Expectation is not matched by delivery on opening day

So the team stuck in the past was finally cancelled out by the one that always seems stuck in the future. And the fans of neither could be especially surprised should their entire seasons prove to be compacted into 90 minutes of passion and frustration. For their common cravings must already feel as though they are beginning to reach, not across years, but geological epochs.

To the visitors, the Invincibles doubtless seem immured for ever in the abandoned stadium at Highbury; in the Kop, however, the title was last celebrated early in the Cretaceous period. Relative to the paroxysms of ambition breaking the crust at Manchester City, these two mighty clubs must somehow shift a tectonic weight of expectation. By the time Arsenal bundled in an equaliser, an almost comical rejoinder to the alarming lack of penetration in everything they had previously contrived, it already seemed optimistic to expect seismic progress from either during the months ahead.

But these clubs also share the supervision of men seasoned in the addictive illusions of a new campaign. Arsène Wenger's pen hovers over a contract that should keep him at Arsenal to the end of his career, whereas this was Roy Hodgson's very first league game with Liverpool. Both, however, will have sensed pristine satisfaction in sending out 11 young athletes into the summer sunshine with their hopes as unblemished as the glossy Anfield turf.

One of these sages, however, reserves his obstinacy for matters of vision; the other prefers to make it the defining characteristic of his players. Hence Hodgson's pragmatic deployment of Daniel Agger as full-back, to stem a notoriously porous left flank. Hence his perseverance with the unsettled Javier Mascherano, and the studied caution of his team's build-up, with Joe Cole often forced to drop deep to get involved.

So much, anyhow, for fresh starts. Cole's scissoring tackle on Laurent Koscielny succeeded, however tangentially to his intentions, in reiterating the fragilities that abide in both clubs. Cole and Koscielny were both making their league debuts in these colours. The arrival of the former had persuaded the twin totems of Anfield, Steve Gerrard and Fernando Torres, that Hodgson was no mere firefighter; while the latter had left Arsenal fans to wonder, yet again, whether Wenger had sufficiently fortified the heart of the defence, their perennial anxieties freshly compounded by the departure of William Gallas. As a torpid first half suddenly ignited in its final seconds, however, both men left the pitch in circumstances that might have instantly contaminated the optimism of both teams for months of attrition ahead: Koscielny on a stretcher, preceded by the banished Cole.

The image evoked the grisly loss, in successive seasons, of Eduardo and Aaron Ramsey. But Koscielny trotted out for the second half unharmed; while Cole, of course, could scarcely be further removed from the brutish destroyers who ostensibly set out to smother Arsenal's bright, delicate candles. So it was that a sense of corporate indignation instead inflamed the home team, who took the lead within two minutes of the resumption.

It was odd to see the goal finished with such élan by David Ngog, whose first half had been so clumsy that much its biggest cheer was prompted by Torres warming up. But the gusto with which the whole team rallied to the crisis implied that it had offered Hodgson precisely the impetus his men would otherwise seek in vain.

For we have seen enough of Hodgson over the years to know that there are some here who are already a bespoke fit for the disciplined, courageous cut of his footballing cloth. Never mind Gerrard, whose presence automatically alleviated a numerical deficit. How about Dirk Kuyt, whose lungs will with any luck have been discovered by the groundstaff as they replaced divots after the game? Little wonder if Rafael Benitez would like to take Kuyt along to San Siro. However cherished by his predecessor, the Dutchman is himself more than the sum of his own parts – a template for the way Hodgson will endeavour to restore stability to a club racked by bitterness off the field.

The random favours of the fixtures computer skewed the opening round in favour of Chelsea and Manchester United, with home fixtures against promoted clubs. Liverpool and Arsenal had instead been made to watch Manchester City and Tottenham square off on Saturday, before essaying a statement of intent on behalf of the old order. But they came up with something pretty equivocal – a goal apiece from isolated strikers who each had to redeem his previous anonymity, Ngog over 45 minutes and Marouane Chamakh over 90. And when Koscielny picked up two late bookings, a player off apiece as well. One step forward, in other words, and one step back.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own