Liverpool 5 Arsenal 1: The Gunners Capitulate in Grand Style
Anfield (Premier League)
Liverpool: Skrtel (1′, 10′), Sterling (17′, 52′), Sturridge (20′)
Arsenal: Arteta (69′ pen)
After the long wait, a true test of Arsenal’s character was to begin with a trip to Anfield before crucial clashes against Manchester United, Liverpool again and Bayern Munich.
Arsene Wenger made some alterations to the team that picked up maximum points against Crystal Palace as Jack Wilshere’s swift return from injury saw the Ox drafted to the right wing with Lukas Podolski losing his place yet again. I was also concerned when Nacho Monreal was selected ahead of Kieran Gibbs but I’d figured that Gibbsy wasn’t fully fit. I was trying to get a seat to watch the game when Steven Gerrard swung in a cross that was nodded home by an unmarked Martin Skrtel.
Shortly afterwards, Santi Cazorla threaded a neat pass to Olivier Giroud in behind the Liverpool rearguard. Instead of lashing a shot at goal with his favorite left foot, Giroud inexplicably chose to attempt a tame dribble and he was easily bullied off the ball by Skrtel. On the other end, Daniel Sturridge fashioned a chance for himself and let one rip but Wojciech Szczesny was equal to the challenge.
Jack Wilshere made one of his trademark intelligent runs before noticing Monreal lurking on Flanagan’s blind side. Wilshere’s dinked pass missed its intended target but in a twist of fate, Simon Mignolet invoked the spirit of Manuel Almunia to send the ball crashing on a bewildered Flanagan. With Monreal alert to the chance, Skrtel was on hand to play it out for a corner.
Sturridge and Flanagan made mince meat of Monreal on the right but the young fullback’s cross was blocked by an onrushing Szczesny. Gerrard lofted in the corner and Skrtel got ahead of Koscielny to nod Liverpool’s second goal in just 10 minutes, sending Anfield into rapture.
Philip Coutinho located Sturridge with a first-timed pass and with the Englishman one on one with Szczesny, he chose to attempt a delicate chip that sailed effortlessly wide. Raheem Sterling made a fool out of Bacary Sagna and ran at the Arsenal defense before supplying a cut back that was cleared by an exasperated Wilshere. Gerrard executed a training ground move that fell to Luis Suarez’s path and the Uruguayan maverick slammed the post with a peach of a volley. The follow up fell to Kolo Toure but he couldn’t play the ball into an unguarded net.
Arsenal mustered an attack through a Santi Cazorla corner kick but Per Mertesacker’s flick to the far post wasn’t attacked by any of his teammates. Arsenal became the plotters of their own downfall yet again as Mesut Ozil was robbed off the ball further up the pitch but a swift counter attack saw Suarez tee up Sterling for an easy tap in.
To compound Arsenal’s misery, Coutinho threaded another defense-splitting pass to Sturridge and he had all the time in the world to control the ball and pick his spot to make it four. The most shocking part was the mere fact that Arsenal still had 70 minutes to play.
Giroud was having a horrible day at the office but his lethargic play and poor ball control didn’t help his cause either. Arsenal began the second half with more zeal and Wilshere did pretty well to win a free kick on the edge of the area. However, Cazorla chose to kill a bird with a goal gaping at him.
Things went from bad to worse for Arsenal when Sterling skipped past the defenders and left them for dead before firing a shot that was parried by Szczesny. Sterling was allowed to have a second bite of the cherry and his goal made it 5-0. Giroud flicked the ball goalwards but it was an easy save for Mignolet. That was Arsenal’s first meaningful attack after 56 minutes.
Arsene Wenger made wholesale changes with Lukas Podolski, Tomas Rosicky and Kieran Gibbs all coming in at the same time for the disappointing combo of Giroud, Ozil and Monreal. Suarez also scored from an audacious free kick but Szcesny was on hand to make a very good save. With Arsenal’s defense in shambles, Jordan Henderson was clean on goal but he tried to chip the ball, sending in wide.
Arsenal scored a consolation goal when Gerrard tripped the Ox in the box. Arteta stepped up and blasted the spot kick through the middle. He also had a free kick that was saved by Mignolet. Late on, there were efforts from Coutinho and Sterling that were saved by Szczesny.
The final whistle was a relief as I saw the disappointing Gunners walk off the field in shame following a putrid performance. I’ve seen some horrible outings from my team but this one would go down as one of the worst in a long while. Even in the wake of such a resounding defeat, Arsene Wenger’s post-match press conference was as classic as you’d expect.
The Gunners have a crucial match against Manchester United as at this point in time, the confidence of the squad is at its nadir. But as the Ox has stated, we must turn this around.
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