Arsenal v Liverpool
Barclays Premier League
Kick off: November 2, 2013 5:30 PM BST
After losing our last two games, it was inevitable that people would start questioning the recent run Arsenal were on. Saying that we haven’t faced any top teams yet, and that we can’t be considered title contenders. This game against second placed Liverpool was a good chance to silence some of these critics.
With Chelsea losing to Newcastle earlier in the day, a win against Liverpool would see us five points clear at the top of the table, and in a comfortable position. A loss however, would drop us down to second, with our opponents claiming the top spot.
Wilshere apparently took a knock and was left out of the squad, but Arteta was back in the team after serving his one game suspension.
It was a fast paced game right from the whistle, with both teams pressing well and not allowing their opponents any time on the ball. Liverpool just had the better of it in the opening minutes, but it was a close game with both sides playing attractive, passing football.
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Both teams were probing, with neither threatening too much. Henderson had a good chance for Liverpool, after being given acres of space to run into and our defence practically parting for him, he seemed caught in two minds and hit a tame shot straight at Szczesny.
Sagna had been getting up the pitch well, and when Arteta set him free with a great ball, he was able to put a good cross into the box. It looked like it was just a little too far behind Olivier Giroud, but Cazorla was rushing in behind and headed it goalwards. His header crashed against the post, but bounces straight back out to him, allowing him to smash it into the net to make it 1-0.
A Liverpool counter attack looked threatening, and it seemed like Suarez was going to be one on one with Gibbs. Sagna got back well though, and showed his experience with a tactical foul on the Uruguayan striker. Liverpool took the free kick quickly and put the ball in the back of the net, but referee Martin Atkinson had long blown his whistle, pulling play back to book Bacary.
We looked the more likely to get the next goal, having a lot of possession just in front of Liverpool’s box. But we went into half time at 1-0, with the game anything but over.
Liverpool came out for the second half with a change of formation, Coutinho replacing the centre back Cissoko. I was afraid this would give them more of an attacking threat, but the Brazilian wasn’t on form, and if anything just made it easier for us to control the game.
Suarez was looking a lot more threatening in the second half, but Koscielny was having a superb game, and really had the striker in his pocket for most of the game. Szczesny was also having a good game, making several good saves and rushing out to prevent threats from even occurring. Suarez managed to get a good ball in to Henderson, but he blazed it over the bar.
Giroud’s team play was fantastic all evening, but when he was gifted a one on one opportunity by ex Gunner Kolo Toure, he chipped the ball wide; a real let off for Liverpool. He missed another chance moments later, this time it was not so clear cut however, the Frenchman stretching to get a foot on the ball, unable to put any power into it.
Aaron Ramsey had been getting into good positions all evening, but his final ball had been letting him down. He had a couple of great chances to set up his team mates, and he saw a couple of shots saved too. There was no saving this shot though, Özil chipped the ball into the unmarked Welshman on the edge of the box, where he had time to let the ball drop and smash it on the half volley. The ball floated beautifully into the top corner, leaving Mignolet with no chance. 2-0 Arsenal, and Ramsey adds another to his season’s tally.
There was a small period in the second half where Liverpool looked particularly threatening, with Szczesny being called upon to deny Suarez and then Coutinho; Suarez’s effort clipping the post. And the Polish keeper had a moment of madness, where he booted the ball straight at Sturridge from five feet away. But in all honestly after the second goal, we never looked like losing the lead.
Gibbs went off with an injury late in the game, which is a bit of a blemish on an otherwise fantastic night. But hopefully he won’t be out for too long, as our defence has been looking stable as of late, and it would be a shame to mess around with it.
Although he initially looked offside, Suarez had a late chance to square it across goal for a Sturridge tap in. He selfishly chose to shoot himself from a bad angle however, and Szczesny watched the ball go wide of his post.
Koscielny and Arteta were fantastic tonight, preventing most threats from reaching our back line, and snuffing them out when they did. And Giroud was once again the perfect outlet to initiate counter attacks and hold the ball up to bring other players in. The final whistle went and we were sitting comfortably five points clear at the top of the league, having beaten a team that started the season strongly and have arguably the best strike partnership in the league.
This win will give the players a confidence boost and put them in the right frame of mind for our upcoming match against Dortmund. If we play the way we did tonight, we are definitely capable of getting the win in Germany.
Here are some of the top tweets from tonight’s game:
“Arsenal collectively just went ‘ah it’s ok, it’s just Henderson’ ”
“Santi Cazorla – He’s so good, he assists himself.”
“Sturridge getting annoyed at another player being greedy? Haha”
“Arteta man of the match. Superb holding midfield display.”
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on comparisons between Ramsey and Fabregas…
They are different type of players, completely different types. Aaron Ramsey is playing well, but the whole team… you cannot single anybody out today because the whole team played well. Our defensive performance was outstanding. We kept Sturridge, Suarez, Gerrard and then Coutinho and even Moses quiet. I think our defenders deserve a lot of credit as well.
on responding to the Chelsea defeat…
We needed to respond today. The Chelsea game was an important game but not of the importance of today’s game. But still, it was a disappointment and it was important to respond today, to convince people that we can win these big games. To win it in a convincing way is even more important.
on keeping the momentum going…
I am always confident, but of course there is a long way to go. Today was an important win for the team, for the club, and overall nobody would dispute that we deserved to win this game. It was vital to win, I said that before the game and I don’t change my mind, because had we not won people would say ‘yes, Arsenal at home they cannot win the big games’. It is done, in a convincing way. We had a good solidarity, a good focus, and I believe we have plenty of other big games coming up and this will help us deal well with them.
on Chelsea losing…
Yes, it is unpredictable because who would have said that Chelsea would lose today at Newcastle after Tuesday night? But that’s the Premier League and it’s down to consistency. I said we are consistent since the 1st of January 2013, with the same group. We have shown since our massive blip against Aston Villa, that we have been very consistent. We have 10 games, 25 points. It is a respectable number of points. We go from game to game, we have Dortmund on Wednesday, it is another big game, we are in a position where we want absolutely a result. This win puts us mentally in a better condition.
on the improvements in defence…
First of all players know each other better, the players have improved individually and collectively as well because we work with each other. Tactically we dealt well with what Liverpool offered us today in the first half. We stopped them from playing and overall we are defensively a better team.
on Jack Wilshere…
He has an inflamed ankle. I don’t know if he’ll be available on Wednesday, we have to wait until Monday. It is not long-term.
on Kieran Gibbs…
It is a calf problem, I don’t know how bad it is.
on the confidence level in the team…
You could see today that the level is high. We have good solidarity in the group and a good technical level as well. You could see that today.
on reacting to doubts over his squad…
We live in a world where we have to be questioned, where you are questioned. The only response we can give is on the football pitch, I said that many times. That is part of our job.
Sagna Koscielny Mertesacker Gibbs
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