It wasn’t always pretty, and there were long stretches during which it looked like Liverpool were the better team, but the scoreline suggests that we can tough it out even when we’re not at our best. Just as importantly, we saw that there is a bit more depth in the squad than we sometimes think, at least enough to see us through to the FA Cup quarterfinal, which we’ll host during the second weekend in March, the 8th or the 9th. Of course, we only have a short window of time to enjoy the fruits of our labor, what with Bayern to face on Wednesday. It’s with that in mind that we can enjoy some performances from a few back-benchers that were strong enough to rest a few regulars. Stats and ratings come courtesy of whoscored.com.
- Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain—8.08: a pulsing, energetic performance, highlighted by the first goal and an assist on the second, he was aggressive and quick and eager to spearhead the attack, dribbling fearlessly through the heart of the Liverpool midfield and defense. It seemed that he had a key part in each scoring chance we had.
- Lukasz Fabianksi—7.83: He turned in a strong enough performance that many Gooners will probably wish he would stay for another season rather than leaving the summer as has been reported. He made key saves time and again, especially early on when Liverpool looked to seize another early advantage. The only blemish would be Gerrard’s penalty-kick, which Fabianski guessed completely wrong, but hey, it’s a penalty-kick. It’s supposed to be a gimme for the shooter. Fabianski may have been lucky to avoid a booking for punching Agger in the head.
- Laurent Koscielny—7.69: He was everywhere at once, making 12 clearances (1st in the side), three tackles (2nd), and five interceptions (2nd) as he negated the threats posed by Suarez and Sturridge along our left side. It’s a credit to him and the rest of the defense that Liverpool so frequently had to resort to long shots or long crosses into the box, none of which produced much of a threat.
- Nacho Monreal—7.54: He recovered nicely from a shaky start that saw him see yellow only seven minutes, during those tense first ten minutes when Liverpool had several chances to score. He delivered four tackles (1st), seven interceptions (1st), and six clearances (3rd), especially vital numbers given that he was tangling with Luis Suarez for the entire match. Again, though, we held Suarez scoreless, thanks in large part to Monreal’s efforts. For those who keep track of these things, that’s 270+plus minutes of scoreless action from Suarez.
- Mesut Özil—6.87: a bit of a quiet performance from Özil, at least as far as numbers. Only one key-pass, three good crosses from nine attempts, a decent shot on goal, but nothing highlight-worthy of the sort that would assuage his doubters. That said, he was instrumental in build-ups that led to scoring chances, notching several “second-assists” through lay-offs to Podolski on the wing and passes around the edge of the box. His cross in to Sanogo led to Ox’s goal, for example. As is frequently his cross to bear, better finishing from teammates would turn Özil into an assists-machine.
- Matthieu Flamini—6.87: It wouldn’t a return from suspension without drawing yet another yellow-card, but Flamini’s impact on our defensive bit was tremendous. Four tackles (1st) and two clearances tell only part of the story, as his shielding of the back-four helped to blunt the Liverpool attack, especially vital with how narrowly Sturridge, Suarez, and Sterling played through the middle this time through.
- Lukas Podolski—6.84: He scored the game-winner, of course, but was adjudged to have fouled Luis Suarez, which is like being accused of witchcraft. The spectral evidence is presented by the victim, and the accused can do nothing to disprove it. Poldi sent his spirit out, apparently, and struck down the pure-as-driven-snow Suarez. Yellow card. Penalty. Goal. More importantly, his partnership with Özil was very productive, a result of Poldi’s apparent hunger but perhaps also of their familiarity from German national team appearances. In any case, the two partnered to dangerous effect, something to keep in mind moving forward.
- Carl Jenkinson—6.83: Carl’s first start since the trip to Napoli in early December was a solid one. Sterling may have played a bit more centrally than he did at Anfield and posed somewhat less of a threat as a result, but Carl deserves credit for staying home to defend deep. He turned in four tackles (1st) and six clearances (3rd) and was one of several reserves to turn in a strong showing in nearly negating one of the Prem’s most prolific offenses.
- Per Mertesacker—6.77: It’s perhaps telling of Koscielny’s all-everything performance that Per had so little to do. Just one tackle, no interceptions, to go with seven clearances (2nd) in mop-up duty, another assured and calm performance from the big German. Despite being the slowest man on the pitch, he came up with a number of stops to end Liverpool’s threats and launch counters.
- Yaya Sanogo—6.66: I’ll stop short of calling him a revelation, but he turned in about as assured a performance as I’ve seen. He was strong and dominant in the air (five aerial duels won), and his vision and movement were sharp, even if his touch and timing were off. He linked up well with midfielders and very nearly scored the opener. His sharp volley caromed to Ox, who finished it. He tired noticeably in the second half, but he turned a few heads with glimpses of better things to come.
- Mikel Arteta—6.39: Arteta looked, well, old. If not old, then tired. He seemed a step behind the pace (no shame in that against the likes of Suarez, Sterling, and Coutinho), and his five fouls suggest the same. Even his passing, once a metronomic indicator of consistency and reliability, was low—only 72%. His pairing with Flamini is an uneasy one at best, and it seems on this occasion as if Flamini made Arteta the more-redundant of the two
- Kieran Gibbs (76′ for Oxlade-Chamberlain)—6.42: The subs rarely tally statistics that mean much, and I’m not about to extrapolate from twenty minutes to ninety to give Gibbs’s numbers more context. His appearance, a rare “tactical” substitution as we looked to preserve a lead, shored up a defense that was starting to look a little leggy. By the time he tackled Sterling along the sideline, then calmly stepped over the prone ‘pudlian to retrieve the ball, I felt like the outcome was settled. Thank you, Kieran.
- Santi Cazorla (69′ for Podolski)—5.84: It seems a bit harsh for him to come away with a sub-six rating (whoscored starts players at a 6.00). He didn’t have much to do, it’s true, but by this point in the match we were essentially defending a lead. He squeezed off one shot, made a few passes, and that was it.
- Olivier Giroud (88′ for Sanogo)—not long enough to rate. To be honest, his finest contribution was when he toggled his own balls while waiting to come on the pitch. Trust me, I did my level-best to avoid any unnecessary innuendos there. He made it hard. Sorry. Last one.