LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 02: Raheem Sterling of Liverpool battles for the ball with Mikel Arteta of Arsenal during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Arsenal at Anfield on September 2, 2012 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Arsenal traveled to Anfield today and took all three points on offer, as a stout defensive resistance provided the platform for two slick counterattacking goals. Arsenal have now defended for 270 minutes without conceding, have started with three clean sheets for the first time since 1924, and are the ONLY Premier League team not to concede a goal so far this year.
Anyhow: follow us after the jump for how all the action went down!
Liverpool would start with new loanee Nuri Sahin, who was a reported Arsenal target for some time. Accompanying him in midfield were Joe Allen and Steve Gerrard for his Premier League debut.
Per Mertesacker would pick up a yellow card on six minutes as Luis Suarez nearly blew past him, and although there was a bit of a tug, Suarez did fall over mighty easily. His free kick was inaccurate. Both teams had half chances in the first 12 minutes, Fabio Borini shooting over the bar and Santi Cazorla having a shot saved by Reina.
Both sides were looking a little loose at times, and the match slowed down over the next ten minutes or so. Arsenal were not getting the ball into dangerous positions still, and when Olivier Giroud was involved, the Gunners were not managing to find the knockdowns from him. Liverpool weren't offering much going forward, either, but Arsenal were doing their best to give them chances, Mertesacker's careless pass falling to Raheem Sterling, whom Mikel Arteta dragged down, earning a yellow.
Two minues later, Mertesacker passed it straight to Liverpool again. It was a worrying pattern. But again, Liverpool's passing wasn't much higher in quality, and as Steven Gerrard conceded possession fall too easily, and two passes later, Cazorla was charging at Liverpool's penalty area. He laid it off to the left where Lukas Podolski was waiting, and the German slid the ball neatly under a desperate defender and into the far corner.
1-0 to the Arsenal, 31 minutes in.
Arsenal were looking more lively, but Abou Diaby couldn't cross for Giroud after his charging run. Liverpool had a succession of corners, which gave Arsenal the stereotypical trouble, and in the end, Sterling smashed a shot against the outside of the goal. Sterling thought he had a penalty shout a couple minutes later, but Mertesacker had gotten the ball before Vito Mannone poked the ball away to an Arsenal clearance.
Liverpool continued to pressure, but perhaps committed too many men to the cause, because Poldi sprung Diaby, who did ever so well to charge upfield on the counter and set up Giroud for another great chance, although Reina had it covered fairly well, and the Frenchman shot wide on 41 minutes.
Halftime arrived without much further incident, Arsenal clearing their lines when they had to. Overall, the first half was a bit tactially chaotic, the game resting more in individual error and good play rather than coordinated pressing (although Liverpool were pressing much better than Arsenal much of the time).
The second half started with no changes.
52 minutes on, Suarez got wrong side of Mertesacker again, and the BFG appeared to possibly bring him down in the box, but it's Suarez, so Howard Webb just sort of laughed. A minute later, Gibbs had a good low effort from a sharp angle saved. Liverpool brought on Stewart Downing for Borini, moving Suarez to lone striker, perhaps with Sterling coming infield too.
Luis Suarez thought Vermaelen handled in the area on 55 minutes. Everyone laughed.
Liverpool were pressing for an equalizer, and Suarez's shot from 18 yards tested Mannone, but the Italian was able to push it over the bar. Arsenal continued to defend stoutly, with excellent contributions from Arteta. Santi Cazorla put one just wide on 66 minutes.
Nuri Sahin would depart on 67 minutes, Jonjo Shelvey replacing him.
One minute later, Arsenal would spring another counter, and Podolski would play a lovely one-two with Cazorla, the Spaniard taking the return pass and slamming a shot home at the near post, Pepe Reina really at fault. 2-0 to the Aresnal, twenty minutes to go.
Still, Liverpool were pressing on, and Aresnal had to sustain a fair amount of pressure for five minutes without clearing convincingly. Liverpool were not giving up, Suarez especially, he working hard to take the ball away from Arteta and starting another attack.
Andre Santos replaced the excellent Podolski on 82 minutes. Giroud had a good run at goal halted by Jose Enrique, and then headed the corner over the bar. Liverpool were still coming, though, and Mannone had to beat away a Shelvey effort on 87 minutes, Vermaelen on hand to clear the rebound away. Suarez tried to chip it over on the slide on 89 minutes, but he put it over the bar. Shelvey had a good crack on 90 minutes, but Mannone did a great job diving back to put it behind.
Laurent Koscielny came on for Thomas Vermaelen on 91 minutes. Liverpool were now hoofing the ball into the area hopefully, and Arsenal were having fun flailing around at clearances. And they did clear them all. Howard Webb blew for full time.
2-0 to the Arsenal. Clean sheet. Yes. A win at Anfield: yes. 270 minutes without a goal against: yes.