20 August 2011

Liverpool 2-0 Arsenal

Ramsey (og) 78'
Suarez 90+1'

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.


Bob Sandley said...

great review of the game. For me I thought Enrique was our best player on the day. He completely shut down Walcott and got forward well and often too. Downing also played really well to me, would have liked to see him go 1 on 1 more often and take the defender on but he was at the center of a lot of our good chances. Our new and improved left side is amazing and much better than what we've grown accustomed to. They certainly will justify their transfer fees.

alcatrazzledazzle said...

Excellent analysis as always, Nate.

The lack of complaints I yelled at my TV today about poor defense was a real difference from the earlier friendlies and last week's performance. The defense were solid: contained and shut down the counterattacks, didn't hoof unless somewhat necessary, and seemed to not piss off Reina too much. Improvements!

And hey, an away win at Emirates? This weekend is looking up!


Anonymous said...

Any Carrol is a stiff and will never be worth the money. Would have been so much better spent on ANY athletic striker... So sick of seeing Carrol who is taller than defenders not even jump for headers because he is tired. He's slowwwwwww. No need for slow unathletic big men in todays game.

Anonymous said...

Hahaha. Anon, I don't think Carroll is slow or nonathletic. Carroll can play very well, but Arsenal's defense also played well in my opinion.

Carroll isn't a flashy player, to me, he seems to be drawn in the mold of Kuyt. Not pretty, and at times downright ugly, but effective. (And what a rocket of a left foot!) Carroll is a solid player and I think he'll serve Liverpool well.

Anonymous said...

Other Anon, if you think Carroll is of average speed or fast you are delusional. He can NEVER steal a pass or make a run past ANY defender... he has a great left foot, but it takes forever to come off so we may only see it 3 or 4 times all season. Kuyt has 10x the foot skills of Carroll and works HARD. I wouldn't for a second call what Carroll does work. It's also annoying to see every corner kick go far post for Carroll to head down to someone, which hasn't come close to working yet. Crouch was better at headers and better foot skills. Money would have been better spent on a fast athletic player with foot skills with the knowledge of a Suarez... Carroll's flicks are so godawful.

nate said...

"Crouch was better at headers..."

I'm sorry, think what you will about Carroll – and I'm more in line with Pro-Carroll Anonymous than Anti-Carroll – but this is delusional. Crouch is/was terrible at heading for his height.

Also, Vermaelen was excellent yesterday. One of the best CBs in the league when fit – top 5, easy – which absolves some of Carroll's struggles.

Anonymous said...

so nasty nate wants to excuse Carroll's pants of a game because he had tough competition? If we excuse performances for how good the competition is we will never win a premier league again. Rooney has great games against arsenal, david villa has great games against madrid. CARROLL has had NO great games at liverpool and never will... he has done nothing yet that N'Gog hasn't already done and CARROLL has yet to look anywhere near as good as crouchy... don't let the hype fool you, he scored at newcastle cuz no one worried about him, he had one season of a lucky goal scoring run, now its back to the same guy that you hadn't cared about before his last year at newcastle... crouch sucked at headers for his height? his height has nothing to do with it, crouch was better than carrol at headers and had better foot skill...

scott said...

Carroll is 22 and has barely played more than a season in the premier league. Villa is 28 and Rooney has been playing in the league for 8 years with some of the best players in the world. Give Carroll some time.

scott said...

and carroll's game against manchester city wasn't a great game?

Anonymous said...

it's great you all see potential in Carroll.... but he will never come close to meeting that. He's SLOW and not very ATHLETIC you can't teach those two things. Torres/Rooney/David Villa/Henry/Messi/Ronaldinho/Aguero/Torres/Drogba/Anelka/Balotelli/Ronaldo.... they are all great and all fast and quick... two things carroll isn't.

CheekyFellow said...

Good read. I was able to watch the first half again the next day - from more objective eyes. It is a positive result, obviously, but they lacked sharpness with their passing and other areas. Though, they will improve, and I can't complain with the result.

nate said...

ahahaha "nasty nate."

Yes, my apologies for saying that Crouch is a far worse header than Carroll, using the same word you used to criticize the previous commenter. Delusional. Which evidently was surprisingly well-chosen.

In the future, I'll simply remember not to feed the trolls.

Jay Wright said...

I'd agree with Bob, that Enrique was our clear MOTM, with Kelly pushing him in second place (did Walcott or Arshavin manage to get a single ball into the box all game??)

I'm particularly glad to see Kelly suddenly return to his previous form too, because he looked terrible in pre-season and I thought deserved to be dropped for the Sunderland game!

It was shocking how comfortbale Carragher and Agger were all game also; barring the run and shot from Nasri past Agger, and Arshavin turning Carragher in the box once before overrunning the ball, Arsenal didn't even come close to opening us up again!

justin said...

to even suggest that crouchie was better at headers than carrol has been or ever will be is insane and simply shows that you probably never even had the decency to compare any form of video evidence of the types of goals scored and how they were scored by both players when done with the head...