The good vibes just keep on coming this season and yesterday evening, under the fading light of the October sky, The Arsenal knocked down another one of those media narratives that had plagued us in recent years:
“Can’t beat the truly top teams like Liverpool or Man City”
Oh yes we can. Oh yes we can indeed.
Yesterday the atmosphere was rocking, the anticipation was palpable, the discussion in the Horatia on Holloway Road was respectful of a Luverpool team that not only have we failed to beat in ages, but we’d also failed to score at home in the last three games. That simply had to change yesterday and the question was how it would change and would it be enough to secure us three points, or just the one?
Well, we got our answer under the floodlights and that was emphatic from The Arsenal, outscoring the Scousers and bagging ourselves three goals in the process.
And what a start it was from those players. Within a minute we were one up and the whole of Block Five went nuts. A guy three rows behind me was catapulted down to the seat behind me. It was quiet literally ‘limbs’. The goal itself was masterful. Win the ball back in our half, drive forward with lightning speed, pick the perfect pass and get in behind what is clearly a troubled Liverpool back line. Martinelli – the best player on the pitch yesterday – showed exactly why Klopp loves to rave about him and he gave Trent Alexander-Arnold a horrible time for that first half.
That was clearly our game plan for the whole game – get it to Gabby M on the wing – and in the second half, which was shooting down towards my end in the North Bank, it was all in front of me. TAA was injured by halftime but Joe Gomez got the run around too in that second half; Gabriel Martinelli was an absolute nuisance for that Liverpool defence. He scored the first, he assisted for the second, which I’ll admit I didn’t get the best view of from where my seats are and at first I wondered if Saka would be offside. But as soon as you see the replay you can tell that it was just a very, VERY, intelligent run from one of our young stars.
That goal was on the stroke of halftime and was another fantastic counter attacking move which we ruthlessly dispatched, but upon the consumption of a couple of halftime beers, the talk was of how I didn’t really feel like we deserved it. Yes we got the early goal and that was amazing and yes, we got one right on halftime to make the beers taste a little sweeter, but in truth Liverpool were the better team in the first half and they dominated possession and territory. They never massively troubled Ramsdale, but it felt like it was coming and so getting the goal just before Michael Oliver blew up for halftime was, potentially, one of the real defining factors of the game.
That’s because a different Arsenal team emerged in the second half. We showed Liverpool far too much respect in that first half and I think Arteta might have said something like that to the players, because from kick off in that second half we were on top. Suddenly we dominated the ball, we spent time in their half, we were the ones imposing our game and by the end of the match, all of the stats pointed in Arsenal’s favour. Greater xG, more attempts at goal, more on target, more final third passes, more clear cut chances, we were the better team by fulltime and we thoroughly deserved the victory.
Liverpool may point to what is a ‘soft’ penalty, but it’s a penalty, because if Thiago Silva doesn’t get to the ball then he’s got to Gabby Jesus and therefore he’s fouled him. A foul in the box is a penalty. Simples.
Step forward Bukayo Saka who has now firmly put his World Cup penalty heartache to bed. Last season he dispatched a penalty against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, and now he’s bagged us a win at home against a very good Liverpool side.
And this is a very good Liverpool side. There’s no denying that. You could see the way they move the ball, the players they have, the fact that they bagged two goals against us and although Firmino’s equaliser for number two was against the run of play, it showed how they can very quickly turn it on and hurt you. And let’s not forget how Firmino was a sub that needed to be made because of Luis Diaz’s injury in the first half. They have depth and they have quality players in that attack.
But yesterday they didn’t click as much as we did. For their first goal I think Gabriel at the back will be a little disappointed with his ‘swing and a miss’ attempted clearance which put them in for Nunez’s first goal, then the move for Firmino’s goal was pretty well constructed I have to say, but some of their other players were kept very quiet yesterday. Props must go to Mikel Arteta and Tomiyasu coming in at left back. Before the game a few of us had wondered if Arteta had gone full ‘Galaxy Brain’ with that decision, but in the cold light of today it looks like a master stroke. Why? Because one of the things Tomiyasu is good at is winning duels. Him and Saliba are probably the two best at it at the club and Arteta matched him up to Salah to win his duels which he did expertly. It also worked because Liverpool basically bypassed their midfield for most of the game and looked for those long diagonals to the players playing in those wide positions. Their game plan was clearly to get Sala and Diaz in behind our full backs and whilst last season that worked a treat, this season we essentially had four big, tall, fast, centre halves playing against their four attackers. That meant any long ball over the top could be nodded away by our players who were playing full back, or if it went to the centre halves they would also sweep it up without much fuss.
And so the game, the points, the knocking down of the media narrative, was ours. We deserved this, we have collected maximum points in two very tough games, we’re in good shape right now in the league. I still don’t think anyone is really believing that anybody is going to beat Man City this season, but at least we are on track for our goals we set at the start of the season. We wanted to be in with a shout of top four and we wanted to be competitive in games. We certainly got that yesterday. And more.
Catch you guys tomorrow. I’m on the Same Old Arsenal podcast at 8pm this evening so come and have a listen if you’ve got time and fancy reliving some of yesterday with the gang.
Have a good one peeps.
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