2nd September, 2012
Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla ended Arsenal’s barren start to the Premier League season in an impressive 2-0 victory at Liverpool on Sunday that condemned the hosts to their worst start in 50 years.
One point from the opening three games under new manager Brendan Rodgers represents the worst opening to a league campaign since 1962-63 for a Liverpool team which was not helped by a mistake by goalkeeper Pepe Reina which gifted Cazorla his goal.
The manner of the defeat, against an Arsenal team which had failed to score in the first two matches of the new season, was particularly disappointing given Rodgers’ failure to sign a new forward before the transfer window closed on Friday.
With England centre-forward Andy Carroll having been allowed to join West Ham on loan, Rodgers had expected to sign Fulham’s Clint Dempsey as his replacement.
But Tottenham signed the American instead and that failure, plus the evidence of their opening three games, suggests this will be a trying season for the Merseyside club.
Arsenal’s first league goal in 211 minutes of the new campaign came in the 31st minute at Anfield and was a devastating example of the art of the counter-attack.
Podolski started the move inside his own half, taking a pass from his back line, and moving the ball on to Cazorla before starting a sprint into the Liverpool area.
The German forward timed his run to perfection, arriving on the end of Cazorla’s angled pass to beat Reina from 12 yards.
That was also the first real chance of a drab opening between two clubs long considered among the true giants of the European game but currently struggling to maintain their status among the English elite.
Liverpool appear to be in the greater trouble and might have been in further trouble before the interval from another Arsenal break that ended with a superb pass from Abou Diaby to Olivier Giroud which the Frenchman shot woefully wide from eight yards.
In the 10 minutes between the two Arsenal chances, Liverpool had at least started to show signs of life with promising teenager Raheem Sterling striking the post on the turn after connecting with Steven Gerrard’s header.
Liverpool showed more ambition upon the restart, but that allowed the Gunners to play on the counter-attack and Reina was soon required to save well, parrying a shot from Kieran Gibbs at his near post after Podolski played him in.
Luis Suarez appealing for a penalty after appearing to go down under contact from Per Mertesacker before the controversial Liverpool forward was found by Stewart Downing’s clever backheel and unleashed a drive from the edge of the area which Vito Mannone tipped over.
Reina was forced into action as Arsenal responded, via Carl Jenkinson’s ambitious long-range shot, with the Spanish goalkeeper reacting sharply to keep out the attempt.
Cazorla also came close, driving Podolski’s lay-off just the wrong side of Reina’s left-hand post.
These were warning signs which Liverpool failed to heed and the same pair of Arsenal players combined to carve out their second goal after 67 minutes.
Spain midfielder Cazorla played a short pass to Podolski before taking the return and scoring with a shot which passed straight through Reina.
Downing saw an attempt deflected over and Jonjo Shelvey had two shots saved by Mannone as Liverpool tried to respond.
But Arsenal could easily have scored before the final whistle. Jose Enrique battled hard with Giroud to deny him a shooting opportunity and the French forward headed over, unmarked, from the ensuing corner.