It shouldn't be this difficult to start writing some thoughts on a football match, especially one where so much has happened. Yet, I have written a few lines only to delete them over and over again.
What exactly am I trying to say? I guess it's more a case of trying to relay what I feel right now and it's difficult to translate into words.
Pre season felt great, pressure free, sun shining and seeing the players together for the first time in ages. Previous disappointments are erased from my brain and a clean slate is presented to us all.
This time last year we had gone unbeaten during pre season and looked sharp for a team at that stage of preparation, we went into the first game of the season at home still hoping that additions were on the way. We were caught with our pants down by the East London outfit, conceded poor goals and lost.
Fast forward 12 months and we find ourselves in a similar position.
I was expecting Liverpool to come out guns blazing, disrupting our game and hitting us with rapid attacks but in fact it was Arsenal who took the game by the proverbial scruff of the neck, we continued the pre season theme of shutting the opposition down and moving the ball quickly into the final third. We looked positively excellent for a first game of the season. Tenacious, aggressive and on the same page. We witnessed Theo Walcott of all people sprinting back to rob Liverpool players of possession, every Arsenal player put a shift in and without question we were the best team on the pitch, by a country mile.
Walcott won and missed a penalty that I'm quite surprised Alexis didn't snatch and take given his personality but I guess he has an Arsenal penalty miss to his name already. But it didn't take long for Walcott to atone for his miss with a typical Theo finish from the right of the box, a sweeping shot across the keeper and into the inside side netting.
Dominating, in charge, a goal up on a sunny day. It had shades of the Arsenal 3 Manchester United 0 game of last season once Theo had opened the scoring. But a second did not materialise. Perhaps that was partly to do with Alexis Sanchez at centre forward. I was hugely excited about watching Alexis in that position, especially when you consider just how influential he was in our last pre season game at Manchester City but he struggled to get on the ball at all. He roamed around as he does but it often left us with no focal point whatsoever. He looked isolated and lost.
I can't help but think that an inform Oliver Giroud or Danny Welbeck would have made a huge difference in that first half.
But when you don't take advantage of your dominance you are susceptible to a sucker punch. I didn't think there was anything in the Holding challenge. Challenges like his are made on centre forwards hundreds of times a week in the PL and most of the time in the Premier League the referee does not see anything wrong with it. It's nothing to do with inexperience or age. I watched the Chelsea victory over West Ham and noticed Terry and Cahill making those types of challenges on a regular basis.
I had hardly noticed Philippe Coutinho in the game before he stepped up to the free-kick. Cech bellowing at his wall made very little difference as Coutinho's whipped strike was hit to utter perfection. Not sure you can blame Cech for that. It's the kind of goal you concede when Ospina is in goal and you wonder if a few extra inches would make the difference. Well there was nothing Cech's extra inches or helmet could do about that shot. Sorry!
So Liverpool undeservedly go into half time on equal terms, disappointing for sure but we should be more than happy with that performance, both on the ball and our fight off it. I wonder what would have happened if the half time break did not exist. We came back out a different team. Yes Liverpool improved, they had to but we seem to give up the idea of making challenges.
Lallana's and Coutinho's second both came from crosses without any tackles in the build up. We jogged around after Liverpool players and let them slice through us. Pep Guardiola had pinpointed our vulnerability from the flanks only last week. They scored two goals from crosses and we've allowed another two against Liverpool. I'm pretty sure Arsène said it was an area where we need to improve at the end of last season, or did I just make that up?
Mane scored the 4th from the flank obviously. It was a quite brilliant solo effort in fairness. His speed and directness was too much to handle for Monreal and Chambers. His shot into the top of Cech's net matched the run.
So the question is, do Koscielny and Mustafi stop Liverpool's goals? It's impossible to say really isn't it? Obviously it does not help having an inexperienced centre back pairing but I think it fits the narrative of not spending a little too conveniently. When we dropped off our intensity in winning the ball high up it looked like absolutely anybody could walk through us and create shots on our goal, especially from wide. That was not down to our centre backs. When we defended as a team in the first half there could not be a bad word said of either Chambers or Holding. In fact, I thought to myself during the game that one of the highlights of this half was Chambers making two or three huge leaps to win headers and then receive a huge cheer from the Arsenal fans. Second half and our centre backs were given very little protection even though we had Elneny and Coquelin together in midfield. So that is probably more of a concern than the list of defenders we have out at the moment.
Oh speaking of which, what the hell? Aaron Ramsey and Alex Iwobi are the latest to join the injury list. So that is Welbeck, Mertesacker, Gabriel, Ramsey and Iwobi out and we've just gone through 90 minutes of the first game of the season. Oh the joys.. Remember when we picked up an injury a game a couple of years ago, that was nice wasn't it? I hope we don't have that again this time because.. what's the point? Done the injury thing to death but it still riles.
Back to the match, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain came on after the 4th and instantly scored a goal after a very nice dribble past three Liverpool players and a big deflection which was nice.
Chambers headed in a Santi free-kick to bring it back to 3-4. There was at least twenty minutes to go so I was kinda hoping the fight back would be completed. You just know that if the shoe was on the other foot we'd have seen the game finish 4-4 in stoppage time. However it was quite frustrating to see us fade away as the game ticked on. Liverpool were almost as poor as us defensively so if we had applied some constant pressure at the end I'm sure we could have nicked an equaliser at least but it wasn't to be.
Maybe Arsène was right and the players are just not ready physically yet. Maybe if we had stayed at our old camp in Austria instead of flying around the USA and here there and everywhere we could have continued our intensity and the result would be different. Maybe not, maybe we have a self destruct button where we lose our minds and for twenty odd minutes someone pushed it.
It is that which worries me more than signings as I am convinced we will see two new faces before the close of the window.
Forget the players we have missing, if our defensive structure is right then we should not concede 4 goals at home to any team in the Premier League.
So yeah, still feeling the pinch of this, mainly because I was so so looking forward to it. I had missed the Premier League, had miss watching us play so it kinda feels like a smack in the chops somewhat.
However while the bath water is filthy and really annoying, the baby can be showered, dried, clothed, fed some delicious warm milk and he/she can grow up to be anything he or she wants to be.
I'm not prepared to give up on our chances after granted, a forgettable opening day of the season (again). We have a collection of Internationals to come back into the squad. As well as the additions that I am certain will be joining us. The work we do at London Colny would be my focus if I were Arsène Wenger today.
Beating Leicester City, having Özil and Koscielny and a new face or two will change the mood very quickly. Liverpool (like last season) will beat some big teams away from home so I'm not waving any white flags after one game. That said if we want to end this season on top then we need to sort out the basics. We have to keep our end of the bargain. Buy a centre back, buy a striker, not let in stupid goals and don't miss stupid chances when you are in control of the a game. Easy right?
If you missed the Post Match Q&A with fellow Gooners on Twitter then have a read here > Liverpool (h) This felt like a disaster purely of our own making - Q A
I always find it amazing how people watching the same game can often have such differences of opinion. Football eh? It's a massively upsetting funny ol game.