x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Adventurous Arsenal show title potential with win over Liverpool

Goals from Cazorla and Ramsey, while holding off the dangerous duo of Suarez and Sturridge, underling the depth of the title hopefuls.

Arsenal's Santi Cazorla scored the opening goal at the Emirates Stadium. Glyn Kirk / AFP
Arsenal's Santi Cazorla scored the opening goal at the Emirates Stadium. Glyn Kirk / AFP

When Arsenal lost to Chelsea in the League Cup on Tuesday, it was hard to avoid the thought that game proved that the superior depth of Chelsea’s resources and to dismiss Arsenal’s title credentials on the basis that their backup is not good enough.

Four days later, Arsenal moved five points clear at the top of the table after outpunching Liverpool in a game that seemed to sum up the harum-scarum, intoxicating nature of the Premier League this season. It is as though, with Sir Alex Ferguson gone and Chelsea and Manchester City also changing managers, there has been a relaxation of discipline.

Everybody is being a bit more daring, a bit more adventurous, and the result is a series of slugfests that may not produce vast quantities of goals but are thoroughly entertaining.

Liverpool had probably begun the more brightly and, had Jordan Henderson not lost his head in the penalty area as space opened in front of him, they might have taken an early lead.

But even during their period of supremacy, Liverpool looked vulnerable on the left side of their back three.

Twice Tomas Rosicky broke into the space behind Aly Cissokho and sent over dangerous crosses, and when Bacary Sagna did so after 19 minutes it produced a goal.

Sagna’s delivery has been much criticised but he found Santi Cazorla. The Spaniard’s header thumped against the post but he reacted sharply and with remarkable technical ability to lash the rebound into the net.

Liverpool’s front partnership of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge were a constant menace, particularly when one or the other found the space to run at Arsenal – which, in the absence of a true holding midfield player, happened rather more often than manager Arsene Wenger might have hoped it would.

At one point, Suarez isolated Per Mertesacker only to be hauled down by Sagna. Suarez took the free kick quickly, allowing Sturridge to cross for Henderson to knock in, but the referee Martin Atkinson had already called the game back to book Sagna – a correct application of the law but one that left Liverpool understandably frustrated.

Arsenal’s greater quality, though, was evident. They almost went two up when Olivier Giroud capitalised on Kolo Toure’s doziness to run through on Simon Mignolet but dinked his finish wide.

They did add a second as Steven Gerrard and Lucas Leiva were drawn to the ball, gifting Aaron Ramsey space 25 yards out. He let the ball bounce and caught his shot perfectly, sending an arcing shot swooping over Mignolet to open for a 2-0 lead that, while not decisive, at least allowed them breathing space.

Arsenal go to Manchester United next week. Win that and they might even become favourites for the title.

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