Arsenal: Liverpool's Back 3 Made It Easy, But I'm Not Getting Carried Away
Who remembers what they were doing on the evening of Monday 11 February 2008?
I for one was getting drunk on expectation, not to mention copious amounts of strong continental lager in The Highbury Barn.
Because I had just seen my team beat Blackburn Rovers at the Grove to go five points clear at the top of the Premier League. Our next four league fixtures list were ‘only’ Birmingham, Villa, Wigan & Boro.
We all know what happened next.
A Devon Loch style stumble going into the final straight, and a meltdown by possibly the worst captain in our 126 year history in that tumultuous game at St Andrews. A game which still makes me shudder even now. And that’s without recalling Martin Taylor’s reckless challenge on Eduardo that ultimately cost him his Arsenal career. (I can but hope that Taylor is well on his way to working in the same Call Centre as Sunderland’s Dan Smith, following his hatchet job on Diaby a week before the 2006 Champions League final. An action that arguably cost Diaby his Arsenal career too).
So you can forgive me if I’m not getting carried away just yet.
However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t good things to commend about Arsenal at the moment.
Far from it.
I was in my usual seat on Saturday as we beat a decent Liverpool team, who, with their quality forward line and a fit Coutinho, marshalled by the peerless one club man & Anfield legend Steven Gerrard are nailed on to finish ahead of such pretenders as AVB’s poor tribute act to Billy Nick's ethos.
I thought Cazorla was in impish form all game, and with the way he took his goal also proving he has one of the best techniques in the land. Ramsey was terrific as ever. What was also pleasing was he too showed great technique for his goal, hitting a perfectly timed dipping shot over an impressive Mingolet to send the crowd bonkers.
Speaking of which, I have actually come to love 5.30 kicks off on the Saturday.
A leisurely drink in the pub always sets up a good atmosphere, helping to loosen otherwise muted throats at The Grove, with the only rush being the one back to the bar afterwards.
To be fair the 3000 Liverpool fans played their part too, making just as much noise as 9000 smug Chelsea fans did the other night.
Incidentally there was an awful lot of arrant gloating after their 4th round League cup victory in defeating half our reserve team last week. An XI that included an execrable performance by Bendnter, whose mobility on the night was likened by a mate to a ‘wheelie bin’ – albeit against a squad costing in excess of £250 million of one man’s money. Your defeat at St James’s, with a team of ’11 mistakes’– The ‘Special’ One’s words not mine - made me smile. It really did.
I thought our back four looked solid, with Chesney again showing the belief that is so important for his commanding style. For without his innate self-confidence - arguably missing since being sent off in the opening game of Euro 2012 - he is nowhere near the keeper he threatened to be when he first burst onto the scene.
Thankfully he seems to be re-emerging from that crisis of confidence, even if at times during the game he benefitted from the luck that seems to flow towards league leaders sometimes – witness escaping from the Sturridge rebound only for Suarez to follow up with a run & shot just the wrong side of the post for Liverpool.
Sagna looked solid on what was his 250th Arsenal appearance, whilst Arteta perfectly reprised his defensive duties of last season, admirably covering for the injured
I also thought Brendan Rogers was dignified in defeat yesterday, even if, for what it’s worth I’ve always believed three men at the back against one forward allows for a degree of defensive uncertainty. Certainly against a team of deep lying creative midfielders who favour late runs between the lines into the box. As systems go it is one that I would wager Santi, Aaron & Ozil would prefer to play against most weeks.
In other news we also have a new sound emerging from games at The Grove.
It’s called the Giroud ‘oooh’.
This occurs even time our sterling French forward appears to be hurt during a game, as 60,000 Gooners collectively exhale involuntarily with worry.
For if he really was injured then I dread to see the paroxysms of joy the Match of the Day team would rush into, with our only recognised forward being the ‘weelie bin’ aka ‘Pigsy’, aka ‘fat gap-year student’, aka His Royal Highness The Crown Prince of Denmark.
Speaking of Motd however, just where was Alan Hansen last night?
I didn’t know Motd presenters could call in sick?
Maybe, he simply forgot the time, as he was trawling through archive footage looking for Anders Limpar’s goal from the half-way line in our 4-0 rout of Liverpool in April 1992, in order to better highlight Kolo Toure standing off Aaron Ramsey for our second goal on Saturday?
Just a thought.
Follow Layth on twitter @laythy29