Liverpool 0 – 2 Arsenal: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

This game was going to tell us the state of the rebuilding projects at each club and it did just that.

Arsenal have a strong foundation to build on. They’ve put up a solid defensive show once again and this time against very proactive, technically-oriented, and crafty opponents. The new signings are clicking, slowly but steadily.

Liverpool, on the other hand, have made their worst start to a season in half a century. Their game had energy, desire, effort, and guile but it lacked precision and composure in the vital attacking areas. They’ve also bitten the defensive mistakes bug that had afflicted Arsenal in the seasons past.

The patterns of the game were quite predictable. Both teams started with a high tempo and forced mistakes from the opponents. Initial passing and decision making was erratic on both sides. Mertesacker was forced into a professional foul on Suarez and picked up a booking as early as the 6th minute.

The Gunners quickly realized their pressing wasn’t cohesive and therefore wasn’t sufficiently effective. So Arsenal dropped deeper into their half leaving Liverpool defenders free on the ball. The hosts on the other hand were intent on pressing higher up the pitch and were effective for most parts in at least slowing Arsenal down or in disrupting the visitors’ rhythm.

In the last few seasons the Gunners have looked vulnerable when their passing game doesn’t quite work as expected. But in this game they showed many marked improvements.

Firstly, the midfield – Arteta and Diaby in particular but ably supported by the wide players – played really close to the defence. This minimized the gaps between the lines and eased the pressure on the centre backs who were able to concentrate on reading the game. In turn, this helped them make many vital interceptions, clearances, and blocks.

Secondly, Arsenal showed the ability to hold on to the ball to ease the pressure on many occasions even if it didn’t eventually lead to attacking opportunities. We didn’t see the instances so common last season when the ball was hoofed up the pitch only to return to the defensive third within seconds. Apart from making timely interceptions, strong tackles, and winning duels, all the midfielders clocked over 90 percent passing accuracy. This helped on both fronts mentioned above.

Thirdly, Arsenal were compact through the middle and didn’t allow clear passing channels open. All the players seemed to read the game well.

Arsenal’s zonal marking on set-pieces looked effective.

In all, Arsenal’s defending wasn’t haphazard, reliant on last gasp tackles, or desperate attempts to block. The Gunners looked assured at the back forcing Liverpool to prove they had the creativity and accuracy to break them down. The hosts failed. Most of Liverpool’s possession was in front of the Arsenal defence and they hardly found any time or space in threatening attacking areas.

At the other end, Liverpool too were well organized for most parts of the game. It wasn’t as if Reina was forced into making one great save after another. But crucially, Rodgers’ men made fundamental mistakes as the back, the kind of which we’ve often seen from previous Arsenal sides. And the Gunners punished them with clinical and ruthless finishing.

Arsenal’s first goal is a classic example of many of these points. It started with a comfortable interception by Vermaelen who was composed and in a good position to read the game. The defender combined an interception and a forward pass into one touch. Podolski received the pass halfway inside the defensive half. He was able to turn without any pressure.

At that moment, the positioning of many Liverpool players was abysmal. Allen and Sahin were in a no man’s land. Johnson was wider on the flank whereas Podolski had drifted inside. But the biggest problem for the hosts was that their central defenders were 20-25 yards behind the midfield, deep in their own half. Cazorla had acres of space in which to receive a pass and drive forward.

Poldi was also able to burst forward without effective tracking from Johnson. Allen and Sahin, it’s important to note, were jogging back. It was a measured but simple enough assist consummated by a well-placed but routine finish. There’s no doubt about the quality that Cazorla and Podolski possess but they didn’t have to produce something extraordinary to score. Liverpool have a lot of work to do on the training ground.

For the second goal the two new signings combined again but this time they swapped roles as Podolski turned provider while Cazorla opened his Arsenal account. Not to take anything away from the quality of the move and finish but once again Rodgers must be deeply disappointed with the effort of some of his players. Shelvey, to name one, arbitrarily stopped tracking the Spaniard’s run. Reina should really have done better with the shot but once you get an attacker shooting directly at goal from that distance it’s always tough for the Keeper.

Broadly speaking, the patterns of play were as anticipated. Liverpool did have a couple of penalty shouts but I haven’t had a chance to see them closely (honest, not pulling an Arsene here!) so I don’t have a firm opinion on either. My first impression was that Mertesacker pulled Suarez back but this is a tricky one. I do like to see strong action from the referee in such situations but it’s happened against Arsenal so often that I’ve also lamented the Gunners’ inability to get away with such tussles when defending. So part of me is happy that Mertesacker did what he did and dealt with the situation while the other thinks Liverpool had a strong shout against the defender. And that’s without seeing the replays.

This game was always going to be about who makes the most mistakes and who makes the most of opponents’ mistakes. Liverpool did the former and Arsenal the latter. 0-2 seems like a convincing score line and the hosts should thank Giroud it’s not worse.

Individual Performances:

Mannone: Was extremely shaky against some aerial balls into the box. Palmed one shot straight back into the dangerous area. Did make the saves he had to even if they were straightforward. Once again, a strong and well-organized defence made the Keeper look good.

Jenkinson: Very strong defensive display against a young but tricky opponent. Won 4 of his 6 tackles and 7 of his 9 ground duels. Passing suffered under pressure and better is needed. Only completed 72 percent of his passes. He’s done reasonably well in a conservative role and has helped the side retain its defensive shape.

Mertesacker: Lacked his usual composure. Picked up an early booking as he was easily turned by Suarez. Struggled throughout the game with the movement of the nimble Liverpool attackers. Passing accuracy wasn’t in the usual mid-nineties either as he was pressurized by opponents deep inside the Arsenal half. Flirted with danger but got away with it. Did get his foot on the ball in certain situations that could have turned lethal in or around the box.

Vermaelen: An aggressive but controlled display from the Belgian. Was almost always in the right place to make vital clearances. Started the move for the first goal as described above. Did a good job of covering for other defenders, especially Gibbs.

Gibbs: Bombed up and down the pitch with boundless energy showing appreciable decision making. Got into good attacking positions but could have done better with the choice/execution of the pass/shot on more than one occasion. Another one who did a good job defensively in terms of getting into good positions and showing composure to retain the shape.

The back four were well protected and used that cover to remain organized and largely impenetrable. It’s still a long way from perfect but this was the first game after a long time where the Arsenal defending looked assured and reliable.

Diaby: MotM in my book. Absolutely immense in the midfield. Dominated the areas he was in irrespective of the actual position on the pitch. Was able to hold on to possession under pressure, often from more than one player. Passing was crisp not slow or laborious. Produced a number of driving runs and should have had an assist. Very committed defensive effort as well.

Cazorla: Crucial part in both the decisive moments of the game. Inch perfect ball that found the run of Podolski was followed up by an excellent circular run, a precise give-and-go, and a powerful finish. Another player who was comfortable on the ball under pressure and helped the defence through his calmness, movement, and understanding of various game situations.

Arteta: Close second for the MotM. Another superb defensive display from the Spaniard. Positioning was virtually textbook. Helped move the ball at speed when Arsenal had to deal with intense pressing. Just knew what to do in each situation.

Balance has been the buzzword in the Arsenalsphere for a while now and on this blog for close to two years. This was a delightfully balanced midfield performance with responsible defensive work, energetic ball rotation, and opportunistic and effective attacking.

Oxlade-Chamberlain: Wasn’t able to influence the attack in a manner that Wenger probably wants from the right flank. Provided a fair bit of defensive cover and was strong in tackles and duels.

Giroud: Very disappointing. Missed three very good chances; one from a Diaby break, another from a corner, and a late one-v-one from a long ball. Movement and effort was commendable but that isn’t enough.

Podolski: Right up there with Arteta and very close to Diaby as far as this game goes. Extraordinary display of pace and power to charge forward for his goal which was taken almost nonchalantly at the end of a lung bursting sprint. Linked brilliantly with Cazorla and other players in the attacking areas. Very useful defensive shift.

Subs: Santos and Ramsey completed all their passes and helped take the sting out of any late Liverpool pressure. Koscielny hardly got any time on the pitch.

Wenger: It was a battle of similar philosophies for a change and Le Boss came on top. But along with the manager, Steve Bould deserves credit for the work done with the defence. I was reluctant to praise the former Gunner after the first couple of games as the opponents offered no real threat but in this game genuine improvement was visible. Nevertheless, without consistency it will amount to nothing more than a few moments of joy. This was just the first step on a long walk.

42 Responses to Liverpool 0 – 2 Arsenal: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

  1. adiiii83 says:

    Pretty much agree with everything you wrote here. The first penalty incident, Mertesacker got the ball, but should never go down and challenge like that in the box, so he’s lucky. 2nd one people will say it is a penalty, but if you give that, you’ll be seeing a hell of a lot of penalties for a tiny shirt-pull that John Terry and Vidic made their career out of. I only disagree with you on the 2nd goal where you pointed out that Shelvey didn’t track Cazorla’s run. If you have a look at that again, you’ll see that Shelvey started tracking but saw that Santi was running into a space where there was 3 Liverpool players and no Arsenal players. There was Downing, Johnson and Agger/Skrtel I think marking nobody and really one of them should’ve stepped in and covered that run. Now the player Liverpool should be focusing on is Johnson. Clearly the weakest link in this team. Both goals come from his side. Just have a look at how lazy he was to track Podolski’s run for the first goal and their last game against Man City time and time he was getting drilled by Tevez. But a great win for Arsenal and let’s hope there’s more improvement because there’s a massive few weeks ahead.

  2. Droid says:

    The penalties against us would have been given any other day (they were by no means an easy decision and odds are the benefit of the doubt would have been given to the DEFENDERS!) but fortunately for us, Suarez’s reputation precedes him… what cheating scum!

    Giroud needs a goal to boost morale but your verdict is “very disappointing”. During both our goals Giroud dragged a CB and a fullback the wrong way to create space… to finish he needs confidence.. to build confidence he needs a goal.. to score a goal he needs to finish! but I trust he has genuine quality.

    Diaby… one word ABSOLUTE BEAST! (make that two)

    • Haohaohaohtc says:

      Agree the comments on Suarez. Look how he stomped on Vermalen’s leg. A normal player would have jumped. And if he thinks more about shoot for the chances he got, rather than cheat, he might just have scored.

    • TT says:

      I second the comment regarding Giroud’s participation on the goals. Well… the 1st one anyway.

      If you watch the 1st goal sequence again, you’ll notice Giroud first went toward the left, which is his natural strong side. He must have seen Podolski come charging down though, because he immediately cut back to his right. This caused his defender to freeze and then to follow him with about three small shuffles, which was just enough to buy Cazorla time and space in the middle. More importantly because the defender vacillated, his partner decided to cover the middle from the threat of a Cazorla strike. This opened up the left side for Cazorla to lay it off for Podolski.

      Maybe the goal would have come no matter what Giroud did, but I think he made a good contribution here.

      Don’t think he did anything special on the 2nd.

  3. Haohaohaohtc says:

    Good summary. I’m glad that this agrees with my read that Vermalen rated slightly higher than Mertesacker. They start to form a good pair now. BBC somehow picked Mert instead of Vermalen in the team of week and completely forgot Diaby, although I believe Diaby could help a bit more with defense, especially when Arteta went up. And it is amazing to see Pordi and Santi formed a great understanding of each other in such a short time.

    To Giroud: Stop waiting for a perfect pass. Work harder and fight for every ball.

    • Dhruv says:

      Diaby was responsible for Shelvey’s shot at the target at the end. As Shelvey jinked, Diaby fell to the side and took Arteta along with him. This gave Shelvey space to hit the shot. If Shelvey had scored, you would not have praised Diaby so much. What I mean is Diaby was fantastic yesterday but he is not an ideal DM. Arteta can do a better job.

  4. Anders says:

    Good article, but I disagree with your statement that Liverpool were organized at the back, they were shambolic! My thoughts here:

  5. Gibb says:

    Mr Giroud, your Honey moon is over.

  6. okochi faron says:

    gud 1……..i bliv in poldoski…Girold is a total waste just like chamark

  7. Redcore says:

    Desi, did not see the match but this report makes me glad. Having followed you for the last couple of years I do agree with you when you say that you have been lamenting about our lack of balance a lot. I do not recollect you praising our balance at all before this match, so that one major issue starting to get ironed out.

    Good to see that gunners are starting to get it right. I think that a good deal of the balance comes from the players in the double pivot. Arteta can be counted upon to deliver. If Diaby / Wilshere can hold the fort as the other pivot for this season, then I think we can keep this balance in the coming games too.

  8. Terry says:

    Giroud was excellent yesterday… he worked so hard and physically tusseled the Liverpool defender… he is doing the hard work up front that arteta does in midfield… he will get the goals.. i think he will have a good first season at arsenal … in regards to the comment “Stop waiting for a perfect pass. Work harder and fight for every ball.”- i think thats exactly what he’s been doing.. working really hard for the team… the Golas will come but i can assure you he is no RVP.. 15-20 goals a season striker but thats excellent coz of his contibution and efforts off the ball.

  9. Winner says:

    Great win.This game makes me realize that Arsene has really laboured year after year to build a winning team but the transfer windows always seem to disrupt that. I think we missed Van Persie. Giroud worked hard, but did not have the final touch. For the third consecutive week he has pulled off the miss of the match stunt. Thank God we won,otherwise he would be roasted alive.
    There is still a lot of work to be done. There were too many panicky moments and misplaced passes in the defence especially in the first half. I also felt we could have punished Liverpool more severely on the break. The speed of the passing was not always at the required pace. However,this win bodes well for the future. Song was not missed at all in this game. Maybe Arteta will morph into a defensive midfielder par excellence after all and get his Spanish call up in that position because based on these three games I rate him more highly than Busquets in that position. I expected more from AOC, but should admit that I am very impressed with the pace,guile and guts of Sterling.

  10. EIE says:

    Yesterday’s game completely overshadowed by RVP’s hatrick for Man Utd, Wenger The Traitor, get the tight fisted parasite out now and take the Wig Wearing Blood Sucking Yank with him!

  11. sebas says:

    With park and bendtner going out and wenger starting both podolski and giroud i couldn’t help but to argue that arsenal needed to buy a back up striker.

    Now looking at todays line ups i noticed that walcott started on the bench and that chamakh was not includes in the squad. I think this season that we may actually see walcott being utilized as a striker.

    And if this is true, i wonder if the delay in theo’s contract negotiations are down to the fact that he wants a chance up top.

    P.S. This is pure speculation

  12. santori says:

    Great win for us!

    11-1 I beliieve is the scoreline in terms of number of wins over Liverpool in the last 12 league meetings!

    Yet the press till like to talk up the old Liverpool revival story as they have done for the last 3 seasons. It’s unfairly over excited the Anfield faithful.

    Conversely, we are always on the recieving end of the doom and gloom mongers and those deriding our chances start of each season.

    Still a lot of work to do for us in terms of holding the ball better (particularly second half) and there were one or two rather dodgy moments which could have easily gone against us.

    That said, immense improvement with team shape (dare I say the Bould effect). We are pressing early and keeping our space tight.

    Diaby looks every bit the player we know he is capable of being. Durability is still an issue and there was one heart to mouth moment when (Ibeleive) Skittles ploughed in from behind.

    Would have liked to see an able back up (for either arteta or Diaby), Coquelin will get some chances this season.

    Podolski looks much sharper with movement and it is encouraging (Ominous to our opponents) that he is starting to link up with Cazola and GIbbs, marauding in from lleft side.

    Less so Giroud who still seems a bit off wavelength at the moment but early days yet and the Frenchman shows good intelligence with his movement. I think he is a bit too anxious at the moment and needs to settle himself a little.

    We’re off and running which is timely as we have several very big matches ahead!

  13. santori says:

    Liverpool…well dejavu.

    Is Brendan Rodgers Roy HOdgeson in disguise?

    Square pegs in round holes comes to mind with the way he is trying to reconstruct the team.

    The one bright spark for them is Rahim Sterling.

    Not sure what Sahin was thinking signning on loan to them (I bet he’s saying the same thing right now). Should have come to us son. 😉

  14. Odhis says:

    Desi, wasn’t it Poldi who made the interception, gave the pass to Cazorla, sprinted to receive the ball and score, no?! On Giroud, his movement is excellent! I love the way he lost the defender to find space for that shot he put wide. Similar to THAT chance against Sunderland. He’ll come good. So Arsenal was actualy ‘out-possessed’, and won! Oh-happy-days!

    • Chigozie says:

      If i remember correctly, vermalen intercepted Gerard’s pass, played it out to poldi who played it out to cazorla and sprinted onto the return pass to score.

  15. Charlie G says:

    More maturity in our overall performance. When we were two up, we kept the ball and slowed down the game;previously we would be charging up trying to score more, instead ending with the opponents coming back at us.

  16. amahgfur says:

    Agree with you on Cazorla and Arteta being the two best players on the pitch. I wasn’t surprised by Cazorla though, because since the Koln game in pre season, it’s obvious that he’s one hell of a player. Arteta, defensively-speaking, was a big surprise for me, especially for his tackling. Now I’m beginning to understand why Arsene let Song go. Song is physically better, but he’s no match to Arteta’s discipline, positional awareness and game reading.

    About Giroud, I think he’s just trying a bit too hard to impress, i.e. scoring goals. In my opinion, he’s already contributed a lot to the team by making life hard for the opposition defenders with his physical presence and battling quality. So far, he’s up against the most physical defenders in the league (Stoke defenders and Skrtel/Agger) and he seemed to enjoy that. Goals will come for him as Arsene improves his game, and of course time to gel with the team.


  17. lamido says:

    i wont completely support you, i think mertasacker was very good apart from some clumsy challenges he stopped attack very well and helped defend the post aerially…. am least impressed with giroud think he should work harder on his finishing but has great movement and can deceive defenders at will and d keeper was a total scare going for aerial ball wenger should work on that too… we had a good never the less we should put more effort if we are to beat chelsea, united and city home and away… go go gunners

  18. Franco says:

    Giroud is not as bad as some are comparing him to Chamak no. His is a true character of a finisher, he is extremely swift for his weight, and look at what he did we played Sunderland, he almost caught the goalkeeper sleeping. I strongly believe he is a good player. Let him scores one goal that will be the beginning of goals from him.

  19. Dhruv says:

    The two Spaniards ran the match well in the middle for Arsenal. Diaby was influential yesterday but need to see more games to pass a judgement. Overall, a happy day.

  20. iSayed says:

    Brilliant read! Great victory! #COYG

  21. cupsui loves kozzer says:

    Great game…great performance. confidence building.

    Really impressed with Jenko Fett so far. He made an early blunder with his cross ball, but did extremely well against Sterling by far the most dangerous liverpool player.

    Gibbsy was good, although needs to work on his crossing. In fact on crossing can all the team seriously work on their crossing, we seemed to be improving last season but this year the crossing has been shocking!!

    Diaby…welcome back son!

    Arteta…magic…Carzola…el mago!!

    Poldi well done

    The one player that disappointed me the most was the ox, desi you say he defended well but i saw him jogging back nearly every time he lost the ball. Walcott needs to and deserves to come back in next game. The ox needs to work harder off the ball, its clearly the part of his game that needs improving…BAGs OF POTENTIAL though!!

    Great game…lets build on this and get behind the lads

  22. WafflingWenger says:

    Love the Desi, but please forgive a few things I feel I need to add…

    1 – Mertesacker. For me this was one of his most impressive performances for us. I was VERY surprised that Kos (speedier, very good understanding and partnership with Verm) didn’t get rushed back into the side here, especially with Suarez on the pitch. But with the benefit of hindsight he was superb: excellent reading of the game, impeccable positioning, fantastic timing in the challenge (for instance far more superior than Verm today, who I rate/d exceptionally highly)… very encouraging display in a game that I thought he may struggle & probably shows that typical big, strong defender stereotypes don’t truly apply to him. surprise surprise there. Wenger’s pulled another one there.

    2 – Arsenal vs technical attacking-minded teams. I don’t think that I’m going out on a limb here, but in the recent past any side I have watched come out and attack arsenal in the prem (particularly at the Emirates) has been absolutely battered. Cheslea…Tottenham… Liverpool. It’s almost like we have experienced sides do this to us for so long that we know intimately how to counter it & generally do so with ruthless efficiency. For instance, I still don’t think City have come out to take the initiative/dominate the game against us in the Mancini, despite battering & successfully doing so against almost every other side in the comp.

    2 cents worth.

    • cupsui loves kozzer says:

      Agreed…Merte was good. He made a couple little blunders but his last two games have been excellent. Still TV5 was outstanding against the puddles.

      on point two i agree wholeheartedly. When teams attack us we prosper. So does football for that matter. The liverpool game was about 100x better to watch than the first two and not just because the gunners won because we were entertained. Definitely something stoke are not in the business of doing.

      On this point i feel its why we still struggle against Manure. They don’t come out against us and wait for the counter. It sucks cause we always dominate them but they have been more clinical against us recently. I also expect Chelsea to do the same under Di Matteo so we have to be prepared for that and he has signed them some good counter attacking weapons. Should be a good game i hope they try and attack. But our improved defensive shape should help us against both these teams!

  23. Nick from portugal says:

    It was a good performance. We play better against the sides who try to win the game rather than draw it. A few very hairy crossfield passes from Mert and jenkinson in the first half but then the boy Jenkinson shows he does have a left foot by actually using it to shoot in the second half. Come on son show us all you are not only a right sided obsessive, but he made some good tackles and that young Sterling reminds me of the Walcott of a few years ago. The obvious switch for Ox was Theo but so typical of Wenger to use Ramsay. Diaby sublime, Arteta five times as intelligent as Song and Cazorla so quick and incisive yes and Poldy is an animal.

  24. passthesugar says:

    I’m pretty sure people on here will enjoy the following article about Santi:

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