Ahh, revenge. Sweet, sweet revenge. Pride can be a powerful thing to play for.
That is the Liverpool I want to see every time out. They made one mistake, a Kuyt misclearance from a corner, which Arsenal was able to take advantage of, making the game marginally more nerve-wracking than it should have been, but that was all the joy the Gunners had today and those nerves weren’t left wracking for very long. Not only was every single Liverpool player good, more importantly, there have been games they had more chances and didn’t score at all. With less shots on goal, recent performances aside, they scored on the ones they got, which is a rarity to be sure.
The line-up was a bit of a surprise, but one that worked exactly as imagined. Crouch came back early from surgery, Gerrard started in a role similar to Kuyt’s supporting him, Pennant and Gonzalez gave Liverpool excellent width and pace on the flanks (absolutely necessary when Crouch is the lead striker), and they were well supported in attack by Aurelio and Arbeloa.
So many players were special today, but everyone played well, so don’t look too deeply into any omissions, but I feel the need to single out a few. First and foremost, what can be said about Peter Crouch? First hat trick against Arsenal since Fowler’s, each goal scored differently (right foot, header, left foot). Each goal was superb as well. The first coming after a delicious one-two between Pennant and Arbeloa (backheeling the ball to each other), which led to a low cross from Arbeloa that Crouch got to before Toure. The second from a whipped cross by Aurelio that was perfectly placed for Crouch to attack with his head. He rounded off the day by showing off that great touch for a big man™; this time, the cross came from Pennant, but it was Crouch’s control before slotting it away that made the goal.
In between Crouchy’s second and third, Agger got in on the act, scoring from a free kick (you know it’s a good day when Liverpool is scoring from set plays). And even though they weren’t troubled that often, both he and Carragher were typically solid. Mascherano was the epitome of a holding midfielder, couldn’t have asked for more from passing, tackling or movement. He was also more than willing to chase anywhere to obtain position, without losing the shape of the team. Easily his best game in his short Liverpool career and showing all the promise he came to England with. As already said, all the wide players did their jobs to perfection; the width, pace, and crossing were all excellent. As with Mascherano, it may have been Aurelio’s best game in a Liverpool shirt, while Arbeloa showed why right back is considered his best position. I can effuse about players’ performances all day long.
Last season, Liverpool only took 4 points from games against Chelsea, United, and Arsenal. This season, it’ll be 6. Clearly, it’s not good enough, especially not for title contenders, but it’s an improvement nonetheless. Surely something to build on, and with Liverpool still in a fight for 3rd and with less points than last season, it’s at least one sign of progress.
This should be an excellent start to the close of the season, and should be a jumping off point for the final push, both in Europe and to finish the league. A game like this, especially one so tinged with revenge, can only be good for morale. And it was played in such a way, at such a high level, while still holding some players back. Gerrard was able to come off early for rest (replaced in the 57th minute), Kuyt featured as a sub, and Bellamy, Sissoko and Finnan were able to be left out. At the same time, new players such as Mascherano, Pennant, Gonzalez, Aurelio and Arbeloa, all in their first campaign, played some of their best football of the entire year.
This is exactly what Liverpool needed. Now keep it up.
Can’t wait for PSV on Tuesday.