Another match to add to the good memories section. Arsenal picked up 3 points in a tough away ground and kept a clean sheet. A scoreline that reflected that special night in 1989. The new boys got into the act and all ducks were broken. An old boy but haven’t been seen for such a long time, decided to make an appearance. This was a performance that makes it so hard to criticise the manager.
It wasn’t a match that we dominated. Liverpool fielded quite possibly their strongest line-up with the inclusion of Nuri Sahin in their midfield. We had to rely once again on Vito Mannone in goal and Carl Jenkinson at right back. They had their time on the ball as well but lacked the penetration to get past our defence. They were limited to firing shots from outside the goal which Mannone did very well to palm each one away. He was not without his nervous moments and it all came when Liverpool put men on him during set pieces. In this case, our defence didn’t protect him as well as against Stoke.
Liverpool started the stronger of the two. Though as the game went on, we started to impose ourselves into the game. This was a match made for Abou Diaby with plenty of space to use for his driving runs up the field. Together with Mikel Arteta, we gained the upper hand in the midfield battle. Having done more of the basic part of the game in the first two matches, Diaby showed in this game what he is capable of. It is no coincidence that he is beginning to show more confidence on the ball and utilise his close dribbling skills to get away from markers. Confidence that most likely comes from having more minutes under his belt and his body feeling no ill effect after each game. The old boy came good in this one.
When we finally opened the scoring in the 30th minute mark, it was something which we have not seen for quite some time. So often the hallmark of Arsene Wenger’s successful sides, the pace in which we counter attacked brought us the goal. Four passes starting from Thomas Vermaelen to Lukas Podolski to Santi Cazorla in the space of a couple of seconds. That ended with Cazorla providing the pass for Podolski to drill home his first in competitive game for Arsenal. Quick, incisive and brilliant to watch. Safe to say we all breathed a huge sigh of relief when that ball hit the back of the net.
The second goal again came from the same combination. Podolski this time returning the favour to Cazorla. Perhaps Pepe Reina should have done better with the save as the ball hit his elbow and straight into goal. However, take nothing away from the way our new Spanish wizard scored the goal. It was a very good first touch to control the return pass and without needing to readjust his position to suit his stronger foot, he had the confidence to shoot using the foot that fits the situation and position. That’s the consummate belief in one’s abilities.
To be fair we did weather the early storm from the home side. Two early yellow cards to Per Mertesacker and Arteta could have proved costly but both stuck to their task brilliantly. I did think before the start of the game that Laurent Koscielny is better suited to this game than our German centre back. However, credit to Mertesacker who recovered from his shaky start and merely adjusted to the pace of the game. He might be the vice captain but Arteta put in a captain’s performance. When there is a ball to be won, he does it. If it requires throwing his body around to win it, he does it. There’s no complaints, no shirking of responsibilities.
For the 3rd game running, I’m mightily impressed with the performance of both Kieran Gibbs and Carl Jenkinson. Gibbs produced another consistent display down the left. Defensively sound and supported Podolski in attack when required. Vice versa also happened when Glen Johnson overlapped and Gibbs needed help. However, Jenkinson arguably had the trickier opposition to handle in Raheem Sterling. Yet, the young right back stuck to his task and never allowed the diminutive winger to get past him. We were said to be looking for a versatile defender before the transfer window closed and perhaps Jenkinson is forcing the management to reconsider that decision.
Up front, Olivier Giroud ran his socks off. It is easy to see that his contribution is minimal in terms of assist or goal but that doesn’t mean he had a poor game. He was the one who made the run right to enable Cazorla to have the space to run into for the first goal. He keeps finding the right positions but at the moment just could not find his shooting boots just yet. If he continues in the same manner, I’m sure the goals will come. You have to see his movements and lay off to team mates to see what he brings to our side.
Another sound defensive performance and everyone is extolling the virtues of Steve Bould. There are genuine concerns from certain sections that Bould would have limited influence on the team and is just there to place cones and give out bibs. We cannot be sure that the improvement in our overall defending as a team is down solely to Bould but no doubt he would have contributed to it. A good defensive base is one which decides championships. Still early days to tell but we are certainly moving in the right direction.
The international break has come in the most inopportune of times as we look to be finally clicking as a team. Players are more comfortable playing alongside each other and understanding each others’s movements. But at least they leave us with this to remember while they go to their respective national sides.