So often the story with Arsenal is now well we played and how unlucky we were to lose. Quite the opposite today as we inflicted a first home defeat of the season on Liverpool.
A header from a cross and a volley from a lofted through-ball – not exactly Arsenal-like goals under Arsene Wenger, but a welcome variation from the slow and indecisive tippy-tappy norm; a ‘Plan B’, if you would.
I saw a stat before the game that said Arsenal play 96% of their passes on the floor, the highest in any of the top 5 leagues in Europe. When you look at the clinical finishing of Robin van Persie from almost any position this season you have to wonder why we don’t mix it up more often. In fact, the pace of Walcott is reason enough to try a ball over the top more often. Barca play great passing football but still get it off the ground occasionally, and when you have a player as fast as Walcott, who scores most of his goals from those kinds of passes, this really needs to be done more often.
But it’s not just about the goals today – at the other end Wojciech Szczesny was absolutely brilliant. On 17 minutes, he kept out Dirk Kuyt’s penalty and, even more impressively, his follow-up shot. Given that the dispicable Luiz Suarez blatantly dived to win the spot-kick, at least we can say justice was done.
Although we conceded from a strange Laurent Koscielny own goal not long afterwards, Szczesny made further saves from Suarez, who was looking threatening on the ball, running at our often bemused defenders. Indeed, for much of the game Liverpool did all the attacking, but our goalkeeper was a commanding presence coming for crosses and set-plays, easing the pressure on his back four.
Apart from Szczesny, Sagna and van Persie, I can’t really think of many positive contributions. The team couldn’t keep the ball today and hardly created any chances. As we went into stoppage time I was prepared to take the draw and run.
But van Persie added another great Anfield moment for Arsenal. It’s hardly Michael Thomas-esque in its importance, but it’s up there with Ljungberg, Pires and Arshavin moments of quality at that same end, and it continues a recent resurgence in form. Never would I have expected six points from six from the Spurs and Liverpool games. It might well have ended hopes of 4th place for Kenny Dalglish, and it puts us three points ahead of Chelsea, who lost to West Brom later in the day.
Chelsea might be worth an article of their own. They look utterly lost at the moment and it would take an almighty collapse from us for them to finish above us.