A large part of the reason that Arsenal has gotten off to a very good start in Premier League play, and as a result entered Saturday’s game against Liverpool two points ahead of Liverpool, who were tied for second, has been because the Arsenal midfield has been very good. Whether it be the play of Mathieu Flamini in serving as the defensive midfield maestro, who has done a good job to protect the defense, or the playmaking skills of Mesut Ozil, the Arsenal midfield has shone above all others so far.
In beating Liverpool 2-0 to stay atop the league standings and extend their lead to five points over their opponents and Chelsea, whom lost earlier in the day to Newcastle United, the Arsenal midfield was again the reason for the win, as it dominated play throughout the 90 minutes. From the outset, the Arsenal midfield did a fine job of retaining ball possession, as the attacking trio of Tomas Rosicky, Ozil and Santi Cazorla was dangerous going forward, and then did a fine job of pressing Liverpool when they did not have the ball.
If Liverpool happened to get past the first wave of pressure, Mikel Arteta did a fine job of serving as the midfield destroyer, ball winner and initiator of the attack, something that in Arsenal’s two most recent losses was an issue, given that Flamini was the only natural defensive midfielder and he did not play in either game. Because Arteta made the sacrifice he made, this allowed Aaron Ramsey to be able to be an attacking threat, and, once again, he had a man of the match performance.
Arsenal’s first goal, which was a result of a great effort on the part of Santi Cazorla, hit the post, but resulted in a fine effort by him to follow up his miss and hit a sublime shot past Simon Mignolet. Cazorla was able to step foot inside the penalty area thanks to the Arsenal midfield already pushing the Liverpool defense up high, which allowed Cazorla the chance to take advantage of a quality Bacary Sagna crossing pass from the right wing.
After an initial attempt by Liverpool coach Brendan Rodgers to try and balance play in the midfield by bringing in Phillipe Coutinho as a halftime substitution, Arsenal midfield adjusted and continued to control the game. Already having come close to extending their lead, Aaron Ramsey gave Arsenal a 2-0 in the 59th minute, as he took advantage of the space afforded to him to play higher up, along with lax defending by Kolo Toure to connect on a sublime shot that found the upper corner of the goal.
Sometimes stats, at least certain stats, do not do an adequate job of showing how well one team played over another in a game. But here is a stat that does matter in Arsenal’s 2-0 win over Liverpool: the top two tacklers of the game were Arteta and Ramsey with seven and six tackles respectively, while Arsenal had seven of their 12 shots on goal were on target. Arsenal needed to start the month of November on the right foot, given the gauntlet of games they will play. Thanks to the dominance of their midfield, Arsenal began the month in style.