Arsenal secured their first win of the season with a ruthless performance at Anfield. Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla did the damage with a goal in each half, but it was a victory built on the foundations of a third successive clean sheet and a majestic showing from Abou Diaby who ran the game in the centre of the park.
We started with confidence, knocking the ball around nicely, but aside from a couple of bookings to Mertesacker and Arteta for late challenges on the edge of the Arsenal box, there was little of merit to talk about in the first 25 minutes.
Liverpool seem to have accumulated a series of small, nippy players in the Arsenal mould and the likes of Allen, Borini, Suarez and Sterling all tested the patience of our defence. Jenkinson was tidy in the challenge for the third game in succession, but his passing still leaves much to be desired. Gibbs was terrific on the break, his pace down the left wing a fine outlet when turning defence into attack; his final ball though is incredibly frustrating. Vermaelen and Mertesacker continued their decent form.
If there was a man of the match award for the first 45 minutes it had Abou Diaby’s name all over it. The French international had a storming game in the centre of the park. Aware that Arteta was always behind him, he wiggled out of tight situations time and time again and carried the ball with all the dynamism of a young Patrick Vieira. I don’t say that lightly…
Obviously, there was still the matter of scoring a goal. Thankfully Lukas Podolski took the bull by the horns. On the half hour mark the German picked up the ball on the halfway line, played a ball forward to the ever-tidy Cazorla and then charged forward. The Spaniard spotted his teammate bounding into the box, made a slide rule pass to the six-yard box and our new boy tucked a lovely, tidy finish low past Pepe Reina. 1-0.
A goal…an actual goal! The away fans went mental singing, “He scores when he wants, he scores when he wants…Lukas Podolski, he scores when he wants.”
Sterling hit the outside of the post on 38 minutes and a couple of minutes later went down in the box, but despite the penalty calls from the home crowd, referee Howard Webb made the right call by judging Mertesacker to have timed his tackle correctly.
More brilliance from Diaby set up Giroud to double the lead, but the Frenchman squandered an absolutely glaring chance. It was on a par with his miss against Sunderland, but this time on his left foot. If there was a positive, it was that his run was nicely time and he found space with ease.
At half-time we were good value for the lead.
Within two minutes of the restart Martin Skrtel, obviously under orders from Brendan Rodgers, went straight through the back of the influential Diaby. It was a compliment of sorts to the Frenchman. That he managed to continue for the rest of the game is a major positive.
Liverpool certainly upped their game although both Arsenal full-backs, Gibbs and Jenkinson, had half decent efforts. Suarez, as you’d expect, was rolling around all over the place trying to win free-kicks and penalties, much to the chagrin of Vermaelen who enjoyed barracking the ugly little Uruguayan.
Cazorla, who’d faded around the hour mark in the last two games, was still ticking along nicely when he flashed wide from outside the box with 25 minutes remaining. Two minutes later though, he got the goal the goal he deserved. Played into the box by Podolski the little midfielder unleashed a fierce low drive across Reina, which the Spaniard could only deflect past his inside post. 2-0.
Ramsey replaced Oxlade-Chamberlain with 15 minutes to go, before Andre Santos took to the field in place of Podolski. Giroud continued to work his socks off on his own up front; the ex-Montpellier man won a corner and then headed over when again he should have scored. He will get goals, mark my words. Watch out Southampton.
In the final five minutes Shelvey had a couple of decent efforts which troubled Mannone, while Suarez continued to act like an annoying wasp. You wouldn’t say the Arsenal goal was living a charmed life, but we were certainly under pressure.
Thankfully, we held out for a third clean sheet – who would have predicted that after the travails at the back last season?
So it’s three glorious points and smiles all round. Onwards and upwards.