Santi Cazorla has already earned favourable comparisons to former Gunners captain Cesc Fàbregas since moving from Malaga to The Emirates this summer. Cazorla showed glimpses of his huge potential against Sunderland, while at Stoke, the Spain international looked the most likely candidate to carve open a stubborn Potters defence. And his endeavour was finally rewarded at Anfield on Sunday as he sparkled in midfield alongside the impressive Abou Diaby. The former Villarreal star is already developing a lethal partnership with Lukas Podolski – there were 23 successful passes between the duo at Anfield – and the pair combined to deadly effect for Arsenal’s opener. In the second half, the 27-year-old opened his goal-scoring account in the English top flight, with a direct run and powerful finish which beat Pepe Reina, although the Liverpool goalkeeper clearly should have done better. Diaby was named man of the match, but Cazorla, who completed 90 per cent of his 72 attempted passes, with over 14 successful in the final third, was equally impressive and he can be the architect behind a positive season for the Gunners.
Liverpool’s captain was making his 22nd Premier League appearance against Arsenal, and for the 32-year-old, it was one of his least impressive against the north London club. In the 31st minute, Gerrard’s casual pass into the feet of Luis Suárez was picked out by Per Mertesacker, which prompted an Arsenal counter-attack fronted by Podolski and Cazorla, who punished the Reds skipper. The mistake epitomised Gerrard’s display which was riddled with uncharacteristic errors – the England international conceded possession on 10 occasions. Indeed, it has been a tough start to the season for the Anfield talisman. He was at fault against West Bromwich Albion, with his sloppy pass leading to Daniel Agger’s sending off for a mistimed, last-ditch challenge on Shane Long in the penalty area. Gerrard has been asked to drop deeper in a three-man midfield, similar to the role he played for England at Euro 2012, but unlike his impressive performances in Poland and Ukraine, he appears to be struggling. With only two recognised strikers to choose from, Rodgers will need Gerrard to return to form – and fast.
Liverpool’s failure to sign a replacement for Andy Carroll, who moved on a season-long loan to West Ham United on deadline day, already appears to be coming back to haunt the Merseyside outfit. Bereft of ideas after 55 minutes of toiling against an unwavering Arsenal defence, Rodgers was limited in his options from the bench – Stewart Downing, Jordan Henderson and Jonjo Shelvey were the only remotely attacking players available. Raheem Sterling out-performed Fabio Borini and Suárez in Liverpool’s front three, but an over reliance on a 17-year-old will not prove a long-standing option for Rodgers. Youngster Adam Morgan has been likened to Reds legend Robbie Fowler, but again, Rodgers would prefer not to turn to an 18-year-old for goals. Liverpool’s wastefulness in front of goal was a gripe for Kenny Dalglish last season, and Rodgers’ side look like they will be hamstrung until January. The Northern Irishman has now overseen Liverpool’s worst start to a league campaign since 1962. Bill Shankly was on hand to revolutionise Liverpool 40 years ago, eventually leading to a title success the following season. Red supporters will hope the current Celt in charge can emulate his achievements.
For years, Reina has been Liverpool’s undisputed first-choice goalkeeper, ushering cult-hero Jerzy Dudek towards an Anfield exit. The Spain international has regularly been rated as one of the best shot-stoppers in the Premier League and in Europe since completing a move from Villarreal in the summer of 2005. But in recent seasons, has 30-year-old has become complacent due to a lack of competition for a starting spot? Under Rafael Benítez, Scott Carson and Charles Itandje were back-up, and now former Middlesbrough shot stopper Brad Jones and Brazilian Doni are supposedly pressing Reina for the number one spot. Mistakes are creeping into the Spaniard’s performances at an increasingly alarming rate. He was at fault for Hearts’ strike at Anfield midweek, and he should have stopped Cazorla’s 68th-minute strike on Sunday. Rodgers, unafraid to drop the under-performing Downing, may do well to consider handing one of Liverpool’s back-up goalkeepers the chance to impress – or signing a suitable deputy in January.
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