Arsenal's Samir Nasri Showed Joe Cole How to Play Off the Striker
Arsene Wenger would have expected a better result in the first game of a brand new season. However, it was the same old story once the game unfolded at Anfield.
Arsenal passed the ball and kept possession admirably well, but without any end product, which was the case over the years. At least a few fans might have expected a different Arsenal this term, but the initial signs are not too gratifying.
Arsenal's goalkeeping woes were evident in the game, as Manuel Almunia failed to stamp his authority. A better keeper would have certainly stopped David Ngog's fierce shot, simply because he scored from the near post. You would expect top-class keepers to be extremely strong at their near post.
The debutant defender Laurent Koscielny did extremely well to win most of the headers to save Almunia from further blushes. It must be said that Wenger is overrating his worthless keepers and underrating some of his outfield players like Tomas Rosicky.
One must question why Arsenal have extended Wenger's contract when he's not realistic about the prospect of winning a trophy in the near future. The transfer window is about to close in two week's time and he still hasn't found a new goalkeeper, without which, Arsenal are going to struggle again.
You wouldn't think he's going to buy one soon, going by his remark after the game that Manuel Almunia "had a great game." I am sure many of you would disagree with Wenger.
Even Wenger's decision to start Jack Wilshere ahead of Rosicky backfired. It was not a wise decision, considering the fact that Arsenal were forced to field a weakened midfield without Cesc Fabregas and Alex Song.
You would bet Wilshere to do well in the presence of talismanic captain Fabregas and rock-solid Song. However, what can you expect from an inexperienced youngster when he plays alongside an erratic Abou Diaby?
It was Wilshere's mistake that led to the Liverpool goal, though. Someone must advice Diaby that football is a passing game. He holds onto the ball for too long and tries to do it all by himself. He is a talented player, but it's time that he improved his decision making.
Andrei Arshavin must be the last name Liverpool fans would like to hear. But his performance was so poor that Wenger must consider benching him if this goes on for too long. He has started off from where he had left last season. He was totally ineffective and at times gave an impression that he didn't want to play for Arsenal.
There were also some positives to be taken from the game. Samir Nasri was brilliant and played a central role in Arsenal's attack. Although his deliveries from the set-pieces were below par, Nasri kept plugging the Liverpool defence with his tricks and sensible play.
He switched the ball to either flanks with ease, and forced Javier Mascherano out of his comfort zone.
Liverpool defenders were throwing their bodies around to block Nasri's thunderous long range efforts. He got into great positions and his cunning off-the-ball runs created a lot of space for him to run.
At times, Nasri even controlled the game from the flanks. If it wasn't for Mascherano, Nasri would have dismantled the Liverpool defence.
On the other hand, Liverpool's playmaker Joe Cole struggled to get past Diaby. He was over-enthusiatic to quickly make an impression and in the process, his debut was cut-short when he received a red card for a wild lunge on Koscielny.
Cole never tried to create space for himself and tried almost always to operate centrally. He could have been more effective had he tried to operate from the wings more, just like Nasri. Cole never dropped back to manoeuvre from a deeper position.
Although Liverpool was down to 10 men in the second half, they fared better without Cole. The English midfielder must take a lesson or two from Nasri's book on how to link well with the strikers and how to occasionally drop back to the wings to control the tempo when midfield is cluttered.
If he doesn't do that soon enough, maybe Roy Hodgson should consider Alberto Aquilani to play in that position. All in all, Hodgson has brought in a new vigour into Liverpool players and supporters, which was evident in the first game.
The most noticeable change made by Hodgson was man-to-man marking instead of Liverpool's usual zonal system. He scrapped ex-manager Rafa Benitez's dopey zonal marking system. It has immediately payed dividends against Arsenal and earned a well deserved point.
Arsenal, on the other hand, must be disappointed but will take respite from the fact that some of the regular starters were absent. Even then, a problem area needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.
It's a cliche—Wenger should sign a new goalkeeper to give the team any chance of challenging heavyweights like Chelsea.
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