Ramsey (og) 78'
The circumstances truly don't matter when it's the first away league win over Arsenal since the turn of the century.
Nonetheless – and while it's only two games into the campaign – it's hard to escape the parallels between today's home side and 2009-10 Liverpool. A manager with a sterling CV under undue criticism, implausible impossible luck with injuries, and one or two game-changing decisions (right or wrong) which ended up costing the result.
That's not to take anything away from today's winners. Liverpool were already the better side for the 70 minutes until Frimpong's inevitable dismissal, but rarely looked like putting that advantage to use. A 4-2-3-1 often turning into 4-5-1 was able to outplay Arsenal's makeshift central duo, aided by Frimpong's stupid seventh-minute yellow. Early Arsenal threats gave way to little but counter-attacks, where there's always the potential for danger through Arshavin, Nasri, and Walcott, but which the trio usually manages to waste.
Downing, Kuyt, and Henderson – the line of three behind Carroll with Suarez surprisingly left on the bench – constantly rotated. In addition, the ex-Sunderland youngster dropped deeper than we're used to from the CAM in this system, allowing Lucas to get forward and join attacks more often.
Carroll's involvement led to a second-straight game with a goal unduly chalked off for a foul he'd never been whistled for in a Newcastle shirt, knocking down for Downing to blast into the net in the 13th minute. Koscielny's subsequent injury, yet another defensive casualty prompting the entrance of 18-year-old Miquel (the latest pilfered Barca product), helped Liverpool take the game to the home side; Szczesny marvelously saved Carroll's 20th-minute header and easily claimed Henderson's three minutes later.
Arsenal responded after taking ten or so minutes to settle with Liverpool unable to make use of the disarray, but neither Frimpong nor Nasri could beat Reina with their too-easily-allowed shots from distance and Liverpool were grateful to see the intermission. The second half followed a similar pattern as the final 15 minutes of the final – half chances for both but both looked increasingly stagnant, canceling each other out.
Then came the turning point. Well, pick your turning point. Frimpong – treading the narrowest of lines for the duration – finally saw a second yellow for attempted manslaughter on Lucas, after Atkinson had ignored an earlier bad tackle and two obvious cases of dissent. Dalglish responded by immediately sending on Suarez and Meireles for Carroll and Kuyt.
The combination of both ingredients led to Liverpool's win. Suarez's fresh legs terrified Arsenal's tiring, injured, and inexperienced defenders, nearly chipping Szczesny soon after his entrance followed by Downing's narrow rocket pushed behind by the keeper. Three minutes later, Liverpool finally had the goal, mainly thanks to those two substitutions and that ethereal "luck." Suarez and Meireles passed through Arsenal's defense in a neat triangle, but the chance looked gone when Miquel cleared the ball off Ramsey's upper body and into the net. With Suarez probably offside. When it rains, it pours. And it's finally raining harder in North London than Liverpool.
A goal down, a man down, and with absolutely no belief in a comeback, Arsenal conceded a second when defenders insanely allowed Lucas space to run at a retreating back line. The Brazilian lingered just long enough, picking the absolute right pass at the absolute right moment, finding Meireles whose center found Suarez for the tap-in. Two in two for the Uruguayan, obviously on pace for a 38-goal season.
I'm prone to exaggeration, and have said it before, but this was without a doubt Lucas' best game in a Liverpool shirt. Allowed to get forward more often with Adam as the deepest midfielder and Henderson frequently dropping into a three-man central unit, he absolutely bossed the game. There were the usual necessary 'you shall not pass' tackles, but the Brazilian also joined the attack to good effect, using his aerial ability, intelligence, and vision to eventually unlock a surprisingly decent (for 70 minutes) Arsenal rearguard.
Enrique was his closest competitor, with Walcott under lock and key throughout but joining the attack more often than last week as well. Carroll was diligent if blunted by Vermaelen too often, Henderson showed improvement in keeping it simple and constantly moving (similar to Lucas a few years back, if obviously more attacking). And the substitutions worked perfectly. Suarez – clearly lacking in fitness against Sunderland – provided that pace, terror, and cutting edge needed at that point. Meireles showed his versatility and class, able to come on and fill whatever midfield role needed.
There were extenuating circumstances – namely Arsenal's Icarus free-fall – but today's Liverpool demonstrated more than the glimpses of potential we saw last week. Away from home no less, after all the pixels spilled about that problem last season. More cohesion and more fight, leading to more of that luck that's been so dearly needed at key moments.