So Arsenal finally claimed the first goals of the new season, securing their first win in the process with an impressive 2-0 victory at Anfield. Here are three things which caught the eye for the Gunners.
1.) Per Mertesacker is improving
Let’s be frank, it was not the best of debut seasons for the experienced German international. Having signed in late August with the side in defensive disarray, Mertesacker did much to stabilise the Arsenal backline but with his presence rather than his performances, which were at iffy times. The big man’s lack of pace was clear for all to see but surprisingly it was a lack of physicality and an ability to compete effectively in the air that was hindering his early performances. Mertesacker’s season eventually ended in February due to injury and with the form of Laurent Koscielny and Thomas Vermaelen in his absence, one wondered when the man signed from Werder Bremen would get a game this season.
However, a pre-season knock to Koscielny allowed Mertesacker to start the opening two games of the season and after two encouraging performances, was allowed to keep his place ahead of the returning Frenchman for the Liverpool game. Mertesacker undoubtedly started slowly, earning a quick fire yellow after being done by a bit of trickery and pace from Luis Suarez but thereafter, produced yet another strong performance in the centre of defence. His timing and reading of the game was impeccable, as shown by a superb challenge on Raheem Sterling in the penalty area midway through the first half. From set pieces, Mertesacker was commanding in a way we have not previously seen and particularly in the way he organised and directed his team-mates. Steve Bould is clearly working wonders with the defence and Mertesacker is particularly benefitting.
2.) Lukas Podolski may be the classic “big game” player
It is fair to say that up until the Liverpool game, Lukas Podolski had had an inauspicious start to his Arsenal career. Faced with the blanket defences of Sunderland and Stoke, Podolski struggled to make an impact in the limited space that he was afforded. However, with the greater space Liverpool allowed him last Sunday, Podolski thrived.
The experienced German has a fair amount of pace on him and much like Theo Walcott, it appears that he is best utilised when given that little bit more space. Against the lesser teams who look to shut Arsenal out, that may not be present but against the bigger teams who back themselves to come at the Gunners and thus leave space in behind for them to play, Podolski can be a meance. His performance against Liverpool was certainly that and he thoroughly deserved his first goal for the club.
3.) Mikel Arteta is shaping up to me one of Arsene Wenger’s best ever signings
The signing of Arteta last season was an atypical Wenger purchase in almost every sense. Not only did it happen extremely late in the transfer window but Arteta was 29 and was coming off the back of a couple of injury-ravaged seasons. It is fair to say that the Spaniard was hardly the replacement for Cesc Fabregas that the fans wanted. However, Arteta, playing a deeper role than we saw at Everton, became one of the stars of the Gunners‘ season as they dragged themselves to 3rd place in the Premier League table.
This season, there appears to be even more onus on Arteta after the departure of Alex Song. With Abou Diaby, who of course was sensational against Liverpool, continually wanting to drive forward and the third component of the midfield, Santi Cazorla, being anything but defensive, the Gunners are depending on Arteta to remain deep, provide defensive discipline and control of possession. Against Liverpool, the Spaniard was absolutely outstanding. Not only was his use of the ball absolutely exceptional but his tackling, a trait you do not normally associate with him, was spot on. Bought for a fee of only around £10million and considering his value to the team, if Arteta can keep up his current form and lead Arsenal to trophies, then he could well become one of Arsene Wenger’s best ever purchases.