|photo by suzyq212||via PhotoRee|
Today we present you with Scott, our crack(ed) correspondent on the Liverpool beat:
As Liverpool met a stripped-bare Arsenal at the Emirates last Saturday, pressure was on both teams to get their campaigns going after unconvincing first games. With Cesc Fabregas' departure now old news, and Samir Nasri's departure imminent (despite his figuring in the starting XI), not to mention a growing list of injuries, Arsenal seemed to be on a downward spiral. Liverpool, on the other hand, were like a powerful train just starting to chug out of the station after a tune-up. Summer midfield and defensive signings adding to winter forward signings, they are poised to be the Reds everyone talks about.
Unfortunately, the game was mostly an ugly affair as the Luis Suarez-free Liverpool starters did their best to keep the limping Arsenal team in the match, even after the Gunners lost yet another player when poor Laurent Koscielny went off in the 14th minute with a back injury. Oh, sure, there were some highlights, such as Andy Carroll's snappy header that was acrobatically dealt with by the vowel-challenged Arsneal 'keeper Wojciech Szczesny. And Jose Enrique was brilliant in back with runs down the flank, excellent distribution and solid defense (Theo Walcott had no answer for him). Meanwhile, Stewart Downing was looking energetic and dangerous for most of the day.
But all that was largely overshadowed by the extra something that was missing without Suarez on the pitch. Not to mention a couple of truly horribly free kicks by the usually-dependable Charlie Adam. And a silly yellow card for Carroll's ill-conceived kick after the whistle. All combining for a goalless first 70 minutes, as dreary as the ashen skies loosing the monotonous parade of raindrops that had Arsene Wenger looking like a drowned rat.
Then, in the 70th minute, Suarez and Raul Miereles came on for Carroll and Dirk Kuyt - and everything changed. Despite allowing Thomas Vermaelen to streak forward and get a shot off in the 77th minute, Liverpool began to play with a new energy. So much so that the own goal by Arsenal in the 78th almost seemed inevitable - Liverpool was destined to win, and if they couldn't score, by golly, Arsenal would do it for them. Goals build momentum and it was only a few minutes later that Liverpool sealed the victory deservedly as the two substitutes combined sublimely for a tap in by Suarez. Those with lesser knowledge than this sage reporter might claim that Suarez was offside, but a closer examination will clearly show that, while he was in an offside position when the ball was played to Miereles on the right, Suarez was back onside when Miereles squared the ball to him for the tap in. The refs get them right sometimes.
Kenny Dalglish needs to find the right mix of players at any given time - he definitely didn't have it in the starting XI. And while the substitutions energized the team, a significant contributing factor over the final fifteen minutes was that Arsenal was down to ten men. Emmanuel Frimpong, awesome name aside, has a ways to go before he can contribute regularly. From start to his finish, he looked exactly like the overeager, talented teenager that he is - a yellow in the 9th for a mistimed tackle, a great effort in the 30th going just wide, dodging the refs red card in the 38th for another poor foul, before finally seeing red in the 70th for a foul that didn't look too bad upon review, except when considering the yellow he was carrying. Three points may be three points, but it doesn't always feel good.
It's difficult to stay up in the Premier League as a newly promoted side. Especially when it seems the soccer gods (and referees) are conspiring against you in your own stadium. After Ritchie De Laet put the Canaries up with a brilliant glancing header from a free kick in the 37th minute, Norwich held their own for the next half hour. But in the 65th minute an over-reaching decision handed Stoke City a penalty and shorted the home team a player, for what was a routine foul outside the box.
The soccer gods do like suspense, though, as the penalty was saved, and it seemed Norwich would secure their first top flight win in years. But then, like a Shakespearean drama's inevitable tragedy, Kenwyne Jones nodded home the equalizer in stoppage time - a dagger in the heart of our heroes. Away to Chelsea next week may not help their point tally, but Norwich have the talent to stay up if given a fair shake.
This is farlieonfootie for August 25.