Well, that was a fun day out in the sunshine. My excitement around the game was fully justified and my predictions around the tempo of the game were met. Arsenal rotated heavily, making 7 changes whilst Liverpool put out the same side they had done for the past two games. There was no way they could maintain last weekend’s intensity.
The narrative before the game centred around strikers. Firstly, Giroud, the most beautiful man in the league was caught with his pants down at the weekend. He tweeted the most mellow dramatic pregame message about how he’d let down the universe. Not smart PR just before a game, you have to say. However, what I will say is the outpouring of disdain about his behaviour is pathetic. He’s a sportsman, he’s made a mistake, scoring ‘I’m so fucking moralistic’ points on Twitter is so boring. The people who do that are usually the people with the darkest secrets… Ryan Giggs / Ted Haggard.
The other massive bit of news was that Arsene had dropped Nik B from the squad entirely and opted for to take a Ligue 2 rookie and whack him in the starting line-up. My opinion on this was that it was a massive statement. Nik is 25, is stronger and more experienced… and Wenger had told the world he was back up. He’d instead opted for the future. Yaya Sanogo has all the ingredients to be a very good player, bar sustained fitness… how would he cope? Well, let’s get into the report and I’ll tell you…
I’ll zip through the interesting bits…
Liverpool had the best of the opening chances as Suarez and Sturridge carved out some pretty clever opportunities. However, the first goal fell to us, Sanogo crafted a shot in a bustling penalty area, the ball struck a Liverpool play allowing Chamberlain to rush in a sweep the ball home. Sanogo assisting the assister right? Yes. That’s right. Another goal for Chamberlain and another glimpse into what he can offer us going forward.
Our second goal came early in the second half, Ozil picked out Chamberlain out wide, he picked up the ball whilst accelerating impressively past his full back, he then picked out Podolski in the area where he was on hand to dink the ball home. A lovely slick move that put us comfortably ahead.
The game wasn’t finished though, Liverpool landed a penalty when Lukas tried to make a tackle on Suarez. Was the kick enough to make a man go down? No. But it’s Suarez, so he hit the deck and Stevie G converted the penalty.
Our luck was in though, there was a nailed on penalty when Chambo thumped into Suarez, Howard Webb didn’t give it. No tears from me. Steven Gerrard should have gone for two bookables and Sterling shoved the ref and should have gone as well. I hope Arsenal fans who bemoan the 17 trophies we’ve missed out on because of refs now realise they’re sh*t for everyone.
The game finished up 2-1. We take on Everton in a competition that looks very winnable from here.
Whilst Liverpool weren’t able to press like they did last week, they still carved us open numerous times in the opening 45. Sturridge had an off day, Lukas Fabianski had an on day. Some fine saves were made and some great chances were surrendered. The main problem for Liverpool is that there midfield is only really effective when it’s packed full of energy. 3 days Stevie G doesn’t work. Joe Allen doesn’t work. Coutinho struggles with two weaker players.
Nearly all the exciting Liverpool came from Sturridge and Suarez combining. The Englishman really is exceptional. So fast and tricky with beautiful timing for his runs.
Two games in a row the German has showed up to the party. He looked in control again, the interest was there and he was pulling the strings to a consistent rhythm, rather than his plucking motion of late. Hell, he even threw himself into some challenges mucking in with defensive duties. It’s not hard to get British fans on board if you’re a player. Show you care, don’t melt into the background and dazzle. Easy right? I’ve been impressed with him over the last two games. I thought he was helped yesterday by the surging runs of Chamberlain and the obvious pace Sanogo gave us. Even the movement of Podolski gave us something new yesterday. Everything ticked over much more efficiently.
I was critical of Wenger pregame for including him in the starting line-up, it felt extreme, that now, our best option outside Giroud is a very young kid who is very raw. Still, that didn’t detract from his performance. Whilst I’m not whacking skippy like some, I thought he showed some very promising signs. Firstly, the bits that he needs to improve on are the obvious. His first touch and his passing were both a little loose and his composure is shaky. I thought he was shouldered off the ball a little easy at times, but his movement was a problem for the centre backs. What he does have is pace and mobility. He gives us the big man up front effect, but the big man with the ability to move. We’ve really struggled without a central striker who can gain that yard over a defender.
Other things I liked about him? Well, his passion. He’s like and excitable kid, because that’s what he is. When we scored he went totally crazy, even more so for the second. Fans react well to that. He really cared, at one point, he even tried to gee up the crowd. There’s a bundle of personality in there, which I love. The last player I can remember doing that consistently was Patrick Vieira. I’d imagine that his attitude is largely shaped by the postman story. When you’re staring the barrel of a career delivering letters, you’re probably going to appreciate playing in front of 60,000 people against Liverpool in the FA Cup.
He’s a very raw player, but not too dissimilar to Adebayor in size and stature, just a long way behind where Ade was when he joined… and to be honest, a motivated Adebayor is an option we’ve needed since he left. The set up next year is likely to be a mega striker, Giroud and Sanogo… a nice mix right there. I just hope the temptation this summer isn’t to say… ‘how can I kill the career of Sanogo?’… he’s a long way off being the quality we need and his injury record really is shocking. He’s the Diaby of strikers until he proves fitness over the course of a couple of years.
I think if there were any negatives to take away yesterday it would have been the subs. I still can’t wrap my head around Wenger taking off Podolski at 70minutesevery game… and three days before we play Bayern, playing Ozil and Flamini for the full 90minutes. Seemed crazy to sub off the players that wouldn’t go to Germany, especially considering how rested the Germans will be. I mean, you can’t have it both ways… and prioritising the FA Cup because we can win it is probably the sensible option, but I don’t think that’s what the manager was doing.
I think the German sent out a strong message to Arsene and showed that he’s good for the odd goal or two. At one point it felt like we were playing 4-4-2 with Lukas drifting inside. He took his goal really well and involved himself in the game where he could. He’s not the full package, but he’s certainly good enough to throw on when we’re chasing a game. You have to say, it’s probably curtains if your manager insists you cannot be trusted past 70minutes. A shame, because he clearly has a lot of passion for the club and his team mates… Watching his goal back, his burst of pace into the box to nip in front of the Liverpool centre back was exactly what we’ve missed of late.
When there is pace, there’s inpsiration for Ozil. Yesterday, Podolski, Chambo and Sanogo offered that… we had runners, movement and options. Wenger should rotate more. Our starting 11 without Ramsey and Theo lacks movement as it is… when that starting 11 is overplayed, it lacks it embarrassingly so. Wenger has once again been shown that he can trust the players who sit behind the starting 11. He needs to rotate more positively for the run in. If he does, we have a chance…
Anyway, a great day… I’m off to harrass some scousers!