Another day in Anfield, another good result. Merseyside seems to be a happy hunting ground for us Gunners. This win was a real statement of intent against a team who probably deserved to beat Champions Manchester City the week before. It was a day of heroes, new and old, and unsung heroes dictating the performance from behind the scenes.
The team really selected itself, however, the manager opted to start Mertesacker ahead of Koscielny, even though the latter was fit enough for the bench. It may just be that the Frenchman wasn’t 100% fit yet, however, interesting selection nonetheless. Mertesacker is known for his height and tackling ability but is notoriously slow. I was concerned about this, and rightly so, as he was out sprinted on more than one occasion by Suarez and Co. He did however make up for it with some amazing last ditch tackles, in situations where his long legs really made the difference.
The other interesting decision from the boss was to start Oxlade-Chamberlain on the wing ahead of Theo Walcott and Gervinho. I don’t have much to say on this topic, only that it appears that the boss doesn’t have faith in either Walcott or Gervinho to justify a consistent starting place, and with good reason. Neither has shown the consistency in recent months to justify a regular starting spot, and personally I think its the right decision. Even though the Ox is raw he seems to produce more matchwinning performances than the other two these days.
Stand out performer
This was a match where I had difficulty picking a MOTM, for all the right reasons. It was a good problem to have as there was no real stand out performer.
From Mannone at the back, down to Podolski up front, everyone pulled their weight and it was the perfect team performance. Our defenders conceded very few clear cut chances as they threw their bodies at the Liverpool players for a series of well timed tackeles. The midfield ran like clockwork. At the risk of sounding cliche, Diaby really looked like Patrick Vieira as he ran from box to box with so much purpose, dictating play on both ends of the pitch. Arteta was solid as always, up there with a high pass completion rate as usual. He is the epitome of efficiency. Then there was our new Spanish maestro Cazorla. He set up the first goal with a beautiful run through midfield from the counter attack, using his ambidexterous skills superbly to pick the perfect pass. He then scored one of his own in a crafty one-two passing move. He is the creativity in the midfield we really needed since Fabregas left. Then there was Podolski, who showed his deadly counter attacking prowess. About half way into his own half he received the ball and played it into Cazorla. He then sprinted the length of the field with his heart on his sleeve and outran all to create the option for Cazorla and score. I can’t wait to see more of that this season.
The unsung hero however has to go to a man who wasn’t even on the pitch. I’m talking about Steve Bould. The man has come in to fill in the huge shoes of Pat Rice and seems to be doing an excellent job. Bould is known for his defensive training and our brilliant defending against the Merseysiders is testament to that. Not only that but the fact that we have yet to concede a goal all season, something unheard of by Arsenal in recent years, really shows the great work he has been doing behind the scenes. Let’s not forget we don’t even have a first choice defence at the moment.
Areas of concern
It was a solid performance and there were no major areas of concern apart from some shaky passing from Jenkinson early on, and a bit of ‘slowness’ from Mertesacker, I think the defensive performance was top notch, especially considering we were away from home.
I don’t know if it is just me, but Gibbs always looks missing at left back? I saw too much of Podolski tracking back for my liking. Not that Podolski tracking back is a bad thing, but Gibbs should really be in that left defensive position more often. It seems to be the problem with our left backs, always bombing forward too much.
Giroud needs a goal to boost his confidence. The golden chance he missed in this game, coupled with his opening day miss against Sunderland is not helping.
Liverpool seemed to have too much possession without any real end product. Ironically it was us playing counter-attack sometimes. Who would have thought the day would come where Arsenal was playing counter attack against Liverpool for a short period of time? It really goes to show the Brendan Rodgers philosophy coming in at Anfield, however it still needs work, and I think our midfield bossed theirs for a majority. For the first 30 mins or so Liverpool were doing well at stealing the ball from our players in a cagey start to the game, however we dominated the rest of the game in my opinion.
The numbers game
4 Arsenal players made a perfect 3/3 in tackles (Arteta, Vermaelen, Mertesacker, Oxlade-Chamberlain), proof that our defence was excellent in this game.
3 Arsenal players made 3 interceptions (Podolski, Diaby, Gibbs). Just as important as tackles, an interception from a Gerrard pass led to the first goal.
I was very pleased with the quality of our performance at Liverpool, both offensively and defensively. In our first two games we showed some potential but we lacked spark going forward and we are getting that now.
Couldn’t have said it better myself, lets hope we can take the momentum into this long season.
Good signs, good promise and a great result. Everyone pulled their weight but none moreso than our new assistant coach. Heck, if we continue to keep clean sheets like this, this team will become the next Invincibles. Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself, but a solid defensive foundation is something we have desperately needed in recent seasons, and I hope Bould can keep up the good work.