Liverpool recorded their first ever win at the Emirates after a good display against an under-strength Arsenal. Missing the likes of Gervinho, Wilshere and Djourou, Wenger had to field youngsters Carl Jenkinson,Emmanuel Frimpong and the (maybe) outgoing Samir Nasri. Kenny Dalglish, meanwhile, chose to leave Luis Suarez out of the starting line-up.
Arsenal were immediately in trouble as Laurent Koscielny came off with a back complaint, adding to their injury woes. Spain under-19 international Ignasi Miquel came on for his league debut, but he and Jenkinson looked shaky under pressure from the Liverpool forwards. Arsenal were kept in the game for a long period due to towering displays from their experienced defenders, Vermaelen and Sagna, while Emmanuel Frimpong provided energy in front of them on his first Premier League start.
But Liverpool undoubtedly had the better of the first half. They played what could loosely be called 4-4-2, but very fluid with lots of drifting from Kuyt, Henderson and Downing. Kuyt in particular was impressive, often dropping off into the channels while working tirelessly off the ball as always, sometimes occupying both Miquel and Sagna. However, Liverpool failed to create any clear chances in the first half, with their best effort being Andy Carroll’s header from Jose Enrique’s cross.
Arsenal are not used to the away team dominating possession at the Emirates and didn’t offer too much threat on the counter. Their trio of attacking midfielders failed to create much; Walcott was quiet, Arshavin was off-colour, though Nasri was bright and looked as likely as any Arsenal player to make an impact.
In the second half, Arsenal started to have spells of possession but still didn’t create much. Their best chance of the game came when the otherwise mediocre Arshavin won the ball of Martin Kelly and squared for van Persie, who should have done better.
But Liverpool still looked the more likely to score, especially after Frimpong’s sending off for a second booking on 70 minutes. Suddenly, Arsenal had less protection for their defence, which was exacerbated by the introduction of the energetic Meireles and Suarez for the tiring Kuyt and Carroll, injecting the fluidity back into Liverpool.
The immediate beneficiary of Frimpong’s exit was Charlie Adam, who slipped through a couple of glorious through balls to Downing and Suarez; both denied by the impressive Wojciech Szczesny. But the breakthrough did come, with the Liverpool substitutes combining. Suarez played a one-two with Meireles, which was intercepted by Miquel, but ended in heartbreak for the debutant whose clearance cannoned in off Aaron Ramsey.
The substitutes combined again for the second goal; Lucas marauded forward and found Meireles running into the box, before he squared for Suarez to get an easy tap-in. The exclusion of Suarez from the starting line-up may have been something of a surprise, but it paid dividends as he came off the bench to give Liverpool the win.
Liverpool will have been delighted to not only defeat Arsenal but effectively dominate the game, finishing with 55% of possession. Charlie Adam contributed to this; look at his chalkboard for this match compared to last week’s outing against Sunderland. He seems to be playing more simple, effective passes instead of the “Hollywood” balls he’s been lambasted for, and his pass completion rate is better (78%, up from 70%). With him and Lucas confidently keeping the ball moving, the Reds’ midfield could be a real force to be reckoned with.