Sunday, 21 August 2011

Liv-ing Dangerously - Weekend Observations 20th-23rd August: Part One

The big game on Saturday saw Liverpool travel down to London and come away from an away game with Arsenal taking 3 points for the first time since Methuselah had acne and starting noticing girls. Given the shape of the two sides going into the match at the Emirates, the reds' 2-0 victory was in actual fact one of the least surprising results of the weekend.

The Gunners were once again ravaged with injury and matters were made worse in the first 15 minutes when Laurent Koscielny limped off and confirmed my suspicions that during the week, Arsenal players don't actually do any training. The Frenchman looked to have sustained a back injury. Add that to the hamstring afflictions that sidelined both Keiran Gibbs and Johan Djourou as well as Tomas Rosicky's 'knock' following the narrow 1-0 win over Udinese in midweek and you have a club that can no longer blame 'bad luck' for their problems. Such persistent problems point to fundamental flaws at the club. Arsene Wenger has whinged about injuries undermining Arsenal for a number of years now but from the outside looking in, it would appear that lessons still haven't been learned. It's as though the medical team is run by Harold Shipman.

Koscielny's withdrawal meant a debut for 18 year old Ignasi Miquel. The Arse had already been forced to hand first starts to Emmanuel Frimpong and Carl Jenkinson, both 19, which makes you wonder if we will eventually see an unborn foetus lining up on the left wing before the season is out (Let's face it, an embryo would actually be better than Andrei Arshavin right now...).

Quite simply, it should NEVER get to such a state at any top club with aspirations of success where they are forced to play so many rookies in only their second league game of the season. Rumours that next season's kit suppliers will be Pampers have been dismissed as gross exaggeration. This team is was so young that the wet surface at the weekend was said to be 30% rain and 70% afterbirth. Naturally, this inexperience was to be their undoing as Frimpong picked up the three thousand four hundred and seventy-sixth Arsenal red card under Wenger's management [citation needed], while Miquel and Aaron Ramsey, 20, conspired to score one the most comical own goals this side of Frank Sinclair. Substitute Luis Suarez soon made it two to send the scousers home happy.

This game taught us nothing about Arsenal. The team is in undoubtedly in a state of freefall and need to address their problems sharpish or else, like Tara Reid, the damage may well prove irreparable.

Liverpool may well be encouraged by the scoreline but in truth, it flattered them. Nothing in their performance suggested they will be anywhere near a title challenge this season. This simple fact of the matter is that any team worth their salt should be beating the depleted imitation of a football team that Arsenal put out. The reds needed the helping hand in the form of a red card and an own goal to send them on their way. Suarez was clearly offside in the build up to the second as well. Eleven v eleven they offered nothing and were it not for these mitigating factors, they wouldn't have won the game. This gifted win doesn't disguise the fact that they looked second rate against a crap side.

So much hype has surrounded the players brought in by Kenny Dalglish but it would be disingenuous to even feign satisfaction with their performances. Stuart Downing got very little joy against the rookie Jenkinson while you would forgiven for thinking Charlie Adam had been huffing paint in the changing rooms pre-match such was the wayward inaccuracy of his “passing” (inverted commas mandatory). Jordan Henderson's impression of a professional footballer was so bad it was almost funny. The youngster must have had it in his head he was actually playing for Arsenal given his ineffectiveness for the Reds and seeming generosity towards anyone in a red shirt.

This was about the easiest match Liverpool could have asked for and they still laboured to victory. I imagine that anyone who thought this was anything near a decent performance still probably believes in the tooth fairy too. But then again, never underestimate the power of a Liverpool fan's delusion.

Equally unimpressive, and providing no evidence to suggest this will be nothing other than a two horse race for title between the Manchester clubs, were Chelsea who scraped a 2-1 win at home to West Brom. The Baggies have acquitted themselves well in their opening two games and were unfortunate, like last week against Man United, to come away from West London with nothing. Wearing a red change kit that resembled that of the British and Irish Lions, Woy's team played with a similar amount of heart as their egg-chasing doppelgängers. Shane Long gave them an early lead after a mistake by Alex and such was their control, Andre Villas Boas was forced into a early change as Florent Malouda replaced Solomon Kalou after just 34 minutes. Given that the Frenchman went on to score the winning goal, you have to say the new Chelsea gaffer actually earned his corn with that decision. Before that however, the Blues were extremely fortunate to draw level. There was little wrong with Nicolas Anelka's narrow-angled finish but there is certainly an argument that the ref ought to have stopped play to book Frank Lampard for a dive in the build up that would have made Tom Daley proud. Given that he was guilty of something similar against Stoke last week, one would hope people will start Lamp-basting 'Fwank' in the same way as foreign culprits. Somehow I doubt it.

In the Northeast, Sunderland and Newcastle were doing their very best to replicate a typical night out in the region in a game that featured the most needlessly aggressive, ill-tempered, borderline criminal acts of violence you are likely to see outside of the recent rioting across the country. The game itself was settled by a Ryan Taylor free kick as Newcastle beat their rivals 1-0 but the result doesn't even begin to tell the story of the game.

Of course, we all get the fact that local derbies are supposed to be highly charged affairs but that doesn't excuse some of the behaviour at the stadium of light.

Not for the first time, a game officiated by Howard Webb was allowed to get out of hand because he 'allows the game to flow'. As I'm sure I've said here before, there's a fine line between not being a card happy militant and bottling big decisions. Webb, in my eyes, is afraid to court controversy and would rather let misdemeanours go unpunished than make a decision that would change the complexion of the game. Yes, he did eventually send off Phil Bardsley for one of the worst tackles you ever see anywhere but not before allowing Yohan Cabaye and the mind-bogglingly awful Lee Catermole to get away with similarly bad challenges. If he laid down the law early on then maybe the encounter wouldn't have descended into the farce that it did.

Webb also missed one of the most blatant acts of cheating by Seb Larsson who handled a goal bound Joey Barton effort off the line and the proceeded to try and tell the officials that the ball hit his face. Some would call it Karmic retribution after Barton's own cheating last week. How do you like them apples?

The Roberto Martinez derby between former club Swansea and current club Wigan finished goalless but based on the highlights looked a far more entertaining match than either of the televised games on the day. I won't waste any time patronising the Swans with the kind of regurgitated clichés about how they like to “get the ball down and play” (copyright Mark Lawrenson) as I'm sure you can find such laboured reportage elsewhere. Wigan could have taken the spoils when Ben Watson was given a chance from the spot in the second half but the Welsh side's new keeper Michel Vorm was equal to it. The big Dutchman has had an impressive start to his Premier League career - Certainly more so than a certain Spanish stopper over in Salford. A strange conclusion to draw given he was on the receiving end of a 4 goal hammering on his debut last Monday. Anyone who saw the game however would know that Vorm performed some minor heroics to keep the scoreline in single figures. There is no doubt whatsoever that Swansea will be involved in a relegation battle but if the form of their new man between the sticks can continue, then, like this week, more precious points could be preserved as the season goes on.

Comedy club Blackburn were beaten 3-1 by Aston Villa. It says a lot about the dire straits Rovers find themselves in that an Alex McLeish team was able to score three goals in match and that the usually conservative Scotsman was bold enough to deploy three strikers – all of whom scored. That's two defeats out of two for Steve Kean. It's almost enough to drive one to drink....

Shock result of the weekend came at Goodison Park as penny-pinching paupers Everton were beaten 1-0 by newly promoted, but not very good Queen's Park Rangers. The goal was scored by Tommy Smith following an error by Phil Jagielka that should make him a shoe-in for the Arsenal defence he was rumoured to be joining. While the outcome was unexpected, it just seems to follow the same narrative we've been used to from The Toffees for many a year now. A poor start usually followed by a good run midseason and a fairly strong latter half of the campaign rightfully finishing in the top seven. Considering they have kept the core of their squad this summer, there is little to suggest that this same scenario will not pan out in exactly the same way.

As for Rangers, there was always the fear after the opening day massacre at Loftus Road last week that they could struggle badly in the top flight and run the risk of sinking without trace. You could imagine Neil Warnock crying himself to sleep every night at the prospect of having to go to Anfield, Stamford Bridge etc having to rely on the likes of Fitz Hall and Bradley Orr. Since that day however, things have gone horribly right as Malaysian bigwig Tony Fernandes bought 66% of the club made all kinds of noises about investment and the like. In the week or so remaining before the transfer window shuts, you imagine Big Tone will open his wallet and bring in some useful reinforcements. A good week for the hoops was capped off with Smith's winner on Merseyside meaning they are currently not the worst London team in the League.

That 'honour' belongs to the abovementioned Arsenal at present.

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arsenalred said...

At least you gave a true & Honest report on the Arsenal Liverpool game.
Please keep up your reports

Anonymous said...

mate, any more negative comments for all teams involved in matches this weekend?

Please remember, football players are still human, there is always an elemnt of luck/chance, and a win is a win regardless of how it is achieved - ManYoo have won countless titles by stumbling to the finish lines with lucky decisions often falling their way.

Dave Moore said...

You are the worst reporter/ journalist I have ever seen a report done by. You talk so much rubbish and are too worried about trying to make people laugh. Try actuaally doing your job and maybe you'll be taken seriously. Maybe you should change the author of the reports to manically and clinically depressed moron?? Arsenal battled amazingly well considering the situation they found themselves in and Kenny had the idea down to a tee. By playing a gritty more british side for the first 70 minutes he knackered the team out before bringing on Suarez and meireless who both for different reasons couldn't do a full ninety (Suarez fatigue and meireless match fitness) Maybe one day you will actually learn what the wonderful game is all about until then maybe you should teach Pre-school kids about the basicsd of football like say... How to pass the ball to each other??? Awful report + Awful reporter + No idea what you are talking about = The worst and most slanderous report to ever grace the internet.

Anonymous said...

You have to laugh at this article, simple mistakes such as jordan henderson passing the ball to arsenal players? What game were you watching his pass completion rate was 90%, so basically 54 of his 59 passes went to a liverpool player, how dare he misplace 5 passes over 90 mins

Anonymous said...

If Arsenal are in really free fall thanks to Wengers' philosphy he could be axed. He should blame himself for not taking action much,much earlier.

Anonymous said...

anyone who comments that henderson/90% pass completion b*llsh*t wants to see where denilson 90% of weak-midfield-arsenal fame has ended up...