Liverpool 0 – 2 Arsenal (Podolski 31, Cazorla 68)
After a deserved 2-0 win against a good attacking Liverpool side (who should have beaten the champion last week) at Anfield, Arsenal finally proved the doubters wrong. No one has predicted that Arsenal would have goalless draws forever but very few who would have predicted Arsenal winning this match by scoring two goals and keeping clean sheet, and quite comfortably too. The Times wrote that of the 92 clubs in England’s top four divisions, Arsenal are the only team yet to concede a goal. Quite strange to be associated with that kind of quality, honestly.
Wenger said the new players will click, and they did it very well just three matches into the season. Cazorla and Podolski especially have established a very good connection between them resulting in two goals of the match. Two similar goals with fast dribbling, exchanging passes and ended up with a very hard low shot inside the penalty box. And the defence was a far cry from how we performed near the end of last season.
For full match analysis I’d recommend the brilliant Zonal Marking post.
Some points from the match that I would like to highlight:
1. Our defensive shape was very good. The two wingers tracked back diligently forming a two banks of four when we defended. Podolski and Chamberlain tracked back Liverpool wingers diligently, helping Jenkinson and Gibbs. Podolski physicality is impressive, so often won the ball in a 50-50 duel. The formation was closer to 4-4-1-1 with Cazorla stayed close to Giroud for counter attack. Both of our goals came from quick counter attacks, something almost absent from recent years.
2. Podolski often positions himself a little bit deeper for a winger because he needs space to dribble and burst past his opponents. It reminds me of one pacey striker who loves to score from the left. He could trap the ball while running, made it very hard for the opponent to track. And like Wenger said, he is deadly when there is a chance.
3. Cazorla didn’t touch the ball as many as his last two games but he was more efficient in this match. By staying up at the opponent’s half, Cazorla waited patiently for the ball from Diaby and Arteta before bursting and playing one-two with Podolski. He has the same “soft feet” as Podolski’s, his quick running and ambitious dribbling resulted in more penetration in a game than we could ever have last season. With his shooting more accurate than Rosicky, we can expect more goals from midfield this season.
4. Double pivot of Diaby and Arteta reminded us of Vieira-Gilberto era. They were disciplined, tracked back frequently and one demonstration of Arteta nicking away the ball from almost free Suarez was the highlight of this new Arsenal. Arteta tackled a lot and won a lot. Surprisingly he’s exactly the DM we need to replace Song although Song himself didn’t perform much defensive duties last season. I couldn’t remember Song did a sliding tackle and nicking the ball away from dribbling opponent successfully, which Arteta did very well in these three matches. We made total 26 successful tackles (from 32) and 20 interceptions. No wonder we could keep three clean sheets in a row. And Diaby was majestic yesterday, fully deserved his MoM champagne. Finger-crossed he stays fit and he could fulfill the prophecy of our manager.
5. Gibbs was excellent. He’s becoming a better left back in each match. Constantly overlapping and combining well with Podolski, we could have our deadly leftist combination back after the Invincible years. One thing he can improve is his crossing, both the low and high one. One occasion he dribbled inside the box and shoot. He’s more confident with the ball in the final third than Clichy. If he polishes it well, he could be a real threat in the future.
6. Giroud’s movements were good and it’s a matter of time before he would join his two new comrades on the scoresheet, either in Southampton game or at his former club stadium. Cazorla could utilize the second ball from his heading just like what Big Sam exploited from Carroll in West Ham game. By standing on the shoulder of opponent’s CB, he’s stretching the play for Cazorla to fill in. In the first goal, he drew his markers to the right, giving Podolski enough space to shoot. And I like how smoothly he traps the ball in the air. His first touch is definitely an upgrade over TGSTEL who has traveled to Turin.
We would have more variations on our play upfront this season. Podolski-Cazorla have demonstrated how fast and furious they were. No more over elaboration tiki-taka, replace it with come and get us then we’ll deliver you sucker punch of The Invincible. And with Walcott, Gervinho (different type of players than yesterday wingers) didn’t play at all in this game, we have more surprises from the bench, at least compared to what Liverpool have.
Balance between offence and defence was achieved yesterday. How Wenger and Bould achieved this with three new players and just three games into the season is admirable. They have also put doubt of the supporters away for a moment. This is exactly the 90 minutes we need to instill belief in the squad again and wash away the gloomy transfer window deadline talks. Football is played and won on the pitch not on the check you signed. We have started this season much better than last season and there’s no sign that we missed our supposed best two players of last season. The new chapter of The Arsenal has started, and its title is: The Return of The Fast and Furious.