LIVERPOOL (0) vs ARSENAL (2)
ARSENAL manager Arsene Wenger hailed a colossal midfield performance from Abou Diaby after the Gunners plundered their first Premier League win of the season and turned up the heat on new Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers.
Summer signings Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla neatly teed each other up for a goal apiece as the north Londoners condemned the Reds to their worst start to a season for 50 years.
But Wenger singled out Diaby, who offered a glimpse of a talent too often hampered by serious injury with a dynamic, resolute and nuanced display and who inspired Arsenal’s best counter-attacking moves.
“It’s massive for us because he’s a tremendous football player with absolutely everything you want in a midfielder,” Wenger said of the France international’s flirtation with prolonged fitness.
“He hadn’t played a game for a year but he had a good pre-season where we just gave him 45 minutes every three days. Now he looks physically in good shape. There is more to come from him but what he has shown today is already very good.”
Rodgers admitted he would not have let £35m misfit Andy Carroll leave on loan to West Ham last week had he known the club would fail to secure a striking replacement before the transfer window closed on Friday.
The former Swansea manager is hopeful, however, of signing a free agent in tie to be registered by tomorrow’s squad deadline and talked up interest in unattached former Reds striker Michael Owen.
“I can’t say no. Any player I believe can improve the squad, I will look at,” said Rodgers. “We have a very small group. We had 19 training [on Friday]. It is something that would have to be discussed.”
Both sides’ frontlines went into the match with points to prove, with close-season arrival Fabio Borini and Luis Suarez yet to click for Liverpool and Arsenal without any goals at all since May.
The visitors discovered the fluency lacking in previous outings, however, with Diaby, Mikel Arteta and Cazorla dictating play and the latter instrumental in Podolski’s opening goal.
In the 31st minute, the German international pounced on a wayward pass by England captain Steven Gerrard, fed Cazorla and darted 60 yards up the left flank to collect the return pass and drive a low shot underneath goalkeeper Pepe Reina.
When Arsenal struck again, with 22 minutes left, it was the same pair who prised Liverpool open again, this time Cazorla trading passes with Podolski before driving in from the left and embarrassing Reina at his near post.
Wenger’s other summer buy, Olivier Giroud, missed a chance to open his own account but that disappointment was outweighed by starting a campaign with three clean sheets for the first time in 88 years.