At the third attempt, Arsenal finally got their first goals and in turn first victory of their Premier League season in an impressive 2-0 victory at Anfield.
Opponents Liverpool were desperately poor but the Gunners can take heart from a stylish display full of attacking verve, led by goalscoring new signings Lukas Podolski and the irrepressible Santi Cazorla, midfield power and control in the form of Mikel Arteta and the dominant Abou Diaby, as well as again, defensive fortitude that has marked the Gunners season to date.
A visit to Anfield is never easy and the opening stages of the match appeared to suggest the Gunners would be in for an afternoon of struggle as the quick feet of Luis Suarez brought a booking out of Per Mertesacker while Daniel Agger was afforded far too much space from a corner, only to not make contact. After that however, it was all Arsenal as the Gunners’ midfield, led swashbuckingly by Diaby, simply overwhelmed a Liverpool side for whom Nuri Sahin made an underwhelming debut.
Chances were at a premium to begin with as the Gunners were content in exercising control over proceedings without really offering any penetrative play. Much has been made of the efforts Brendan Rodgers is making as he attempts to make his Liverpool side into a fluid passing machine but the pitfalls of asking players unsuited to play in such a philosophy were laid bare for Arsenal’s opening goal. Steven Gerrard’s attempt to play a quick first time pass into the feet of Suarez was intercepted by Vermaelen and within three passes the ball was in the back of the Liverpool net. A razor sharp counter attack, initiated by Podolski and cooly finished by the same player after some gorgeous approach play from Cazorla, brought Arsene Wenger to his feet in delight.
Suddenly, Liverpool looked ragged and Arsenal should have been two goals up at the break as Diaby strode forward powerfully, reminiscent of Patrick Vieira (where have we heard that before regarding Diaby) and slipped in Olivier Giroud, who having made the perfect run could only screw it wide of the post with the goal gaping. The anguish on the face of the Frenchman was telling as the wait for his first Arsenal goal continues.
The second half saw Arsenal exert complete control over the match as they dominated possession. Cazorla fired in a warning shot that drifted just wide of Reina’s left post before a superb passage of passing football ended with Kieran Gibbs forcing a good save out of the Liverpool keeper. The second goal was coming though and it finally came on 68 minutes, with Cazorla beautifully exchanging passes with Podolski before firing in the match winning goal under the arms of at the at-fault Reina.
Thereafter and throughout the whole match really, Liverpool offered next to nothing. Suarez was an occasional threat from long range while young starlet Raheem Sterling hit the outside of the post in the first half but overall, it was testament to Arsenal’s increased defensive solidity and particularly the work done by Steve Bould as they eased their way to a third consecutive clean sheet with a minimum of fuss. Again, stand in third choice keeper Vito Mannone found himself barely tested in goal as the Gunners‘ backline, led superbly by skipper Thomas Vermaelen alongside the ever improving Per Mertesacker, stood firm.
In the end, the win could have been more convincing had Giroud been a little sharper in front of goal. With time running out, the man brought in from Montpellier put a free header over the bar and got the ball stuck under his feet when it looked like he had a clear run on goal but his troubles were concerns for another day as Arsenal closed out a hugely impressive victory to get their campaign up and running.