Liverpool 0 – 2 Arsenal
0 – 1 Podolski (31)
0 – 2 Cazorla (68)
Now, what was it about the lack of new signings? You remember the two goalscorers from yesterday, don’t you…
Arsenal recorded their first goals and victory of the season courtesy of two of the summer additions to the squad with a well-deserved victory at Anfield yesterday lunchtime. Confidence from the result can only grow with once more the defence remaining unbreached. It was not without some questionable moments but in the wider context of an away match, that is to be expected. There was some luck involved, there always is with Liverpool’s usual debatable penalty claims interspersed with a genuine one whilst Sterling’s shot against the outside of the post the other. It does not matter; this was a good victory for Arsenal but not yet a great one. Deliver silverware at the end of the season and that view might change. As it is, three points in the bag and the season is off and running. Just as we enter a break for the internationals.
Liverpool started brightly – as expected – and the Arsenal defence was tested without being stretched, Borini blazed high and wide whilst Luis Suarez tested the crowd’s ability to dodge wayward efforts as well. For all of his bright movement, Suarez is the next forward in a long line of those who are failing to find the net regularly at Anfield. Agger had the clearest opportunity of all, powering his header wide when hitting the target seemed the easier option. The visitors were edging their way into the game, Cazorla sent a tame effort toward Reina.
As the half wore on, the midfield triumvirate of Diaby, Arteta and Cazorla started to dictate the game. Arteta sat deep and stifled the Liverpool attack whilst Cazorla prompted the forward three into action, Diaby bridging the gap between the two. The Frenchman grew in stature as the game went on, save for a spell early in the second half where his mind must have wandered toward the medical room following an unpunished foul. Crucially for him and his season, Diaby ran the injury off, sorted his mind and continued to float easily and imperiously around the midfield, linking and supporting colleagues, intercepting stray or mistimed passes. It is too soon to claim that he will dominate the Premier Landscape, take it one game at a time, yesterday being a good one.
Arsenal’s grip on the Liverpool forward line and midfield tightened as the half wore on, the hosts rushing their passing and from this Arsenal broke the deadlock. Gerrard’s ill-judge pass was smothered by Vermaelen, quickly moving the ball to Podolski. The German strode from deep in his own half, passed to Cazorla. As the Spaniard buzzed through the Liverpudlian defences, he fed Podolski in the area to bury the chance. It was an outstanding goal, as good a first goal for the club has been witnessed.
Liverpool’s response was immediate with Sterling’s earlier-mentioned effort but the half drew to its conclusion with Arsenal posing the greater threat in front of goal. Olivier Giroud’s movement off the ball has been noticeable since joining, making a distracting run in the build-up to Podolski’s opener. This time, Diaby strode imperiously through the midfield, Gibbs sprinting unmarked the length of the pitch in support. The Frenchman fed his compatriot and a more difficult chance than the opening day miss against Sunderland was also spurned. Gibbs was hugely unimpressed but in those circumstances, I cannot think of a centre forward who would have passed to him.
The second half began with a Suarez tumble in the area, the Uruguayan’s shirt held by Mertesacker. The German fortunately put his body between that of himself and the referee, the crime unpunished. In truth, Suarez’s desire to fling himself to the floor is his undoing; he will always feel aggrieved as officials decline legitimate claims based on the balance of probabilities that his fall has been accentuated.
Liverpool were moving onto the front foot and Mannone was called into action more meaningfully as the half wore on. Cazorla and Gibbs pierced the home backline, denied by wayward shooting and Reina respectively. The Arsenal custodian was more forceful, repelling Suarez and Agger with good saves. The Italian is similar to Almunia in many aspects of his game, a good shot-stopper but lacking confidence in his own judgement for crosses, evidenced by his indecision in the first half when he should have clattered Suarez en route to punching Borini’s Garryowen. Instead defenders took charge and punishment marginally escaped. Mannone has age on his side to improve that side of his game. Whether he gets the playing time is another matter.
For all Liverpool’s pressure in possession, they were not creating many clear openings, a failing for which they were punished midway through the second half. Cazorla buzzed around the Liverpool area, linking once more with Podolski with roles reversed. This time, the German’s perfectly weighted pass set the Spaniard free and from an acute angle, he drew the now customary howler from Reina with a low shot that went in via the goalkeepers armpit. Whilst others gain the stars for their overall game, Podolski’s contribution cannot be understated. He patrolled the left side of midfield and attack tirelessly, willingly tracking back to defence when needed but offering more infield threat than the touchline-hugging one might normally expect from a wide left attacker. Podolski is a throwback to the inside left of yesteryear and got his deserved reward at Anfield.
The growth of this Arsenal squad was in full view for the remainder of the match. There was a desire to retain the clean sheet, to nullify the Liverpool threat. They achieved this and a maturity in closing out the game was apparent; the experience down the pitch of that aspect of footballing intelligence; the brakes were applied and shape maintained. Ramsey replaced the diligent Oxlade-Chamberlain and Santos Podolski, as Arsenal closed ranks. Liverpool still sporadically threatened, Shelvy drawing a good save from Mannone, Suarez obligingly missing the target whilst Giroud reciprocated with a glancing header.
This morning sees Arsenal with a win and two draws from the opening three games, perhaps two points down on expectations but with no goals conceded, the only team in England with that record. A decent foundation upon which to build.