I hate playing Liverpool, when it is a match that has a lot riding on it I hate it even more. The first two trophies I watched Arsenal win Liverpool were the side in our way, so with those in the memory bank I shouldn’t be as fearful. And even though our record against them has been good in the last few years there was the FA Cup Final and the Champions League Quarter Final, last minute penalties in the League and dodgy offside goals all weigh heavy on my mind when we come to play the red half of Scouseland.
After the last two midweek results some serious questions have been asked of the squad, the manager and our chances to challenge for titles.
The early kick off on Satutday saw Newcastle take three points off every pundits title favourites Chelsea. At that point I would have been more than happy to take a point from yesterday’s game to retain top spot.
How stupid was I? What did I have to worry about? The long and short of it is Liverpool have two good strikers, one is considered to be worth more than £40m+£1, the rest of their team is distinctly average. Rodgers thought his new tactic of 3-5-2 and hard pressing would nullify Arsenals strength and highlight our weaknesses…he was wrong.
The defence were disciplined, full backs tucking in to help the centre backs out and Arteta playing the anchor role to perfection picking up loose balls and being precise in possession.
Giroud occupied three centre backs by firstly trying to win every ball, and secondly holding up the ball to bring the midfield runners into the game.
And the midfield is where we won the game, the speed the football moved between Ramsey, Cazorla, Özil and Rosicky was electric, their runs off the ball even better. The only time Liverpool got close was when we gave them the ball, but we were ready to fight to win back possession as soon as we lost it.
This was probably as complete a performance as we have seen from Arsenal this season , and we got our reward for the way we played.
The first came from Santi Cazorla, I think we can safely say he is now over his injury, Arteta carried the ball through midfield to release Sagna who headed for the touch line and produced a cross into the area, it was behind Giroud but Santi arrived to head powerfully towards goal , the header cannoned back off the post to the little Spanish magician who volleyed into the empty net with ease.
After that goal we were all out attack but unable to extend our lead through a mixture of missing the final pass or not connecting with the final shot.
Liverpool rearranged at half time bringing on Coutinho to attempt to adopt a more natural 4-4-2. In reality this just gave us more time in midfield and less bodies in the way through the middle when playing on the counter.
Giroud was unlucky not to add a second twice in quick succession, first nicking the ball ahead of Skrtel from a generous Toure backpass only to see his dinked effort slide wide of the post. Moments later a combination of Rosicky and Santi provided him with half a chance but he could not make a strong enough contact to get it past Mignolet.
Liverpool always had a chance, Suarez can, if given the room, score a goal from nowhere, we needed a second, and it eventually came from our player of the season so far, Özil found Ramsey arriving in space, he took a good touch and as the ball bounced in front of him and the defence backed off he decided he may as well add to his total for the season and dispatched a screamer past Mignolet into the roof of the net.
During all his on the pitch troubles Ramsey never stopped working hard and showing for the ball, it’s why I always had time for him and asked others to get off his back, but I had no idea he had this kind of football in him. After the game the Sky pundits asked if he thought he could get 20 a season midfielder like Gerard or Lampard, if I was Aaron I would have said “only if I get given penalty taking duties”.
Wenger sent on reinforcements to close out the game, Monreal for Rosicky, Vermaelen for the injured Gibbs and later Jenkinson for Cazorla. Liverpool went close a couple of times in this period but the result wasn’t really in doubt.
To answer my own question in the title. It’s not a test when you play a team that are above their natural league position.
But guaranteed to be a win clear of the nearest competition come Sunday evening after ten games I am more than happy.
Szczesny 8 – Apart from his little one two with Sturridge was assured and commanding, couple of good blocks too.
Sagna 8 – Solid performance lots of energy good passing helped the centre backs when necessary
Gibbs 8 – More defensive than Sagna as he was covering Sturridges wide runs, second half he continually nipped in front to take the ball off the intended receiver.
Mertesacker 8 -still for me Arsene’s best signing of the last three seasons, his leadership and distribution have made us so much better at the back.
Koscielny 9 – More apparently World Class centre forwards in his back pocket, he is everything you want in a defender.
Arteta 9 – Mopped up everything dropping in front of the back four, passed to a red and white shirt for 90 minutes.
Özil 7 – Slightly quiet game from the new arrival, but everything he does is wrapped in silk.
Ramsey 9 – Cracking goal capped a fine performance, goal scoring is his biggest improvement second is his ball retention and use, all this added to his work rate and energy levels equals a very special player. Shame on you who unjustly wrote him off.
Rosicky 7 – Worked hard without the ball and used it well when in possession.
Cazorla 8 – Some thought Özil’s arrival may have limited Santi’s pitch time, it’s pretty hard to see us start a game without him. The lad is class.
Giroud 8 – His hold up play makes the midfields job easier, unlucky not to get a goal that his work rate deserved. Bossed three centre backs around for 90 minutes.
Monreal 7 – I like using Nacho as a sub to give some protection in the latter stages, he is good enough with the ball that he doesn’t totally nullify our attacking threat.
Vermaelen 7 – did what was needed at left back.
Jenkinson 7 – not really enough time to give a rating but he was on the pitch so I don’t want to leave him out.
MotM? Maybe we should have a vote…
Gooner in Exile