Arsenal v. Liverpool: Match Review & Player GradesBy: Felegy | September 3rd, 2012
Well, three games into the season and still not a single goal. Not a single goal conceded that is! For the third straight game Arsenal has held its opponent goalless. At this point last season, we had conceded ten I believe. Okay, so maybe we don’t really need Alex Song in the midfield. I must say, I was impressed by how solid the team looked against what should have been a tougher opponent in Liverpool. While Sunderland and Stoke aren’t exactly known for their attacking style of play, we knew Liverpool would come into the game with more of an attacking mentality. They did, and we still held them goalless.
It didn’t exactly start out all puppies and rainbows for Arsenal though. I felt that we were thoroughly dominated throughout the first 20 minutes of the game. Liverpool enjoyed more of the possession and had the majority of the chances. In just the 6th minute Gerrard was given way too much space and played a ball into Suarez. Suarez turned Mertesacker with ease and the BFG had no choice but to foul him on the edge of the box earning an early yellow and FK in a dangerous spot. Luckily for Arsenal, like the majority of Liverpool’s chances, it was wasted by Suarez. Just a few minutes Later Jenkinson played a nervy back pass to Mannone that had me covering my eyes. It was the first of many terrible passes from Jenkinson in the first half.
In about the 11th minute Arsenal had its first decent offensive build-up leading to a shot on goal by Cazorla, right at Reina though. Jenkinson would make another blunder on a clearance leading to an unnecessary corner for Liverpool, again wasted. Two minutes later Jenkinson would make another mistake, playing a terrible cross field pass to where he thought Gibbs should be (look next time) and gave Liverpool a chance to break with numbers; again it was a wasted chance. At this point I was just waiting to see young Carl to make the mistake that would lead to Liverpool’s first goal. Luckily he seemed to settle down a bit.
In the 23rd minute Mertesacker redeemed himself for being so easily turned by Suarez earlier. He found himself one v. one with the striker in the box and did his job admirably not even allowing him a shot. Mertesacker like Jenkinson played some horrible balls out of the back throughout the game. In the 27th minute doing so resulted in Arteta having to make a necessary tackle earning him a yellow card as well as another FK in a dangerous spot. But a few minutes later all would be set right in the world.
Gerrard played a horrible ball which was quickly intercepted by Vermaelen in the Arsenal half. He immediately found Podolski and Pods played the ball centrally to Cazorla who drove forward on the break. Podolski was not done though; he ran his German ass off to make himself available for a pass from Santi in the box. Cazorla found him nicely with a cutting pass, Pods first touch was clinical and so was his left footed finish across Reina. 1-0 to The Arsenal. I think I felt a little breeze on my cheek sitting on the couch, as Arsenal supporters all over the world breathed a collective sigh of relief. Yes, we can still score goals. The goal was probably slightly against the run of play but Arsenal had begun to settle at that point. I never really felt nervous throughout the remainder of the game as Arsenal began to look very calm and collected.
In the 38th Mannone was indecisive on a high ball in the box which led to a Liverpool chance off the post, but the shot always looked to be off the mark. Mannone did his job today but and showed some nice shot blocking skills. However, he did not exude confidence on those high balls and crosses into the box. In the 40th minute Arsenal had a great opportunity to make it 2-0. Diaby made a powerful driving run on the counter after a nice interception in the Arsenal half. He drove it all the way to the edge of the Pool box and laid off a perfectly timed and weighted pass into the path of Giroud’s run, only for him to miss the chance wide. An in form striker would have buried it but Olivier is still finding his footing. I’m glad he took the chance though. Gibbs was available out to the left and would have had a tougher angle to finish. Chamakh would have passed, a striker tries to score and that is what Giroud did. I’m confident the guy will get his goals.
We went into the half 1-0 up and looked to be the better side as the half closed out. We would continue our dominance throughout the second half even though Liverpool started decently. Suarez was breathed on heavily by Mertesacker in the box in the 52nd minute and of course he went down flailing. No call by Mr. Webb, he was apparently not in the mood for Suarez’ bullshit today. Suarez would have another opportunity 6 minutes later but put his shot straight at Don Vito who deflected the shot over the bar for a corner. Just a minute later Liverpool looked like they were going to have a chance to break until Arteta made an awesome tackle tracking back. He played his role of holding midfielder to perfection today.
Gibbs was found by Podolski overlapping on the left and fired a nice low shot forcing Reina to save. A little later in the 68th Arsenal would all but close out the game. Some nice build up led to a reverse of the first goal. Cazorla laid the ball off to Podolski and continued his run into the box; Pods found him unmarked and slid his pass through to him. Santi could have looked to cross but had an eye for goal instead, he blasted a low shot right at Reina who did poorly to get down and save. It was in the net and Arsenal went up 2-0.
Liverpool would have a few more chances as the game closed out but Don Vito did what was needed when called upon. Ramsey would come on for Ox in the 72nd, Santos for Podolski in the 82nd and Koscielny for Verms in the 90th. Vermaelen seemed to have taken a knock but nothing too serious hopefully. Maybe it can keep him out of International duty.
It was a much needed win for us to say the least. We find ourselves undefeated after three games having not conceded a single goal. Plus, the defense is just going to get better with the return of Szczesny and Sagna. Okay, time to hand out some grades.
Don Vito (B): He showed some great shot stopping instinct but also showed some nervy indecisiveness at times. If he were to claim those crosses and high balls with more confidence I think he would clearly be our #2 and even maybe give Szczesny a run for the #1 shirt. That being said, it will be nice to have the confident young Pole back in the starting lineup.
Jenkinson (C-): Get well soon Bacary. Jenkinson was pretty awful today and could have easily cost us a goal. His defending was actually pretty strong and solid. It was his play on the ball and his passing that was horrendous. He needs to do a better job of just making the simple pass and not overcomplicate things. Luckily his mistakes were not too costly.
Mertesacker (C): Not great today. He too had some trouble with his passing out of the back and gave the ball away in very bad areas on a few occasions. Once he was nicely bailed out by Arteta who had hustled back well to take care of his defensive duties. I still think Kos and Verms are our best options at CB and today showed a bit of why. I like the BFG and think a rotation of him and Koscielny will be used throughout the campaign.
Vermaelen (A): I have nothing negative whatsoever to say about the Belgian. He could easily be named MOTM for his defensive work. He was amazing today and seemed to be everywhere. The guy just seems to know where the ball is going to be played before it’s played. There is a reason he wins so many headers in the box, instinct and positioning. He made a few strong runs forward but they seemed to be more controlled and well timed than in previous seasons. He was subbed off late limping slightly but I am hopeful that it’s nothing more than him having worked his ass off the entire 90 minutes.
Gibbs (B): Not much to say good or bad about Gibbs on this occasion. He played his role well. On a few occasions he gave us an additional attacking option overlapping with Podolksi and had a nice strike on goal. I think the understanding between those two will continue to develop and result in scoring opportunities for both players. Many of his crosses into Giroud left something to be desired and should see some work on the training ground.
Arteta (A-): Playing the role of “Holding Midfielder” to near perfection. A lot of our build up started through him but he did not foray forward and get caught out of position like our previous holding midfielder did at times. On a few occasions he bailed out BFG’s poor passing with strong tackling. He’s calm on the ball at all times and never seems to rattle. My only minor gripe would be that he always seems to play the simple pass out. Once in a while, it would be nice to see him play a ball over the top or cutting pass through the middle. I think that will come as he continues to grow into this new role.
Diaby (A): Wow, he looked freaking amazing today. He did little to nothing wrong and just about everything right. He made Sahin and the other Pool midfielders looked soft and slow on more than one occasion and his driving runs forward seemed controlled and well timed. He played in Giroud beautifully and should have been rewarded with an assist. He still lingers on the ball too long at times but he seems to be coming to grips with the speed of the game and playing the ball out earlier. Just don’t get injured on international duty please! With the return of Wilshere and Rosicky along with a healthy Diaby, Wenger is going to have some tough decisions to make in the midfield.
Cazorla (A) MOTM: Being heavily involved in both goals edged him out over Diaby for MOTM honors. What a steal of a signing he is turning out to be. Think what our midfield would look like right now without him! He and Podolski already seem to be developing a strong understanding with one another and will only continue to get better with more games. His assist to Podolski was spot on as was the one/two with Podolski that he scored on. Maybe I will buy one of those classy new purple kits with Cazorla on the back…
Podolski (A-): I can’t give everyone A’s right? It was a great all around performance for Podolski. He opened his scoring account and looked incredibly relieved/overjoyed in his celebration. The goal wasn’t a sitter either. His first touch was perfect and his finish had to be equally as good across the face of goal. He looked like he had been doing it for years, because he has. Another welcome aspect to his game is his tracking back. His goal started with him tracking back and taking a pass in his own half from Verms, then he worked hard to put himself in that scoring position. He has shown himself as a hard worker with an eye for goal and I look forward to seeing what else he can do for us in the future.
Ox (B-): Not a great showing from Ox but nothing glaring either. He gave the ball away cheaply a few times but also worked hard tracking back like Podolski. He’s still raw but I am happy to see him get the start so he can continue his development. I think he can learn a lot from a player like Podolski.
Giroud (C): The guy just needs to get a goal, somehow someway. I think that first goal will help to settle him. Diaby set him up nicely but he was unable to provide the finish. Like I said earlier, I am glad he took the chance though instead of playing it over to Gibbs. He holds the ball up well and I think this will continue to be a benefit. One thing I noticed about him against Liverpool though; he needs to do a better job of hiding his frustration. The first ball played long to him, he battled with the Liverpool defender (either Skrtel or Agger, can’t recall) and came out the loser. He then put his hands out and looked to Webb for a foul which he did not deserve. Defenders thrive on the frustrations of a striker and you can’t show that they are getting to you, especially that early in a game. Again, opening his scoring account will go a long way for his confidence. He’s a hard worker though and that is a welcome change to our front line.
No grades for our subs as they were not all that impactful. Ramsey coming on for Gibbs and Santos for Podolski was tactical in us trying to close out the game a bit more defensively. Koscielny played out the last four minutes for an exhausted and war-torn Vermaelen.
So maybe we didn’t need to sign anyone on Friday. The team really seems to be clicking and finding their form together. What a great time for them to all separate and go off and play some International matches! Our next match is against Southampton on September 15th. Fingers crossed that our many players called away to international duty come back unscathed and ready to continue to fight the good fight.
Be well fellow Gunners!