Talking Points from Arsenal's Emphatic 2-0 Away Win over Liverpool
Arsene Wenger's faith and patience in his new-look team was rewarded by Sunday's emphatic 2-0 victory over Liverpool at Anfield. The Gunners boss can feel slightly vindicated about his summer transfers, as new boys Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla combined to give each other a goal apiece.
Perhaps just as impressive was the club's third consecutive clean sheet to begin the season, a defensive effort exemplified by a young left-back fast coming into his own. Here are the main talking points from the Gunners' win:
Lukas Podolski gave Theo Walcott a masterclass in how to play wide in a front three
Lukas Podolski delivered a clinic in the art of playing wide in a front three. Theo Walcott, please take note. The Germany international was superb at Anfield, showcasing fluid movement, resilient defensive work and excellent use of the ball in possession and build-up play.
What Podolski did best was routinely drop into central areas to link up with the Arsenal midfield. In particular, his connection with Sanit Cazorla provided the Gunners' best attacking outlet.
It was made possible by Podolski's clever running off the ball. The former Cologne star refused to consign himself strictly to the wing and played with the fluidity and intelligence that makes Arsenal's 4-3-3 formation work. His first goal for the club is surely only a precursor of things to come based on this outstanding display.
Kieran Gibbs is getting better and better
Young left-back Kieran Gibbs continues to improve and is now looking like an essential part of Arsenal's defensive makeup. He looks more composed in the challenge and is comfortable using his natural pace and athleticism to make up for any lapses in positional sense.
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In fairness, Gibbs' awareness is getting better, and he is no longer as eager to simply attack the ball with reckless abandon. Going forward, the England youngster provides the consistent outlet Arsenal fans have come to expect from a left-back in Wenger's team.
The only downside to his attacking play yesterday was some sub-standard crossing. Quite how he managed to consistently put crosses so far over the head of a striker as tall as Olivier Giroud remains a mystery.
However, Gibbs provides more of a scoring threat than Gael Clichy ever did and is quickly exceeding him defensively. At the start of the season, this author felt that Andre Santos should be the starter.
Yet using the Brazilian as cover, particularly for the attacking left berth, is the smarter move, based on Gibbs' rapid improvement.
Wenger's only real dilemma is the right-side of attack
For the second straight game Arsene Wenger produced a welcome surprise by not starting Theo Walcott. However, as refreshing as it was to see Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain trusted for a crunch EPL encounter, it still marked the third different player to start on the right in as many games.
The way the team is playing at the moment, the midfield and defensive positions are set, as are the left and central attacking positions. The right-side offers the only real dilemma.
Gervinho, for all his foibles in front of goal, offers more to the overall team game as both provider and supplementary forward. If the Ivory Coast ace is not to be trusted, then being benched two games in a row may finally provide the incentive Walcott needs to consistently produce at a high level.
Olivier Giroud is still vital to Arsenal, despite poor form in front of goal
Despite enduring another calamitous showing in front of goal, Olivier Giroud continues to prove vital to the pattern of Arsenal's current performances. His hold-up and link-up play are getting better with every game and are steadily improving the speed of Arsenal's play.
With Giroud as a reliable outlet, the Gunners now have the option of firing quick passes towards the tall Frenchman, either along the ground or through the air. More often than not, Giroud will collect the ball, and this sets the midfield runners and wide forwards onto the offensive.
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Having this option allows these players to defend deeper when the team is under pressure, a fact that has played no small part in the current defensive solidity. The goals are yet to come for Giroud, and yesterday's miss just before halftime was a painful sight.
However, although it may be equally painful, think back to Emmanuel Adebayor. The Togolese frontman was similarly clumsy in front of goal when he first joined Arsenal in the winter of 2006. Yet like him or not, Adebayor soon sounded his scoring touch and became prolific.
Giroud's run onto Abou Diaby's pass yesterday was excellent. While he is missing the most important element, namely the finish, Giroud is showing enough to indicate that he will play a key role in determining Arsenal's success this season.
There's no hiding Liverpool were abysmal yesterday, and it could still be argued that Arsenal are yet to face a truly dangerous forward line. However, that shouldn't detract too much from an accomplished performance, indicating that confidence is growing within the squad.
The new dynamic is working well; specifically, there is greater fluidity in attack and midfield than last season. Avoiding a letdown in the next game, something Arsenal have specialised in during recent seasons, will be vital before the tough tests against Manchester City and Chelsea at the end of the month.
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