Liverpool Aftermath: Spirits High at the Emirates Camp

Toni Okike@@enigma106Senior Analyst IISeptember 4, 2012

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 02:  Luis Suarez of Liverpool breaks past Per Mertesacker and Abou Diaby of Arsenal 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

After enduring another summer of transfer sagas involving Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, Arsenal fans looked forward to the new campaign (last season) with optimism as Gervinho showed his glimpses of quality during the preseason. His debut against Newcastle is one that he’ll forget quickly as he was instrumental in Arsenal’s two-legged Champions League playoff success over Udinese.

Shortly after the goalless stalemate in the Sports Direct Arena, Liverpool visited the Emirates on the back of a pretty woeful record in Arsenal’s backyard. However, strikes from Luis Suarez (offside!) and Raul Meireles left Arsenal for dead.

Then Old Trafford happened. 

With just three games gone, Arsenal had shipped in 10 goals. The type of form a relegation-threatened side would have been used to.

Twelve months later, Arsenal has successfully kept three clean sheets in their opening games. A feat last achieved when Arthur Pendragon ruled Camelot.

The clean sheets against Sunderland and Stoke were taken with a pinch of salt from Arsenal’s insatiable critics, as it was stated that both sides lacked attacking verve against the Gunners. However, the clean sheet (and victory, of course) against an attacking side like Liverpool is a testament of the new-look Arsenal that has undergone some Bouldination.

Seeing those 10 players don the Purple and Black hoops gave me a great sense of pride, and the goalie in Yellow was superb despite not commanding his area the way he was expected to.

I saw my wingers and the midfield trio protecting the rearguard like their lives depended on it. Despite having a frame no different from a hobbit and being the focal point of the midfield, Santi Cazorla dropped deep to link up play with the forward line.

Mikel Arteta was a beast at the middle of the park, making perfectly-timed challenges all game long, and there was a moment he became an emergency left fullback, when Kieran Gibbs was nowhere to be found.

Then there was Per Mertesacker, the Big Friendly Giant that everybody wanted Laurent Koscielny to replace because the fans were skeptical about the pace of the Liverpool attack. The experienced German worked in tandem with his captain, and they bossed the defense together.

Of course, he had his shaky moments, like his yellow card and the penalty claims Liverpool had. On another day, a different referee might have pointed to the spot.

Mertesacker has stated that Arsenal’s self-belief will make the team great and he’s looking forward to other fixtures this month. The injury he suffered last season halted his debut campaign prematurely but it also paved the way for Koscielny to win Arsenal hearts with his stellar performances.

Many Gooners have complained about the squad’s lack of depth, but such claims can’t be uttered this season. Arsene Wenger can be proud that he can call upon Koscielny to deliver if need be and there’s still a Johan Djourou somewhere in the mix.

Going back to Anfield, there was a certain Lukas Podolski that played like a left back all game long, providing great support to Gibbs. There was still a moment where the German won the ball in defense, sent a pass to Cazorla, ran the length of the field to add numbers to the attack, received an inch-perfect pass from Cazorla then finished the move he started.

Seeing that goal left butterflies in my tummy for more reasons than one. Arsenal had finally broken its Premier League goalscoring duck and it made more sense to know that it was scored by one of van Persie’s “replacements”. The other replacement, Olivier Giroud, had a below-par game and he had his chances to put his name on the score sheet as well.

Diaby was a joy to watch all game long but seeing the lanky Frenchman glide through the opposition before supplying the inch-perfect pass to his compatriot was hugely encouraging. Had Giroud converted that chance, it would had been a favorite for Assist of the Season.

No wonder Gibbs was very livid when Giroud blasted the ball to the stands. Arsene Wenger has come out to defend his misfiring center forward, stating that he’s confident that Giroud will be a success at the club.

Food for thought, great Arsenal center forwards like Thierry Henry and Robin van Persie opened their Arsenal goalscoring accounts against Southampton.

Guess who we’re playing next?

You can’t expect me to write about the Anfield game without shifting some focus to the Man of the Match, Abou Diaby. To be honest, I was very perplexed seeing Diaby do what he did on Sunday. He knew when to pass the ball, when to make a dribble, showed great movement and did his defensive jobs perfectly.

The look on my face was no different from Johnny Bravo when he sees a very hot babe. My jaw actually dropped for Diaby.

The midfielder has thanked his manager and the club for keeping faith in him through the dark times and he declared that he wants to emulate Yaya Toure…not Alex Song. Wenger on the other hand, has expressed his concerns over Diaby’s selection for the French squad, and he hopes that his fragile midfielder will return in one piece.

On injuries, Wenger said that Jack Wilshere is one month away from full fitness and he has no plans to rush the lad. With Tomas Rosicky returning to fitness as well, the boss will be faced with one hell of a selection headache. Let’s not forget that there’s a certain Welsh captain in Arsenal’s ranks as well, and he gave a good account of himself at Anfield when he came in for the Ox.

Wenger has stated that the Ox and the Verm are “ok” as well.

This was a vintage display at Anfield and it’s one that the Arsenal faithful will relish for a long while.


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