Dalglish cashes in on Arsenal's inexperience
Arsenal 0 Liverpool 2
Arsenal have a gleaming new stadium which doubles as a cash machine, one of the most respected managers in the game, some of its leading players and a conveyor belt of talent. That is a "crisis" most clubs would welcome.
However, there was a sense at the Emirates on Saturday that, for the moment at least, Arsenal are going backwards while their opponents progress. By contrast, there is an unmistakable mood of optimism at Liverpool.
But for the excellence of Thomas Vermaelen, Liverpool would already have been leading when, after 70 minutes, Emmanuel Frimpong was sent off and Luis Suarez and Raul Meireles brought on. With the new arrivals prominent, Liverpool ran away with the game. If Frimpong's dismissal illustrated Arsenal's inexperience, Kenny Dalglish's substitutions underscored his team's developing strength in depth.
"There's been a complaint [in the past] from supporters or media about our bench," Jamie Carragher said, "but to have that quality to come on is great. They were instrumental."
Arsenal were weakened by suspensions and injuries, but Liverpool were without Steven Gerrard and Glen Johnson and could still leave a quartet of seasoned internationals out of the 18 – Alberto Aquilani, Joe Cole, Christian Poulsen, Sotirios Kyrgiakos. Arsenal's starting XI featured two players making their first Premier League starts – Frimpong and Carl Jenkinson – with another four on the bench yet to do so.
Unlike Arsène Wenger, Dalglish has stepped decisively into the transfer market to strengthen his squad. In January he bought Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll and added Jose Enrique, Jordan Henderson, Charlie Adam and Stuart Downing in the off-season.
The sextet cost Dalglish £100m-plus and he has been criticised for paying over the odds. "If you want to buy any of those players you'll pay a lot more than we did, but we're not interested in selling, we're interested in improving," Dalglish said. "We have a stronger squad than last year."
The same cannot be said of Arsenal, nor does Dalglish's subsequent comment about life at Anfield apply to the Emirates: "I think there is a feeling of contentment, the punters are happy, the owners are very good owners, it is less tense than it used to be."
Tension affects players, making them anxious, a feeling which is exacerbated when results prompt self-doubt. Young players are more likely to be afflicted than experienced ones, leaving Arsenal especially vulnerable, particularly as their one-touch play relies heavily on confidence.
Arsenal need the mental lift and fresh outlook new signings can provide almost as much as they need fit bodies. They are reported to have bid around £18m for Yann M'Vila of Rennes, a 21-year-old French international, but another midfield target, Marseilles' 30-year-old Argentine Lucho Gonzalez, seems more likely to improve the team.
While Arsenal fans are losing faith in Wenger, Liverpool's captain has not. "I know it's the thing to criticise Arsenal and Arsène Wenger. I certainly don't think they are a spent force," Carragher said. "They've got a great manager and I'm sure he'll have something up his sleeve. He's done it so often. I wouldn't be writing off Arsenal."
Scorers: Liverpool Ramsey (og) 78, Suarez 90.
Subs: Arsenal Miquel 6 (Koscielny, 15), Bendtner (Walcott, 80), Lansbury 6 (Arshavin, 71). Liverpool Suarez 8 (Carroll, 71). Meireles 8 (Kuyt, 71).
Liverpool Lucas, Carroll.
Sent off: Arsenal Frimpong (70).
Man of match Enrique.
Referee M Atkinson (West Yorkshire).
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