Arsenal’s 10-men suffer defeat to Luis Suarez-inspired Liverpool
Arsenal 0 Liverpool 2: Paul Chronnell at Emirates Stadium
Arsenal’s torrid start to the campaign continued as they suffered more injuries, another red card and were then beaten for the first time this season by two late goals.
A patched-up Arsenal side had been holding their own until 20 minutes from time when 19-year-old midfielder Emmanuel Frimpong was sent off on his full Premier League debut, and Liverpool took home the points courtesy of a fortunate Aaron Ramsey own goal five minutes later and a late Luis Suarez strike.
Arsenal, with Samir Nasri surprisingly included amid rumours that his move to Manchester City has hit the buffers, battled hard but were lacking in personnel and quality.
They finished the game not only with 10 men, but with youngsters shoring up the defence and midfield against a Liverpool side fielding more than �100m worth of talent purchased this year.
While the Gunners could not be faulted for commitment in an often engaging encounter, the simple lack of senior players available left them at a huge disadvantage. Yet to score a goal in two Premier League games, the Gunners are in danger of falling behind the leading clubs with the season in its infancy.
The major surprise of the day, even if Wenger had hinted at it beforehand, was that Nasri was included in the starting line-up, despite his apparent imminent departure from the club.
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In choice, Wenger had few other options - the sale of Cesc Fabregas, the suspension of Alex Song, and injuries to Abou Diaby, Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky, had left him bereft of his usually plentiful stock of central midfielders.
There were also full Premier League debuts for teenage duo Jenkinson and Frimpong in central midfield, where the 20-year-old Ramsey was also included.
As if the numbers were not already depleted enough, Arsenal suffered another sizeable injury blow when Laurent Koscielny collapsed in pain after quarter of an hour and had to be helped from the field with a worrying-looking injury.
He was replaced by another young debutant, the Spaniard Ignasi Miquel. Even in his darkest nightmares Wenger could not have imagined his defensive resources being decimated so early in the season.
With Frimpong booked for the second of two over-zealous tackles inside the opening 10 minutes, the afternoon was already tinged with uncertainty for Arsenal, despite a bright start from Theo Walcott, who gave Liverpool’s new Spanish left-back Jose Enrique a torrid opening 20 minutes.
Liverpool fashioned the best scoring opportunity on 20 minutes though, Andy Carroll’s soaring header bringing an excellent save from Wojciech Szczesny.
The Emirates crowd seemed to sense that their under-strength team would need all their support however, and immediately identified a new hero in the tenacious Frimpong.
It was hard to believe this was his first Premier League start for the 19-year-old who was born in Ghana but brought up just at the other end of the Seven Sisters Road in Tottenham.
Having been at the club since the age of nine, Frimpong is a contemporary of Wilshere and was part of the FA Youth Cup winning squad of 2009.
But a serious cruciate knee ligament injury suffered a year ago curtailed his progress and, having watched Wilshere become a first-team regular last season, the powerful teenager is clearly keen to make up for lost time.
The way he snapped into tackles, mouthed off at Carroll and then tested Pepe Reina with a powerful low shot just before the half-hour mark.
His display was taking the attention away somewhat from Nasri, in what was expected to be a farewell appearance for the club from the 24-year-old Frenchman. Or was it?
Ten minutes before the break he almost marked his first and possibly last appearance of the season for the Gunners with a quite sensational goal, jinking from inside his own half to the edge of the Liverpool penalty area before unleashing a shot that beat Reina but also the far post.
The new club captain, Robin van Persie, saw a free-kick cannon behind off the Liverpool wall after a surging run from Frimpong had brought a foul and a booking for Lucas Leiva, and then Nasri also blasted over as Arsenal ended the first half surprisingly in the ascendancy.
Whether or not it was because the second half started in an unwelcome summer rainstorm, it immediately did not match the tempo of the first period.
Liverpool continued to look threatening out wide with Stewart Downing’s dangerous whipped-in balls from the right, and Thomas Vermaelen needed to maintain all his first-half aerial supremacy to keep the visitors at bay.
Midway through the half, with Nasri starting to see a lot of the ball, Arsenal seemed to have found a foothold in the game again with Van Persie forcing Reina to save with his legs.
However just moments later the game changed when Frimpong, perhaps a little inevitably, saw his debut end in disaster with a red card.
He had been treading a tightrope since his early booking, and when a loose ball broke in the centre circle he could not resist a late lunge at Lucas Leiva that brought instant punishment from the referee Martin Atkinson.
Arsenal would have to survive the final 20 minutes with 10 men, and Wenger instantly responded by replacing the largely ineffective Andrey Arshavin with yet another youngster, Henri Lansbury.
Perhaps to emphasise the gulf in squad depth between these two clubs, Liverpool brought on the �22.5m Uruguayan striker Suarez and the Portugal international Raul Meireles.
Suarez immediately brought a fine save from Szczesny, but the disparity between the sides was now becoming evident, and not just numerically.
On 76 minutes, Liverpool broke the deadlock, but even then it was in the most fortuitous manner, as Suarez was blocked by Miquel in the Arsenal box, only for the clearance to hit the inrushing Ramsey and spin over Szczesny into the net.
Arsenal’s optimism was deflated, and Suarez added a second before the end to put the seal on Liverpool’s first win in Islington since 2000.
The Gunners supporters streamed out of the stadium before the whistle, venting their frustration at Wenger, who must surely now act decisively in the transfer market.
With 10 days until the window closes, this team are in dire need of reinforcements. The coming week brings testing visits to Udinese and Old Trafford. Two more defeats and the talk of crisis that has been circling this club will have become a reality.
Arsenal: Szczesny, Jenkinson, Vermaelen, Koscielny (Miquel, 16), Sagna, Frimpong, Ramsey, Nasri, Walcott (Bendtner, 77), Arshavin (Lansbury, 70) Van Persie.
Liverpool: Reina, Kelly, Agger, Carragher, Enrique, Leiva, Henderson, Adam, Kuyt (Meireles 70), Downing, Carroll (Suarez, 70).