Good afternoon everybody. It's a super Sunday in every sense of the word: the football's back and in my hometown of Birr, County Offaly, it's the start of the annual week-long drinking festival that is Vintage Week. My friends have convened in one of the locales many hostelries for an all-day session which will almost certainly see them consume four or five binges worth of alcohol each before closing time, and are currently taking photos of creamy pints of Guinness on the bar counter of Kelly's pub with their mobile phones and texting them to me.
I hope they choke on them.
Meanwhile at Anfield, Fernando Torres starts on the bench for Liverpool, while Arsene Wenger has dealt my fantasy football team a hammer-blow by omitting Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie from the Arsenal line-up. Perhaps they're in Birr, in Kelly's, drinking porter.
Here, for your reading pleasure, is Kevin McCarra's match preview, along with some fancy match stats.
This afternoon will bring a certain ambivalence to Anfield on an afternoon when there ought only to be unmitigated excitement at the start of a new campaign. The ownership issues linger yet supporters who yearn for the club to be bought must also wish the best for the manager Roy Hodgson. However, the visitors could also be uneasy since Arsène Wenger has not yet made the signings to give Arsenal a greater durability and key players such as Cesc Fábregas and Robin van Persie have yet to reach optimum fitness.
Match pointers? Liverpool have won only three of their last 18 top-flight ecounters with Arsenal
? Andrei Arshavin has scored five goals from just six shots on target in two visits to Anfield in the Premier League
? Liverpool hit the woodwork more times (16) than any other side in 2009-10
? Since January, Arsenal have failed to win a league away game without the opposition having a player sent off
? Liverpool v Arsenal has featured more hat-tricks scored (five) than any other fixture in the history of the Premier League
Team news: The word on the street is that Cesc Fabregas is out with a chest infection and hasn't even travelled to Anfield. Robin van Persie has been left out, apparently on the grounds that Arsene Wenger doesn't think he's fit enough yet after his World Cup exertions. Roy Hodgson has no such qualms and is happy to pick van Persie's compatriot Dirk Kuyt. As well as Torres, Alberto Aquilani, Christian Poulsen, Jonjo Shelvey and Emiliano Insua are the other conspicuous absentees from Liverpool's starting XI for Hodgson's first Premier League match at Anfield.
Liverpool: Reina, Johnson, Carragher, Agger, Skrtel, Gerrard,Jovanovic, Mascherano, Kuyt, Cole, Ngog. Subs: Cavalieri, Aurelio, Torres, Maxi, Babel, Lucas, Kelly.
Arsenal: Almunia, Clichy, Vermaelen, Koscielny, Diaby, Nasri,Eboue, Sagna, Wilshere, Arshavin, Chamakh. Subs: Fabianski, Rosicky, van Persie, Vela, Walcott, Song, Gibbs.
Referee: Martin Atkinson (W Yorkshire)
Chris Laws: "The fantasy football season is back upon us once again! By interest, who have you gone for as captain this week? I went for a steady Lampard, bit disapointed with only one goal and no assists our of six mind!" Prepare to snigger - I went for Wigan Athletic striker Hugo Rodallega this week. You can see what I was thinking, can't you? A real stroke of genius that turned out to be.
Guinness update: "I don't normally e-mail in, however last night I drank an abnormal amount of rum," writes Edson (not his real name). "Guinness in Birr is the highest calibre of Guiness available to the human race." He's not wrong.
In the Sky Studio: Pundits Jamie Redknapp and Paul Merson are answering the difficult questions, with Richard Keys doing the asking. It's high-browed stuff, as you can imagine. Speaking of Paul Merson, my money's on Arsenal today. I think they'll have too much quality for Liverpool, but then I thought making Hugo Rodallega my Fantasy Football team captain was a good idea this week, so what do I know?
Not long now. Expect Liverpool to line up in a 4-2-3-1, with Steven Gerrard and Mascherano comprising the 2 and from right to left, Kuyt, Joe Cole and Milan Jovanovic making up the three. Arsenal line up like for like, with Emmanuel Eboue, Samir Nasri and Andrei Arshavin behind Premier League virgin Marouane Chamakh.
Apologies. Jamie Carragher is playing today and not offering insights in the Sky studio, as I erroneously suggested. That would be Jamie Redknapp.
And they're off. Arsenal kick off with their players wearing yellow shirts, socks and shorts with a maroon trim. They're playing into the Kop end in the first half, which would suggest Liverpool won the toss. Liverpool's players wear all red.
1 min: Joe Cole wins the first free-kick of the first game in midfield, after finding himself on the receiving end of a Jack Wilshere reducer. The Arsenal midfielder looks about 12 years old, but is fairly tasty in the tackle. Oh, behave.
3 min: Nothing much happening so far, with both teams passing around, probing and trying to see what's what. It's a sunny afternoon in Liverpool.
4 min: Arsenal win a free-kick about 40 yards from the Liverpool goal, well right of centre. The ball's rolled to Vermaelen, whose fizzing strike is on target. Reina puts it out for a corner from which Dirk Kuyt concedes another one.
5 min: The ball's swung in to the near post, there's a bit of a scramble and Steven Gerrard hacks clear. Throw-in for Arsenal, from which Nasri receives the ball and has a go from distance. Move along, nothing to see here.
7 min: "Quick question: who of that Liverpool back four is playing LB?" asks Alan Cooper. "If it's Carragher, then this could get ugly. In more ways than one." Unfortunately, Alan, Daniel Agger is playing left-back for the Scousers today.
8 min: Great play from Milan Jovanovic, who goes on a powerful gallop through the centre, brushing off two or thee tackles along the way. After seeing Jack Wilshere bounce off him, he feeds the ball out right to Dirk Kuyt, who crosses. Manuel Almunia gathers.
10 min: The cameras cut to Arsene Wenger and then Roy Hodgson in their respective dug-outs. Neither of them is doing anything even remotely interesting, apart from sitting and looking thoughtful.
11 min: There's a bit of a misunderstanding between Jamie Carragher and Pepe Reina, with the former smashing a "back pass" in the general direction of his keeper and then looking relieved when (a) he doesn't score an own-goal and (b) the ref doesn't interpret it as a back-pass and award Arsenal a free-kick.
12 min: Arsenal ping the ball around the channel between midfield and defence, before lumping the ball forward. Gerrard controls and quarter-backs a long ball in behind the Arsenal defence for David Ngog to chase. The young Frenchman is flagged for offside.
15 min: Liverpool sidle forward at pedestrian pace down the right flank. The ball's played in to Ngog in the Arsenal penalty area, where Thomas Vermaelen hoofs it off his toe.
16 min: Kuyt and Glen Johnson combine well down the right flank and the Dutchman sends a cross in to the penalty area. It's behind Joe Cole, who had ghosted a bit too far in towards the back post.
17 min: David Ngog gets penalised for offside for the fourth time. It's another correct, but tight decision - Arsenal's back four will need to keep their wits about them as far as he's concerned.
18 min: "A days drinking in Ireland would cost some hefty wedge - four euros a pint if not more in Galway last week and 30 euros for a bottle of vodka," writes Martin Brennan, who should probably steer a wide berth of the top shelf if he's paying that much for a bottle of Electric Soup.
20 min: Still not much going on in the way of action - Vermaelen's thunderbolt being the nearest thing we've had to a goal so far. Of course no sooner do I say that than Reina is forced to hack clear after Gerrard stuck in a toe to tackle Eboue at the end of a marvellous flowing move from Arsenal.
22 min: Free-kick for Arsenal about three or four yards outside the Liverpool penalty area, dead centre. Samir Nasri wastes it, shooting straight into the wall.
22 min: On the balance of play so far, you'd say Arsenal are edging it, but there's not much between the sides. Glen Johnson heads out for a corner, which Nasri sends in from the right. The ball's put out for another one and Vermaelen heads the inswinger wide. On Sky, Andy Gray observes that Hodgson's Liverpool mark man for man at corners, as opposed to the zonal marking esoused by Benitez. They don't look particularly comfortably with the new method, it must be said. Their defending at corners has been fairly poor in this first half, but has gone unpunished so far.
26 min: "There's a lot of concern between the Fox Soccer(ball) Channel announcers that players who competed in the World Cup will have fatigue affect theirplay in the Premier League this year," writes James Wells. "Do you think lumberjacks have the same problem, that they do a worse job of cutting down trees in September,because they didn't get the summer off?"
27 min: Gael Clichy sends in a cross from the left, which is headed clear. Liverpool concede a free-kick about 35 yards from their own goal, left of centre, when Mascherano fouls Arshavin. Samir Nasri takes it again and fails to clear the wall ... again. If I was his manager, I'd fine him for that. I would also fine players who fail to clear the first defender when taking corners. And players who didn't applaud loudly whenever I walked into a room they happen to be in at the time.
30 min: "In a cottage miles from anywhere in the middle of France with no way of following the match but by roaming Internet on my phone," writes my decidedly Scouse Liverpool-supporting colleague Gregg Roughley. "Every time I press refresh it costs about 30p. So by my reckoning, unless you've necked six pints of sleep-enducer this afternoon, you'll probably cost me about a tenner to follow the match. That's like Sky Box Office MBMing. No pressure big man."
32 min: Joe Cole wins a corner for his team, which Steven Gerrard jogs across to take. He fails to clear the first man, Eboue, who puts the ball out for another corner. Gerrard hoists an outswinger to the edge of the six-yard box, where Almunia flaps. The referree blows for a free-kick, on the back of some infringement by Daniel Agger or Dirk Kuyt.
34 min: "To be fair, Barry, Liverpool's defending of corners under zonal marking was pretty poor as well," writes Phil Sawyer. "For the last year or so our defence has looked like a bunch of distant relatives at a family gathering, knowing they should have something in common but unable to think of anything."
34 min: Sagna and Nasri combine down the right flank, with the latter sending in a cross. In the penalty area, Arshavin tries to get across Johnson to head goalwards, but the Liverpool right-back gets the better of him.
36 min: "Can't comment directly on Mr Wells' point (26 mins) but I watched some of the World Cup in the Monte Carlo Hotel, Las Vegas," writes Gary Naylor, who if memory serves me correctly, went to the City of Sin with his mother. "It does a decent job of conjuring up the olde worlde decadence of the tiny principality, but ratherspoiled the ambience by showing competitive log-chopping on its many flat screen TVs."
37 min: On Sky, co-commentator Andy Gray makes the very pertinent point that Samir Nasri is having a much bigger influence on the game than his Liverpool counterpart Joe Cole, who's letting the match pass him by at the moment.
38 min: Jovanovic beats the Arsenal offside trap and is sent down the left-hand side of the Liverpool penalty area with the ball at his feet. From a narrow angle he slices the ball horribly high and wide.
39 min: The atmopsphere at Anfield is fairly sedate. The game has failed to ignite and while absorbing enough, is far from exciting. Certainly not worth wasting tenners on if you're on holiday in the middle of France.
40 min: In the Arsenal half of the centre-circle, Jack Wilshere gets booked for an agricultural challenge on Mascherano.
41 min: Liverpool win a throw-in deep in Arsenal territory. Nothing comes of it.
43 min: Glen Johnson combines well with Kuyt down the right, giving and going then taking a shot from the edge of the penalty area. His left-footed drive is excellent. Almunia tips it over the bar for a corner.
44 min: RED CARD! Joe Cole is sent off on his Premier League debut for Liverpool, for a reckless, late, potential leg-breaking scissor-tackle on Laurent Koscielny in the Arsenal left-back position.
44+2 min: Cole's took Koscielny out over the sideline, off the grass and into the advertising hoarding. The Arsenal centre-half has been stretchered off with the physio supporting his right leg.
Half-time Martin Atkinson blows for half-time and is immediately surrounded by a clatter Liverpool players complaining about Cole's dismissal. He's not a dirty player, but that was a late and dangerous tackle to crown an otherwise unremarkable Premier League debut for Liverpool. He can have no complaints about the red card.
Meanwhile on Twitter: "That's so not a red card!" harrumphs Carly "carlycole10" Cole (nee Zucker), wife of Joe.
Half-time analysis: Merse says that Cole should have been sent off "by the letter of the law" because both his feet were off the ground when he went in on Koscielny. He and Jamie Redknapp have both said Joe isn't "that kind of player". According to Richard Keys, Cole has already enquired after the welfare of Koscielny and asked Sky's touchline reporter Geoff Shreeves "was it that bad?" as he walked off the field.
Gary Naylor writes: "Are you following Carly Cole?" he asks. "There's a word for that sort of thing." No, I'm not following her - that would be weird. But I know a man who is.
Second half: Ten-man Liverpool kick off.
GOAL! Liverpool 1-0 Arsenal (Ngog) Fannying about on the right hand side of their own penalty area, Arsenal gift possession to Liverpool. Mascherano slides a pass through for Ngog to run on to and the young Frenchman has a pop from a narrow angle, smashing the ball past Almunia at his near post from the right corner of the six-yard box. That's a cracking strike, although the goalkeeper should have done better. Now we have a game.
47 min: In all the excitement leading up to Joe Cole's dismissal, I forgot to mention that goalscorer Ngog had a header cleared off the line from the Steven Gerrard corner that led to Cole tackling Koscielny.
49 min: Incidentally, Koscielny has come back out for the second half and has, according to Geoff Shrereves, "an egg-sized lump" on his right shin. Shreeves adds that Cole told him he was trying to stop the ball going down the line when he tackled the Arsenal centre-half and meant him no harm.
51 min: Liveprool might be down to 10 men, but they're bossing Arsenal. As well as scoring, Ngog has had another header on goal, while Almunia's just put the fear of God in his defenders with another hapless flap.
53 min: Liverpool win a corner, which Gerrard sends in from the right. Sagne hacks clear. Jovanovic gets penalised for a high challenge on Wilshere and Arsenal get a chance to clear their lines.
55 min: "B*****ks did Cole's tackle 'take Koscielny into the advertising hoarding'," writes Rob Pudsey. "It didn't really though did it? And look it would appear his leg isn't broken. Still I admire The Guardian for giving people on crack the chace to work there." Apologies for any inaccuracy. Cole's tackle took Koscielney very near the advertising hoarding. And the fact that Koscielney's leg isn't broken obviously means the tackle wasn't late, clumsy or dangerous. Somebody in this exchange seems to be under the influence of mind-altering substances, but it isn't me.
56 min: Another chance for Liverpool, with Ngog trying to double his tally of ngoals. He gets on the end of a Steven Gerrard cross but heads over the bar.
59 min: A corner for Arsenal, which Nasri takes. The ball's put out for a goal-kick, allowing Arsenal to make a double substitution.
59 min: Arsenal subs: Tomas Rosicky and Theo Walcott on, Emmanuel Eboue and Jack Wilshere on. Eboue's not one bit happy about being taken off, shaking his head as he jogs to the sideline. Of course it's possible he's indifferent to being taken off, but has water in his ears.
60 min: Arsenal win a corner, which Arshavin takes from the left. Gerrard heads clear, putting the ball out for a throw-in.
61 min: "There's an expression the rugby league commentators in Australia (especially the excellent Peter Sterling) use to describe when players do stupid things like thump an opponent or trip him in full view of the referee, saying they've had a brain fade (although variations range to brain explosions, and brain eruptions)," writes David Wall. "I'm not sure there is any other explanation of Cole making that kind of tackle on a centre half in the part of the pitch furthest from his own goal, and in the final minute of the half. If he really thought he might achieve something like stop an Arsenal goal, or reclaim the ball to set up an attack (with a two-footed lunge that at best would take the ball out of play) then it's not just Theo Walcott who lacks any football intelligence."
64 min: David Ngog sprints into the Arsenal half, chasing a long ball out of his own half. Gael Clichy beats him to the chase and tidys up.
64 min: "I'm under the influence of mind-altering substances and I did think it was a red card tackle," writes Phil Sawyer.
66 min: Liverpool substitution: Milan Jovanovic off, Maxi Rodriguez on.
66 min: Liverpool go close again. Dirk Kuyt turns Gael Clichy inside out on the right flank, then drills the ball low and hard across the penalty area. With the goal gaping and Almunia stranded at his near post, there's nobody there to add the finishing flourish.
68 min: Arsenal win a corner, which is sent into the mixer. Liverpool clear, but only as far as Rosicky, who whips the ball across the edge of the six-yard box. Vermaelen rises highest but directs his header wide of the left upright.
69 min: "Since some Arsenal fans seem to be of the opinion that whenever an opponent makes a nasty challenge on one of their players (Taylor, Shawcross) they should be banned for however long their player is injured, have they been arguing for Joe Cole to be allowed to play the second half?" asks Conal Huetter.
70 min: Just 20 minutes to go and 10-man Liverpool remain very much in the ascendency as far as the creation of goalscoring chances is concerned. Arsenal are making it fairly easy for them - they're dominating the possession (63% to Liverpool's 37%), but not doing a great deal with it. Reina hasn't had to make a save in this half that I can remember.
72 min: Steven Gerrard is penalised and then booked for a clumsy lunge on Chamakh. Free-kick for Arsenal slightly left of centre, about 25 yards out. Walcott curls it around the wall and Reina puts the ball out for a corner, even though it was going wide of the right upright.
73 min: Liverpool substitution: David Ngog off, Fernando Torres on.
74 min: "I think the red card is debatable and probably fair enough given the potential for harm," writes Niall Mullen. "Still both feet didn't leave the ground and he didn't knock him into the advertising hoarding." I'm not sure why folk are so obsessed with the advertising hoarding - it was the tackle that did the damage. I only mentioned it because I thought (a) he knocked him into the advertising hoarding and (b) it helped give a better idea of where the tackle took place. The red card is hardly debatable for anyone with a passing familiarity with the rules of football.
78 min: Arsenal substitution: Abou Diaby off, Robin van Persie on.
79 min: Liverpool substitution: Javier Mascherano off, Lucas on.
79 min: Liverpool win a free-kick wide on the right. Gerrard curls it into the penalty area populated almost exclusively by Arsenal players and Manuel Almunia plucks it from the air.
80 min: Arsenal win a corner, the ball's sent in, half-cleared and eventually comes to Theo Walcott on the left-hand side of the penalty area. He shoots high and wide.
81 min: Daniel Agger goes down injured, looking a bit dazed and confused. If he has to go off, Liverpool will be down to nine men as they've used all their substitutes.
82 min: Agger walks to the sideline swigging from a well-known energy drink. I reckon he got a bang on the head or a ball in the face, because he looks a bit bewildered. Maxi Rodriguez moves back to cover for him.
82 min: Liverpool appeal for a penalty when Torres goes down under a challenge from Koscielny. Agger is still being treated on the sideline. It looks like the doctor doesn't want him to continue, while everyone else on the bench does.
85 min: Rosicky gets booked for a fairly robust challenge on Gerrard. Moments later, he dances through the Liverpool penalty area and shoots for the top right-hand corner. Reina saves well, putting the ball out for a corner, from which nothing comes.
88 min: A touch from Skrtel takes the basll away from Walcott as he was shaping to poke it home after sloppy defending by Liverpool had presented the visitors with a goal-scoring opportunity.
GOAL! Liverpool 1-1 Arsenal (Reina og) Nasri sends in a cross from the left, Reina leaps to pluck it from the air but the sun is in his eyes and he drops it (the ball, not the sun). The ball cannons off Chamakh, hits the post, comes back out. Reina tries to grab it, but succeeds only in pushing it into the bottom left-hand corner.
90+2 min: Koscielny gets booked for leaving a set of stud-marks on Dirk Kuyt's thigh, periloously close to the Dutchman's meat and two veg.
90+3 min: That foul means Liverpool have a free-kick 30 yards from goal. Gerrard stings Almunia's palms - corner for Liverpool, from which Arsenal gallop off on the counter-attack. Liverpool clean up at the back.
90 + 4 min: RED CARD for Koscielney! Arsenal's centre-half gets his second yellow card in two minutes, this time for deliberate hand-ball and has to go. It didn't look particularly deliberate to me, but I suppose it doesn't really matter at this late stage. In the interests of balance, I can't stress enough that no advertisement hoardings were involved in this particular Koscielney-red card controversy either.
Peep! Peep! Peep! Referee Martin Atkinson blows the final whistle and the sides finish all square, with 10 men and one goal each. It's probably a fair result, although Liverpool will be raging that they let Arsenal equalise in such comical fashion.
Second last word today goes to Petr Fremont, who's surprised that I'm surprised that several Liverpool fans are wound up by me mistakenly suggesting that Joe Cole and Laurent Koscielny clattered the advertising hoarding just before half-time. "And you've been taking email from partisan hair-splitters and nit-pickers for how long?" he asks.
Last word goes to Jon Daglish: "Anyone familiar with football would know that it has laws, not rules," he writes, answering Petr Fremont's rhetorical question.
This is not a news report and may contain views expressed by the author which are not supported by GNM.