When going into the game, I honestly didn’t expect for Arsenal to pull off something like that. It has nothing to do with lack of belief: I always believe we can beat the opposition, whatever the circumstances. Rather, I knew it was make-or-break for Liverpool: a loss would basically mean they finish outside the top four. With Sturridge, Sterling and Co(utinho) available, I was fully prepared for a tough ride, maybe dropped points.
What I saw on the pitch stunned me. For the first fifteen minutes we just dominated the Mugmashers. We created at least two brilliant chances inside this period, but were denied by some top goalkeeping from Mignolet, at least for the time being.
However, I do not want this article to become another minute-by-minute review. There’s an abundance of these out already, so I decided I’ll tackle mine differently. Whilst acknowledging it was an outstanding collective effort from Arsenal (so much so, I wanted to give my vote to all three contenders for Man of the match), I thought I’d rather look at individual players. Not because they stood out among the others, purely because their respective contributions should put an end to some of the wild assumptions circling the web. So here goes:
I’ve said it countless times already and I’ll say it again: I love the way the Colombian plays. He’s the calm before the storm, during the storm and after the storm. I can’t stress the importance of this particular quality enough. Having a dead-calm goalkeeper behind helps the defenders psychologically a lot.
That’s why I can’t understand how after the game some a) leveled criticism at David for not saving the penalty b) remain convinced Szczesny is the better goalkeeper.
Regarding the first point, I’d say Henderson produced a good shot, very low and very close to the post, even if not particularly powerful. Ospina guessed the corner, but honestly, it’s a penalty. Had he not guessed it right, would you still blame him?
As for the second, I can agree Szczesny is capable of stunning saves which can mean we get the points, but again I wouldn’t prefer him to the Colombian. Chezza is far from being either stable or calm, so he’s not the number 1 for me.
Check out this video from our own Arsenal Editor looking at our keepers:
I was surprised at the German’s inclusion. Not because he’s a bad defender, far from it, rather because we opted to adopt a high-octane pressing approach.
It’s not quite Per’s game, but there was another surprise in store for me. It was the German pressing high up the pitch, not Koscielny, and our vice-captain was pretty damn good at it. He stuck in, won tackles, intercepted and, basically, sometimes played further up field than Coquelin. We are in for a real fight between the German and Gabriel, ladies and gentlemen.
“He’s one of the surprises of the season. He was at Watford on loan last year and didn’t get the games. He’s just 20 years old, if you look at what he does at 20 years of age… He played against a great player today in Sterling in the second half. Maybe he still has some experience to gain but defending one against one is good and going forward is good as well. He scored an important goal in a big game and that always shows that the guy has the mental quality to be there.” WENGER
This game was game number 20 for Bellerin this season, 17th start and boy has he grown during the season. He scored a vastly important goal, which allowed us to end the game as a contest in seven minutes. Hector also took his chance in style and showed a piece of individual skill.
Was it really a goalscoring opportunity, a clear-cut chance? No, Bellerin created the goal out of nothing. He took the ball, stepped inside the defender and curled a screamer inside the post with his left.
My guess is that, once fully-fit, Debuchy will be reinstated straight away and while it’s probably the right decision to make, you still have to feel for Bellerin. He’s been phenomenal and doesn’t deserve the drop in the slightest. We’ll see how this one pans out.
When the squads were announced I saw neither Walcott nor Welbeck on the team sheet and so I thought it would be either Ozil or Cazorla on the right. I have my reservations about both playing out wide. However, having seen Mata, a typical playmaker, destroy Moreno two weeks ago, I thought Cazorla or Ozil were primed to do exactly that. Like with Mertesacker, I was wrong again.
Instead, Aaron Ramsey played on the flank. And this, I think, can be explained by the approach we took. Without Oxlade, Ramsey provides the team with endless energy better than anyone. One can make the case for Rosicky here, but both the Czech and Rambo aren’t natural wingers and so choosing Aaron over Thomas was the sensible decision.
And The Welsh Jesus walked on water. He and Bellerin terrorised Moreno the entire game while also putting the central defenders under pressure. It was brilliant move from Arsene, unconventional, but no less remarkable for it. In the end, Ramsey bagged two assists and his second, preceded by a touch-and-turn, was a thing of beauty.
Those who think Ozil disappeared need to watch the game again. Watch Ozil’s off-the-ball movement. Then watch this video from The Gooner:
If, having done all of the above, they remain of the opinion that Ozil got lost during the game, they need to slap themselves in the face repeatedly and quit watching football.
For everyone else, I don’t need to say Ozil was brilliant. Coutinho is still sliding as I write this, Lukas and Can are trying to figure out how Ozil got past them (the latter is doing that in suspension) and Mignolet will have nightmares about that freekick. In a nutshell, I’m delighted Mesut Ozil is a Gunner.
“He worked very hard. He gave absolutely everything and had a great first half. Alexis is a guy who never gives up. I had a decision to make between him or Ozil and I subbed Ozil because I felt he was in danger of being injured. Alexis did fight very hard until the end.”
In essence that’s Alexis’s main asset, he just never gives up, never quits, never shies from responsibility and never hides. He keeps at it and it paid off against Liverpool. His goal was his only shot on target, but what a shot that was. A bouncing ball, outside the box and boom, Golazio. Apart from the goal the Chilean wasn’t really noticeable, and I don’t mind it in the slightest. He did his bit as usual and scored a beauty of a goal. We can’t really ask for much else.
As Can was sent off and we were passing the ball around at the back, content to let the clock tick away with the scoreline we had, a fellow Arsenal fan sitting beside me said: “I’m not leaving without Giroud’s goal”. Just as I was prepared to say “Then you’ll probably stay here for a week” our French talisman got the ball outside the box, rounded off Toure and let fly. 4-1 and my friend got to go home and Giroud bagged his 14th strike of the campaign and 18th overall. He’s now tied with Sanchez in terms of BPL goals and just two behind in all competitions, despite spending three months out of the game.
While folks were admiring Costa and Kane, Giroud quietly evolved into the best striker in the league. I’m not overestimating. Look at the number of goals, then at their quality, then at the time the Frenchman spent sidelined and you’ll have your answer.
We are now nine above Liverpool and Spurs, ten above Southampton. We sit proudly in second place although City have a game in hand). Ten wins in eleven games. Red-hot Giroud, Sanchez, Ozil, Cazorla, Ramsey etc. etc. A sound thrashing of Liverpool so what more can you wish for?
One last thing though is worthy of note. When it became obvious we were going to win the game, Welbeck came 0n having only just been passed fit and not Walcott and so I think it’s time to say cheerio to Theo. Sad really, but with Oxlade returning, I fear Walcott will not only find himself benched, he may find himself out of the squad altogether.
That’s it for now. Look sharp for other articles on GT.