Liverpool 1 Arsenal 2: Lessons from a smash-and-grab win
What did we learn from Arsenal's dramatic 2-1 victory over Liverpool at Anfield on Saturday afternoon?
Captain Van-tastic completes smash-and-grab victory
Liverpool’s inability to win games from a commanding position this season has haunted Kenny Dalglish’s side, and the Reds were made to pay for squandering numerous chances when Robin van Persie netted a late winner at Anfield on Saturday. Alex Song chipped a pass into the Dutch striker’s path and the Arsenal captain squeezed a sublime volley past Pepe Reina. It secured three points perhaps undeserved after Liverpool’s dominance, but Wenger’s side have one asset which the Anfield outfit don’t – an out-and-out goal scorer. Van Persie was the difference, equalising in the first half before snatching the crucial goal in the 94th minute.
For many seasons, Wenger struggled to find any able replacement for Jens Lehmann – Manuel Almunia and Lukasz Fabianski were both handed the chance to impress, but were ultimately sub-standard and their indecisiveness spread across the Gunners back four. But Wojciech Szczesny has established himself as Arsenal’s undisputable first-choice, and he showcased his talents on Saturday’s trip to Anfield. The 21-year-old produced a stunning double save to deny Dirk Kuyt’s penalty effort and subsequent rebound, and minutes later denied Jordan Henderson’s low shot. Shortly before half-time, Luis Suárez’s devastating twist, turn and dribble towards the Gunners net was only halted by Szczeny’s out-stretched right palm.
Suárez: The good, the bad and the ugly
Suárez’s altercation with Szczesny appeared to be a certain penalty, but upon closer inspection there was minimal contact, and the Uruguayan was at his theatrical best in tempting the referee Mark Halsey to award a spot-kick. Perhaps at home, the bigger sides can expect lenient decisions, but it once again highlighted the 24-year-old’s cynical style of play. Then, with half-time approaching, Suárez displayed his very best traits, collecting the ball on the edge of the Gunners’ area, ducking and weaving past four Arsenal defenders before he was eventually denied by Szczesny.
Liverpool’s penalty woes continue
Traditionally, Liverpool have a fantastic record when it comes to penalties. The more experienced Reds supporters who enjoyed the club’s success in the 1980s will remember Bruce Grobbelaar’s famous spaghetti legs in 1984, while even the more youthful fans can recall Jerzy Dudek’s magnificent performance in Istanbul. But this season, even the reliable Steven Gerrard has missed from the spot – while Charlie Adam, Kuyt, and Suarez have all spurned spot-kick opportunities. With goals already at a premium for Kenny Dalglish’s misfiring side, Liverpool can’t afford to continue their penalty curse.
Arsenal’s defensive frailties have been exposed throughout the campaign, although Wenger’s side have had to deal with numerous injuries. The Gunners looked susceptible against the Reds, and in particular, the direct running and movement of Suárez, one of the league’s most skilful players, caused Laurent Koscielny and Thomas Vermaelen plently of problems. But the visitors were the beneficiaries of Liverpool’s wastefulness in front of goal – a problem which has hampered their progress in the race for fourth sport and is a weakness Dalglish must address in the summer.