Sep 022012

Liverpool 0 Arsenal 2 (Podolski 31, Cazorla 68)

There was a moment in today’s game where you sensed that something had changed with this Arsenal side. Lukas Podolski had just put us into the lead after an electric break involving Santi Cazorla, but up until then the match had been fairly even, so a response was expected. Pressure was certainly anticipated, given that we were up against a Liverpool team eager to impress their new manager, and backed by a supposedly raucous Anfield crowd, but as we awaited the reaction, a strange sense of comfort washed over many of us, the kind of comfort that a single goal lead hasn’t provided in years.

Liverpool looked bereft of ideas, certainly ideas that would cause the towering duo of Vermaelen and Mertesacker any serious issues, and they had no-one (bar Downing, so genuinely no-one) to threaten from the bench. The goal had already proven our potency on the counter attack, and with further pacy options waiting in the wings, we had plenty of threat if the home side pushed forward too far. And Liverpool knew it. One goal down at home, in the first half, against a side supposedly not at their best, and their belief was gone.

Heads dropped on the pitch, and in the crowd. You could hear a pin drop in three quarters of the stands, with the away support gleefully going through their repertoire and banishing the notion that Anfield is an intimidating place to go. On the field, Arsenal chests puffed out, and an unprecedented level of control was taken of the match. For the rest of the game, Mannone was troubled only by a few crosses (that the defence dealt with) and a couple of late efforts by Shelvey, which came after Cazorla’s strike had put the game beyond Liverpool’s reach. It was bizarrely comfortable.

A lot of the comfort stems from the improved defensive solidity throughout the team, to the point where Liverpool lost the belief that they would ever break us down, an impact we’ve rarely had on opposition teams in recent years. Most are putting this down to the Steve Bould effect, and there certainly is a big element of that, but I don’t think it is all that simple. You also have to bear in mind that the defensive side of our squad is settled – our first choices and reserves in the whole of the back line are unchanged from last season, and that alone helps the cohesion.

However, you can see Bould’s influence on the organisation, particularly from set pieces. It is easy to overlook the fact that we already had plenty of coaches who were defenders in their day (including the outgoing Pat Rice), but ultimately fresh ideas rarely hurt, and a man schooled in the George Graham era is always going to have new wisdom to impart. In a way, we saw the merging of two Arsenal eras – Graham’s fearsome, physical and impenetrable back line and Wenger’s slick attacking units. For every body thrown on the line to deny Liverpool an opening, there was a beautiful thirty pass move dizzying them into submission. The defence was classical, the goals were counter attacks attributable to the best of Wenger’s ideals.

It was a potent combination, and far too much for a Liverpool side who were made to look extremely poor. When you consider that this was the same team that should have beaten the champions last weekend, it was a very creditable victory that should instill the squad with a great deal of confidence. The attacking unity was much improved, particularly between Podolski and Cazorla, and the improved barriers at the back mean that we shouldn’t have to go chasing a game over and over again (no more stupid 4-3 losses to Blackburn, please). And all this without Szczesny, Koscielny, Sagna and Wilshere. Not bad, not bad at all.

One of the most pleasing things about the game was that we didn’t just outplay Liverpool, we outfought them. Defensive responsibility was never shirked, most evidenced by the hugely impressive Podolski, who took it upon himself to protect Gibbs throughout the entire match, playing a box to box role from the flank. But while the whole team performance was impressive (Jenkinson’s second half shackling of the impressive Sterling, and Arteta’s efficiency throughout deserve special mention), the standout man was one who spent the match confounding critics in a big way – Abou Diaby. The guy was an absolute monster in the middle of the park, with power combined with incredibly quick feet, and Liverpool never got near him. Even when he suffered a Skrtel clattering in the second half, he just got up and carried on dominating those around him, providing the platform from which the likes of Cazorla could build.

Fitness will always be the worry when it comes to the Frenchman, but he served up a timely reminder of why we have stuck by him so long – he is a fearsome talent when fit and firing. He always takes a few games to get up to speed, and too often has then been cut down by another problem. He deserves better, and it would be a wonderful story for this to be his breakthrough year after so many seasons of strife.

Back to the present, and today could be a breakthrough match. Two goalless draws left many unsure whether to be optimistic about the clean sheets or pessimistic about the lack of goals, but the signs of improvement are now clear to see. Time to build on them.

A good day.

  14 Responses to “Two Arsenal eras combine for attractive and efficient victory”

  1. Well put, and i am looking forward to this season. Despite a tough start last year, one of the things that really pleased me was the emergence of a combative spirit in Arsenal. It seems we’re seeing that honed with the departure of want-a-way players and Bould’s influence. Go Gooners!

  2. Hey Pete, I’m really enjoying your writing. I think your final statement ‘A good day’, sums it all up. Really positive signs but there’s no point getting ahead of ourselves.

    It feels good to be an Arsenal supporter this season. Fresh, fun and rewarding.

  3. An excellent performance by the Arsenal and an excellent review by the Groan.

    What a magnificent mid field trio!

    All very pleasing.

    Happy days!

  4. Clap!Clap!Clap for you Pete and The Gunners….Well Done. Have the believe and the focus, we’ll be fine. There is still 35 more matches to go. Don’t be complacent be focus on the next match. Treat it as if it was the last game. AS they say. Good defense wins champoinship while good strijkers wins the game. come on your blokes…keep on gunning.


  5. Great article and a perfect summing up of the mood of today’s game.

    Its was so great to see that back-line look so strong today because last season that defensive line up would have scared the life out of me but they they all put in a great shift.

    Arsenal gave the perfect away performance today help by Arteta and Diaby bossing the midfield. I’m still in shock at how good Cazorla is and how lucky we are to have him.

    Loved Poldolski reaction to getting his first goal and how well the new players seem like they are enjoying being at the Club.

    Thanks for the great article

  6. I think that the rest of the league is going to have to think twice about Arsenal when they watch the tape of this match. You summed it up perfectly, when Podolski scored his goal it was strangely final. There was really no doubt from then on that we would win. It took the announcers to watch the highlights at the half for them to understand. That counter attack, started by Podolski and finished by Podolski was as complete as it could be, it was like a training ground exercise where there weren’t any defenders on the field, you knew from the start of the break that we would score.

    It seems that not only do we have the best midfield in the league we very nearly will have the two best midfields in the league when healthy. Our problems will be how to keep them all happy. I said that this would be Coquelin’s breakout year and I still believe that, if he gets to play.

  7. Can anyone think of a single central midfielder in the Premier League apart from Yaya Toure that would get a game at Arsenal now ? In 2010-2011 only United scored more goals than Arsenal but the 3 teams above us conceeded a lot less. Last season Arsenal were a long way from 2nd but still the goals conceeded were more than Everton, Liverpool, Chelsea and Spurs (not helped by conceeding 8 at Old Trafford obviously). That shows that Arsenals’ weakness recently has been defensive and yet they are now the only team not to have conceeded. The first two results were a bit of a freak occurrence because Arsenal hardly ever fail to score and a team that rarely fails to score and defends solidly has a title winning formula.

  8. Great anarlysis that matches solid team effort of our lads.the good days are back.

  9. we look like a complet team dis season.let wait and see what we happen.gunners till i die

  10. I dnt knw how Wenger does this every season,hez a genius by far..that team spirit is wat he builds and you could see that we have dominated all the 3 games by that team spirit..we are attacking as a team and defending lyk a team..i dnt knw the last tym Jenkinson was so confident,bt am starting to love hm..Mertasacker was gr8 too..and Bould we owe you..b4 the game started i saw Bould warming the team up and i was impressed.. COYG

  11. An excellent performance. After watching the pre season game against koln , I have never doubted the ability of this new look squad. I think we are only to get better. If the midfield keeps on going this way, then pressure on the defense will be eased which will prevent the likes of vermalaen coming forward to do MF duties. I do believe very soon a lot of clubs are going get really trepidated about playing arsenal.

  12. For those of you that remember the George Graham Arsenal did that near post flick-on by Mertesacker at a corner remind you of anyone ?

    For those that don’t Steve Bould used to be the near post flick-on expert and the Arsenal of the 90s scored many goals that way.

  13. Great post and indeed perfect performance by the team. Amazing what impact great players can bring to the team like Carzola does in the midfield. For me he is far too better than Cesc and his fluidity is rubbing off to the entire team very well, and hence, making it very easy and enjoyable to play as a unit.The speed in counter attacks, passing, positioning and willingness to attack and defend together made us a class a part opponents with a feeling of certainty running across the stadium as though we were watching Barcelona play.
    Giroud needs to take it easy and avoid putting himself under so much pressure in front of goal.
    Sometimes it is easier to win games by passing the ball to a team mate that is well positioned to score instead of forcing things. It is called TEAM WORK.

    • Giroud will be feeling the pressure already and he knows that putting the ball in the net will make things much better for him and the team. I don’t blame him for being selfish occasionally I just hope he scores against Southampton. He was holding the ball up for others all through the game so that showed good teamwork, he’s just desperate for a goal.

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