The Barclays Premier League followers perhaps discovered yesterday that Santi was the man indeed. But Diaby bossed the midfield too and it is a joy to see Podoslki’s workrate and Arteta’s defensive display. The overall collective performance has been solid, mature and composed. One can definitely say that the Arsenal has changed. The organisational skills of the back four looked to have improved, probably through the influence of Steve Bould.
Man of the match : Santi Cazorla (9)
I told you he was the man. Not only did he score and did he provide a splendid assist for Podoslki, he especially gave Arsenal something they have sorely missed : tactical balance in the linking play and deep intelligence in his work on and off the ball. His technique and passing range are sheer class : he showed every one what “two soft feet’ means. The way he took the responsibility of the attacking game and the great ‘toqué‘ he inspired at the end of the match to retain possession were admirable football moments. Brilliant !
His distribution has been poor (44% of his balls actually reached a teammate) and the rookie also might lack confidence in the air, but the way he handled his defense was authoritative given his age. He did also save a couple of shots, in particular a powerful effort from Shelvey in the second half that could have ruined a running record of three match without conceding a goal. Apart from that it is fair to say Mannone didn’t have much to do but did it well.
Jenkinson (6) : He had a good performance, but I disagree with reports stating Jenkinson was impressive. His recovery and last-ditch tackles were useful and even crucial sometimes. But his reading of the game, his distribution and his passing need to improve (lowest pass accuracy, 72, among starters in defense and midfield). He dangerously gave away balls in the beginning of the game and offered two clear counter attacks and opportunities to the opposition. He could have let Sterling score once too because he left his position for no good reason. Expect better teams to take better advantage of these chances. His confidence significantly raised after the goals were scored and he looked much more solid and strong (6 tackles won).
He provided the fans a huge relief with an inch perfect tackle before the break. Mertesacker has been constantly solid for the past three matches. He has tremendous qualities despite his rather unconventional foot work and slow pace. He is putting his height to good use, winning headers (6 clearances, 3 effective) and reading the game perfectly. He can still be shaky and I think Webb would have given a penalty if the opposing team would not have been Liverpool but Manchester United. Two last man tackles.
His partnership with Mertesacker in the heart of defense is already a hit, as Vermaelen offers a different aspect to the defensive game. Always very aggressive and strong, he is the general of the back four. Also, his reactivity and positioning were the main reason why Suarez, a very tricky opponent, was kept silent (8 clearances, 6 effective). He could be sensational this season. Lead his defence to a third clean sheet in three games. One last man tackle.
Kieran. Don’t you shout at Olivier like this, ok? I’m not kidding, the lad needs confidence and support, not you yelling that way to him. This said, Gibbs put in a decent performance. His defending contribution was reduced since Liverpool did not try very hard on his side, Borini having an awful match. His crossing and final ball could improve, offensively (4 crosses attempted, 0 accurate). He has room for improvement but he will become a solid left back for years to come.
My favorite player at the moment, Arteta boasts amazing intelligence on and off the ball. Having a player with such discipline and awareness of what’s going on on the pitch at every second of the game is such an asset for Wenger. His display shows 95% pass completion rate for 104 touches and he has also made numerous important tackles and interceptions. Strong, skillful and intelligent, Arteta provides the general roots and architecture of the midfield three.
He is not man of the match to me because he has room for improvement, which tells you a lot about the beast. He did not make a single reckless pass or run. His power and pace were amazing, and he literary bossed the midfield, shattering many Liverpool counter-attacks and poisoning their link-up play. His offensive projection is potentially the best in the Premier League, and obviously reminiscent of Vieira’s. And the thing is : he made his performance look easy. You can see why Laurent Blanc, Arsène Wenger and Didier Deschamps put so much faith in him. He will be huge if he stays fit and focused. He needs to add efficiency to his game and try shooting more.
Cazorla (9) MOTM, see above. One goal, one assist.
The Ox is very solid on the pitch and nobody can guess he is so young, being competent at both ends of the pitch. His work-rate and focus give Arsène a serious option in central midfield, where he will probably be more fitted than on a wing to influence of the game. He was never able to take José Enrique on and opted for a safer approach such as quick passing. Gervinho or Walcott would have probably been better offensive options but none is as strong in the collective and defensive effort. Wenger has depth in his squad indeed.
He will not get all the credit he deserves because of his not-so-fancy foot work. But he is intelligent and talented. I hope the Premier League can soon recognize the talent this lad’s got. He showed great finish on the first goal and provided a nice one-two assist for the second. He will definitely be a starter and score goals for the Arsenal. His work rate and tracking back of the ball are amazing too. He helped his defenders out more than once (three interceptions, three tackles won) and kept possession artfully when needed. One goal, one assist.
Olivier Giroud will score goals and that is only a matter of time. But in the meantime, you simply cannot slaughter him for his missed chance. That was a chance, not a sitter. He is a genuine danger in the air (6 aerial duels won) and he creates spaces. Replaying Podolski’s goal will show you how intelligent Giroud’s movement is. He took Agger slightly out of the game, and stretched their defence which opened space for Cazorla. Give him time. Bergkamp took seven games to get his first goal and Henry took eight games. Both were against … Southampton. Fairy tale in the making ?
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