meant he had to be played. He was part of a midfield trio with Emmanuel Frimpong and Aaron Ramsey, and on the day he gave all he had in my opinion.

The Arsenal fans are far from happy with Nasri's refusal to sign a new contract, and the long drawn out saga of his move to City has made him a villain in their eyes. They understood Cesc's desire to return to his hometown club after eight years at Arsenal, but Nasri is perceived as being greedy. If Arsenal can get over €20 million for him from City they have to take it, as they cannot afford to let him leave on a free transfer next summer.
However, he is a quality player and if he is sold it will only weaken the Arsenal team further. If he is still at the club next weekend he has to be included in the team to play United. Arsenal's midfield options on the day will be so limited that they cannot afford to leave him out of the team.

Arsenal were far from impressive going forward yesterday, as Liverpool had the majority of possession and dealt effectively with any threat from Arsenal. Robin Van Persie had very little influence on the game, but it's not his fault those around him failed to bring him into the game often enough. Both Theo Walcott and Andrey Arshavin were almost non-existent for the entire duration of the time on the pitch, but neither Ryo Miyaichi or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlin were given a chance to show what they can do.

The early injury injury to Laurent Koscielny meant that Ignasi Miquel had to come on in the 16th minute to make his Premier League debut. He was impressive alongside Thomas Vermarlen who had a great game yet again. If Vermaelen picks up an injury I dread to think how the Arsenal defence will perform without him.

It meant the Arsenal defence had a very young look to it with Carl Jenkinson and Wojciech Szczesny also playing. They were fairly solid until the dismissal of Frimpong meant Liverpool simply had too much for them, and eventually got the goals they wanted. I was a little surprised to see Miquel on the bench instead of Sebastien Squillaci, but it was a pleasant surprise.

In midfield Nasri showed he is prepared to play if he is called upon, and Frimpong did very well on his Premier League debut. Unfortunately for Frimpong his youthful enthusiasm got the better of him, and he ended up seeing two yellow cards which meant he was sent off. Ramsey had very little influence on the game compared to the other two, and he already looks like he needs a rest to me.

The young players thrown in at the back and in midfield did well, but it's hard to understand why both Miyaichi and Oxlade-Chamberlain weren't given the same opportunity. With Arsenal's wide players showing so little on the day they surely could have done no worse, but it appears youth only gets it's chance when there is no choice at all. If they have the quality that's needed to perform at this level then they have to be given a chance when others aren't performing.

I thought Arsenal were finally starting to get a foothold in the game just before Frimpong went off, but his departure signalled a change of tactics for Liverpool which Arsenal's 10 men could not cope with. The first Liverpool goal was marginally offside, but it was so close it was hard for the assistant to see. The second Liverpool was virtually walked into the goal, as Arsenal attempted to push forward for an equaliser.

Frimpong's first yellow card was very harsh, as he did very little to deserve it in my opinion. However, the second yellow card should probably have been a straight red card, as his challenge on Lucas was a very dangerous one in my opinion. Frimpong had knocked the ball too far ahead of himself and he tried to chase it down, but his challenge on Lucas could easily have caused the Liverpool player a serious injury.

It means Arsenal will not have a defensive midfielder available to play against United next week, but at least there is a possibility of Jack Wilshere being fit. The Premier League suspensions won't effect Arsenal on Wednesday night against Udinese, and I think both Frimpong and Alex Song should play in midfield with Nasri. If City are going to buy Nasri they will not want him cup tied for the Champions League, but the needs of Arsenal outweigh their needs.

If Arsenal have to play Nasri to ensure qualification it should lead to a €30 million windfall, and that is more than City are offering for Nasri. If it means Nasri stays until the end of the season it will cost Arsenal around €20 million, but maybe it's a risk worth taking. Wenger has to do what is best for Arsenal, and Nasri's potential inclusion might eventually bring the whole sad mess to a conclusion.

Arsenal have now played two Premier League games without scoring in either of them, and they have also created precious few chances in those games. The free flowing attacking football they are noted for is not happening, and it needs to return before their title chances disappear all too early. The return of some of the injured and suspended players will help Arsenal to play better, but the team is crying out for reinforcements.

There are only 10 days remaining in the transfer window, and Arsenal's fate depends upon their ability to use those days wisely. There have to be players available to strengthen both Arsenal's team and their squad, and Wenger needs to move quickly to buy those players. The current glut of injuries and suspensions has shown up the lack of depth available to Arsenal, and if previous seasons are anything to go by they will continue throughout the season.

That's it for today.

Here's the highlights of yesterday's game with thanks to 101greatgoals as always.

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