A thumping victory in which the scoreline actually seems to flatter Liverpool. We had a number of gilt-edged opportunities but couldn’t quite finish, while Liverpool rarely threatened. After a tetchy couple of performances, this is one that felt in the bag for most of the match, and the persistent question wasn’t “will Liverpool pull one back?” but “when will we get another?” I looked at the performances of Giroud and Suarez in this post; here, I offer quick run-down of the entire squad with stats from whoscored.com:
- Ramsey—8.77: delivered yet another exquisite “goal of the season” candidate with a perfectly weighted volley that might have just kissed Mignolet’s fingertips on its way in. A half-inch lower and it’s saved; a half-inch higher and it hits the woodwork. Aside from that, another superb all-around performance, 2nd in tackles (6) and interceptions (2), as he and Arteta helped to dominate the midfield and all but nullify Sturridge and Suarez.
- Cazorla—8.2: just as sublime was Cazorla’s goal as the diminutive domino headed a bullet off the post and volleyed the rebound over a helpless Mignolet. He was part of an onslaught that continually shredded Liverpool’s midfield and defense, forcing Rodgers to change from the 3-5-2 to a 4-3-3 in order to bolster the defense, but it was too little, too late.
- Arteta—8.09: I don’t know how many times I murmured “Arteta” as I watched; he was everywhere he needed to be, shielding the back four, breaking up attacks before they could develop and launching our own attacks. Seven tackles led the team, as did his 106 paases and 94% passing accuracy (others, like Kos actually had a higher accuracy but far fewer passes).
- Szczesny—7.93: It’s a bit odd to see Szcz appear this on the list given how much we seemed to control the game. Then again, he was aggressive and made a number of nice saves, even on plays that were ruled off-sides anyway. He made four saves, but more importantly, he claimed just about every cross that came into the area. Aside from one botched clearance that bounced off of Sturridge and right back to him (let’s say he was being cheeky instead of careless…), he was confident without being reckless and earned his third clean sheet of the season.
- Giroud—7.79: He struggled to score and spurned a number of good chances, but it wasn’t a lack of effort or poor finishing. Passes were just inches out of reach, and he had one lob over Mignolet that almost struck gold. More important was his all-around game, which included three tackles, three clearances, two key passes, and last but not least, 79% passing accuracy. This on its own is not terribly impressive, especially held against Arteta’s 94%, but it does show a marked improvement from his 65% accuracy on the season and indicates that his contribution went beyond merely shooting.
- Koscielny—7.48: Koscielny turned in his first dominant performance in a while, good enough to forget the moment when Sturridge handed him his jock-strap along the endline. He harassed and closed down on Sturridge and Suarez all evening, even pressing higher up the pitch to make tackles above midfield to deny service to them. Five tackles and three interceptions only tell part of the story because he was so effective in making sure that neither Sturridge nor Suarez were available to be passed to in the first place.
- Gibbs—7.43: A brilliant turn from the side-line nearly had him in on goal but sadly saw him pull up lame with might be a muscle-cramp, but he turned in a masterful performance as part of a squad that shut down Liverpool’s vaunted attack. Though he seemed to stay home in the first half as part of a cautious approach, he increased his forward runs as the occasion permitted. Let’s hope he recovers from the knock quickly; he’s becoming one of the best left-backs around…
- Sagna—7.28: Lucky to have only drawn a yellow card for pulling Suarez down, in my opinion. Looking past that, he led the team in clearances with four, but also just abused Cissokho and Sakho as he marauded down their left flank to the point that Cissokho had to be subbed off to preserve some shred of dignity. Sagna might have a few words for Cazorla for failing to head home, but I’m sure he’ll get over it and credit himself with an assist anyway.
- Rosicky—7.25: While he didn’t do anything to turn heads, he was everywhere, disrupting anything Liverpool tried to do before they could do it, making life miserable for anyone who tried to get things going. He picked up a number of loose balls that, while not credited as interceptions, kept our attack going or prevented Liverpool from getting a clearance. This pressure kept them on their heels all night.
- Özil—7.25: a strangely muted performance from the man, which saw a number of poor touches and passes, and he had “only” one key pass and a mere 88% pass-accuracy. That said, his movement off the ball was still as incisive as ever, and just having him on the field forced Liverpool to keep an eye on him no matter how quiet he actually was. Due for a rest, truth be told. However…
- Mertesacker—6.43: probably the quietest but most assured performance we’ve seen (do thank me for not typing “Per-formance”, won’t you?). There are almost literally no stats listed for him—no tackles, no interceptions, only two clearances. Such was the strength of our defensive performance that the BFG had little to do but mop up on the rare occasions when the ball did get past Arteta, Kosicelny, and the rest.
- Monreal (72′ for Rosicky)—6.2: Didn’t have much to do but put in a nice stint as a tactical sub to protect the lead and give Rosicky a break. Led the team with 100% pass-accuracy. Only 17 passes, but still.
- Vermaelen (78′ for Gibbs)—6.07: did just fine. Not much to do, either, but what little there was to do, he did it. Good on him, and important to see him getting chances to play. We’ll need him fit and up to form, so the 15 minutes or so that he got matter more for that reason than for what he actually did.
- Jenkinson (84′ for Cazorla)—5.86: a yellow card tanked his score, but like the other subs, he didn’t have much to do. Only nine minutes played, so not really much else to be said.