A View From the Paddock: Liverpool 5-1 Arsenal

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Dan Holland reflects on a thoroughly enjoyable day at Anfield where the Red men put on a superb team performance and demolished a good Arsenal side.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, February 8, 2014: Liverpool's Raheem Sterling celebrates scoring the third goal against Arsenal during the Premiership match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)
Raheem Sterling celebrates scoring the third goal against Arsenal. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Firstly, my apologies for my lack of match reports in recent weeks (not that you’ve missed me I’m sure) but my laptop had an accident involving my three-year-old son and glass of water!

I’ve missed being able to write reports on the home games so was really looking forward to writing this tonight but I certainly didn’t expect to have the honour of describing and witnessing what we all saw or heard about at Anfield today.

As we left Grimsby this morning at the unearthly hour of 7.30am, I did have a certain amount of positivity ahead of the game with the league leaders and expected a one or two goal cushion.

As the morning moved on though my confidence was waning slightly as I realised the previous two occasions I travelled with the supporters club this season had ended in a defeat against Southampton and the recent draw with Aston Villa.

The second negative thought occurred when seeing the team news; I fully expected and wanted to see Joe Allen back in the starting line up at the expense of Raheem Sterling.

I thought Allen would provide a much needed screen in front of the back four to counteract the threat of Ozil and Cazorla!

It’s a good job Brendan picks the team and sorts out the tactics and I sell houses as I couldn’t have got that more wrong could I?

As the game started the Kop again were in good voice and the Paddock believe it or not also joined in as we did against Everton.

I don’t think it is a coincidence that in both games the team got off to a great start because with that vocal support behind you it must give the players that bit extra so take note if your attending Anfield between now and May we as fans can play a huge part.

After some 40 odd seconds, Luis Suarez – not for the last time today – led Koscielny a merry dance resulting in the Arsenal centre half conceding a free kick in a dangerous position.

It was our skipper that presided over the free kick and as he looked at the options I, half tongue in cheek, said to the lad sat next to me “one up inside a minute will do nicely”, and what happened? 55 seconds in and a very impressive Martin Skrtel put us one nil up.

Even scoring a goal inside the first minute suggested what the next 20 minutes would hold. Since leaving Anfield this afternoon I have been racking my brains to think of a more impressive and dominating performance.

The only two games I can think of were against Juventus in 2005 when we went two nil up against the Italian giants in a very impressive 25 minute spell and in 1988 when we swept aside Nottingham Forest 5-0.

Today’s 20 minute blitz though was more impressive due to Arsenals previously impressive defensive record and the fact we had come off the back of a poor performance at West Brom.

Skrtel added his second after nine minutes when he brilliantly met another Steven Gerrard cross that was behind him but the big Slovakian manoeuvred his head and body to direct the ball into the top corner of the net.

After the second goal, numbers three and four should and could have followed — Daniel Sturridge‘s lofted shot drifting just wide then the same players centre just eluded strike partner Suarez.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, February 8, 2014: Liverpool's Martin Skrtel celebrates scoring the first goal against Arsenal during the Premiership match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)
Martin Skrtel celebrates scoring the first goal against Arsenal. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

What followed from Suarez then was nothing short of sublime and stunning volley struck the angle of post and bar with the Arsenal keeper stranded.

The ball then fell to Kolo Toure who couldn’t find the empty net.

Suarez’s shot deserved a goal and could have been arguably his best goal yet.

This flurry of chances wasn’t the end of this pulsating twenty minute spell. A fully deserved third goal followed and I think typified what a Brendan Rogers’ team is all about.

It started with some fantastic pressing from Jordan Henderson in the midfield area, this began a swift and incisive move with a Suarez cross finding both Raheem Sterling and Sturridge at the far post after two untrackable runs into the box this time the winger won the foot race and netted Liverpool’s third.

At this point the whole of Anfield were in dream land. I personally couldn’t quite believe it and kept looking at the scoreboard which confirmed yes we were up 3-0 and yes we had only played 16 minutes and yes it is Arsenal were playing.

Surely this couldn’t get any more convincing, could it? Yes it could and yes it did when on 20 minutes a typically pinpoint pass from Philippe Coutinho found Sturridge who typically took the ball in his stride and an early shot left the Arsenal keeper rooted to the spot and it was four nil.

At this point Liverpool did take the foot off the gas a little but nobody could bemoan this, or so you would have thought.

I think it testament to Rodgers and his exacting standards that even at 4-0 up he was on the touchline picking up on every error from a Liverpool player no matter how small an error.

An otherwise immense Jordan Henderson wasted a couple of balls when easier passes were on, Rodgers picked up on it.

Rodgers also laid criticism at Cissokho, Gerrard and Strurridge for very minor errors but this attention to detail and the ruthlessness is rubbing off on the players.

Just before the break Arsenal had a set piece on their right hand side and Sturridge started running back to help defend when Rogers told him to stay on the half way line, Sturridge turned to the gaffer and said, “But I pick up Jack [Wilshere].”

Rogers acknowledged this with a thumbs up and left Sturridge to do the job he knew he had which I thought was amazing discipline and brilliant to see.

Not only was Rodgers critical with his own players he wasn’t happy with the fans when a minority bemoaned the fact that Sturridge had refused the chance to break forward quickly and held up the ball and laid it back to Henderson.

Rodgers turned to face the fans and waved his hands in the air and shouted at the fans to give his player a break or words to that effect anyway.

But after all this excitement the first half drew to a close and gave everyone a chance to catch their breath.

On a personal note I have a good friend who now lives in Australia and is an Arsenal fan to boot. As I checked my phone I saw I had a number of ‘Whats App’ messages from him which slowly became less positive.

The first one suggested they still had hope, the second less so the third “a goal before half time [for Arsenal] will make it interesting, the fourth “I’ll shut up now”. This really made me smile as is nice to see an opposition fan suffer however good a friend.

The second half didn’t and probably couldn’t live up to the first half but Arsenal‘s suffering continued early in the second half when another incisive run from Sterling was found by Toure and at the second opportunity added his second of the day at the Kop end.

I became worried at this point that we might win a penalty because in a fight for the ball between Sterling and Skrtel there would have only been one winner!

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, February 8, 2014: Liverpool's manager Brendan Rodgers urges his side on even at 4-0 against Arsenal during the Premiership match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)
Brendan Rodgers urges his side on even at 4-0 against Arsenal. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Arsene Wenger responded by making a triple substitution when the faultless Jon Flanagan finally let Mesut Ozil out of his pocket.

The substitution made very little difference and in fact we nearly added a sixth when a stunningly precise 35-40 yard free kick from Suarez nearly found the top corner but for a brilliant save.

Arsenal did get a consolation goal when Mikel Arteta put a penalty straight down the middle of the goal; the penalty came after Gerrard made his only mistake of the game and inexplicably lunged at Alex Oxlade Chamberlain despite Coutinho tracking the England man’s run all the way.

The rest of the game petered out and 5-1 it finished with Rogers giving Sturridge, Gerrard and Suarez much deserved rests ahead of Wednesdays trip to Fulham, where we must follow up this performance and get the three points unlike at West Brom after the Everton game.

My man of the match today was Sterling but to be honest nobody played badly, other notable performances for me were Coutinho who is again looking like the player he was last season and Flanno who is quickly becoming an exceptional full back.

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