Sunday was quite an odd day for Arsenal fans. The euphoria of the first win, and goals, of the season was tempered quickly by Robin van Persie slamming home his second goal in as many starts for Manchester United against Southampton. Schadenfreude then commenced as the Dutchman fluffed his lines from the spot at 2-1 down, before the pendulum swung once more – the red-hot Dutchman grabbing two predator’s goals to snatch a win for his new club.
But it makes a change for the negatives from Arsenal’s day to emanate from a different game, rather than their own performance, and despite the inevitable depression at Van Persie’s start to life at Old Trafford, there’s much to be positive about at the Emirates.
Nobody will agree with that more than Arsène Wenger, who has a bit of a useful habit of being proven right. He took the risk of not strengthening in midfield, though many said that a central player was needed even before Alex Song was sold, and seems to have been vindicated, in the short-term at least. Arsenal’s three stand-out players were the midfielders – Mikel Arteta, Abou Diaby and Santi Cazorla.
Arteta was precise with his passing, as Arsenal fans have come to expect, and did a fantastic job screening the defence alongside Diaby. The Gunners benefitted from more solid defensive organisation than in recent season, restricting Liverpool’s space and time on the ball, and Arteta was a key part of that, scurrying around to win the ball many times, and keeping his discipline well – especially after being booked early on.
Thanks to Abou Diaby, Wenger seems set to serve many people a slice of humble pie, although it would be the fans queuing up this time around, rather than journalists. Many supporters have questioned Wenger’s judgement in persisting with the gangly French midfielder, who had previously had a frustrating tendency to play within himself (or as Wenger might say, with the handbrake on). No such tendency was existent at Anfield – Diaby looked purposeful, imposing and confident.
On top of the impressive individual performances was a defensive showing that also can be a source of pride for Arsène Wenger, Steve Bould and co.
Finally there was Santi Cazorla, the midfield magician who will doubtless be receiving many superlatives in match reports. He was less involved than against Stoke or Sunderland, with Liverpool showing more of a desire to have possession, but he was more effective, setting up Lukas Podolski’s opener before exchanging passes with the German once more to fire under the body of Pepe Reina.
The Liverpool midfield was a strong one today, with Allen, Sahin and Gerrard lining up in the midfield of the park, but Arsenal won the battle, with the loan signing from Real Madrid underwhelming on his debut and his captain struggling to ignite his side. Allen was tidy again, but was unable to stop the likes of Cazorla and Diaby as Arsenal, in the end, cruised to victory.
A reason for concern may be Olivier Giroud’s search for goals, but it shouldn’t represent a long-term worry for Arsenal. The French target-man is finding the chances and seems to lack calmness in front of goal – it’s no surprise as the media insist on negatively comparing him with Van Persie to fill the column inches. Three games is hardly a goal drought, and as with Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp, he may silence his critics with a first goal against Southampton after the international break.
On top of the impressive individual performances was a defensive showing that also can be a source of pride for Arsène Wenger, Steve Bould and co. Despite Liverpool’s recent struggles, Anfield is a tricky place to go, as champions Manchester City showed with their concession of two goals. Arsenal had no such problems and the third consecutive clean sheet will certainly encourage Wenger.
Overall there was much for Arsenal fans to be pleased by, and with Walcott and Gervinho – despite criticism – remaining on the bench, Szczesny, Sagna, Koscielny, Wilshere and Rosicky yet to fully return and their team yet to fully gel, they could surprise a few people.
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