Three goals in eight minutes towards the end of the first half secured a 4-1 victory for Arsenal over their top-four rivals Liverpool. A penalty for Liverpool mid way through the second half was cancelled out by an added time cracker from Olivier Giroud which rounded off a splendid afternoon at the Emirates.
Arsenal started in a surprising way with an unsurprising team – Santi Cazorla started as a deep midfielder with Aaron Ramsey on the right wing, as opposed to the anticipated system of Ramsey deep with Özil on the flank and Cazorla higher up the pitch.
It was the Welshman who had the first chance of the game where a defensive mistake led him clean through on goal, but his weak left footed shot was saved and cleared. Arsenal continued with a lot of the possession and both Alexis and Cazorla had half-chances.
Liverpool however seemingly settled and had a massive chance to take the lead, with Markovic through on goal but his attempt to square it for Sterling to tap into an empty net was too heavy. Subsequently Coutinho had a shot wide and Sterling again just missed a shot from the top of the box.
It was Arsenal however who took the lead – in the 36th minute – with Hector Bellerin curling a beauty into the bottom corner with his weaker foot. It started with an inch-perfect long ball from Özil to Ramsey, who laid it off for the oncoming right back who cut inside, turned a challenge from Moreno and curled it home.
Not long after, Arsenal scored again – this time through a brilliantly placed free-kick from Mesut Özil. The German himself won the free kick and stepped up to curl the ball past the keeper into the same corner Bellerin scored in. As Gary Neville would say, ‘the keeper should have done better’ but take nothing away from the accuracy of the free kick. It was brilliant to see.
It got even better on the stroke of HT when Aaron Ramsey turned away from his man to play Alexis Sanchez in. His first touch got the Chilean away from the defender and as the ball sat up perfectly, Alexis hammered an unstoppable strike past the helpless Simon Mignolet.
Liverpool looked more threatening after the break with Daniel Sturridge coming on for Lazar Markovic, and Arsenal were forced into a change with Koscielny picking up a groin strain and Gabriel coming onto replace him.
Sterling gave Liverpool a tender lifeline as he won a penalty through a poor challenge from Hector Bellerin. Henderson just about scored it despite Ospina getting a hand to it. But in stoppage time, that man Olivier Giroud iced the Arsenal cake as he unleashed an impressive cracker from the top of the box past Mignolet’s far post after Alexis had played him in.
All in all it was a brilliant performance, and as the MOTD pundits said, it was no less than Arsenal deserved.
David Ospina: 7 – improvement on his kicking, solid, but probably should have saved the penalty.
Hector Bellerin: 8 – brilliant game, brilliant finish, penalty his only mistake really.
Per Mertesacker: 8 – very assured and solid.
Laurent Koscielny: 7.5 – gave away the ball a couple of times and went off injured. Nothing serious though.
Nacho Monreal: 8 – another brilliant game, a bit sloppy near the end but covered well and supported attacks.
Francis Coquelin: 9 – another massive game, brilliant in possession, commanding off it. World class performance.
Mesut Özil: 9 – a class pass from him led to the first goal, a class free-kick brought about the second. Was skilful in possession too.
Santi Cazorla: 7.5 – hit the post and improved in the second half, but was sloppy and careless in possession in the first half.
Aaron Ramsey: 7.5 – unusually deployed on the right flank but got two assists and had a good game.
Alexis Sanchez: 8.5 – amazing for his goal, 20 in the season, worked hard off the ball and showed Liverpool what they missed out on.
Olivier Giroud: 8 – scored a great goal at the end, worked much harder than he has in previous seasons and has scored 7 in 6 for the Gunners now.
Well, that was fun! To both watch and write about. Anyway, have a good week folks.