Cazorla, Diaby and Arteta Sparkled as Arsenal Won Midfield War Against Liverpool

Will TideySenior Manager, GlobalSeptember 2, 2012

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 02:  Santi Cazorla of Arsenal celebrates after scoring the second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and  Arsenal at Anfield on September 2, 2012 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Arsenal's 2-0 Premier League win against Liverpool at Anfield was indicative of football's ever-increasing emphasis on central midfield. 

Gone are the uncomplicated days when 4-4-2 pitted two against two in the middle—with two strikers high up the pitch and wingers hugging either flank. This is the age of midfields built like towers, where a strong spine is all-important.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers had Steven Gerrard, Joe Allen and Nuri Sahin as his central midfield three. Raheem Sterling and Fabio Borini were also on hand to help them at Liverpool's hub.

Arsenal set up with two holding midfielders in Mikel Arteta and Abou Diaby. Ahead of them were Santi Cazorla, Lukas Podolski and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

What we effectively had was a five-a-side match taking place in a narrow box drawn out from the center circle. Whoever won that would win the match. And, as it turned out, Arsenal won it handsomely.

Arteta and Diaby were hugely effective. The former set Arsenal's heartbeat and was eternally available to receive the ball. Alongside him, Diaby rampaged like Yaya Toure at his best and was completely and utterly dominant.

Diaby has been wracked by injury problems in his eight years at Arsenal, and this was a performance to show Gunners fans what they've been missing. If Arsene Wenger can keep him fit—and it's a big if—Diaby can be among the Premier League's best this season.

As can Santi Cazorla, the gifted Spanish midfielder who arrived from Malaga this summer and has sparkled as brightly as anyone in the first three games of the new campaign.

Cazorla laid on Lukas Podolski for Arsenal's first and scored their second in a performance that oozed class and confirmed his status as Wenger's new creator supreme. 

Liverpool had no one to match him. Allen played neatly and achieved 93 percent pass accuracy, but his is an oiling role in the Liverpool engine that requires those around him to fire, and they didn't.

New arrival Sahin was quiet on his debut and made way for Jonjo Shelvey with 20 minutes to go. Meanwhile, Gerrard was unrecognisable from the barnstorming Anfield match-winner we've come to admire so greatly over the years.

Are we seeing the slow decline of one of the Premier League's finest? Or simply a hangover from Euro 2012? Either way, Rodgers may be in for a very difficult decision if Gerrard continues in this vein for too many games.

Borini was another who failed to impress. The 21-year-old Italian's potential is clear, but he didn't see enough of the ball at Anfield and couldn't find a way to impose himself on the game.

You could level the same accusation at Olivier Giroud, but Arsenal's midfield three were so accomplished you barely noticed his peripheral contribution.

The result was a victory for Arsenal that means Liverpool have made their worst start to a season since the 1962-63 campaign (BBC Sport). It's far too early to undermine the Rodgers revolution, but questions must surely be asked of a team who fell so short in the most important area of the pitch.

For Arsenal, Podolski's goal represented their long-awaited first of the season, but they're still yet to concede. If Wenger can get his team scoring, and if Diaby stays fit, who knows what they can achieve this season?