Hello world! So, Liverpool and Arsenal. Arsenal and Liverpool. Any fan of English football will have a head full of memories of these encounters, but here is a brief historical synopsis:
Yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda Michael Thomas yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda Michael Owen yadda yadda 2001 FA Cup final yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda Ian Rush yadda yadda yadda until the 1987 League Cup final yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda from Robbie Fowler's four-minute hat-trick to Andriy Arshavin's four-goal blast yadda yadda yadda yadda Jimmy Carter for £500,000 yadda yadda yadda Charlie George's dramatic 1971 FA Cup final clincher.
There, I think that just about covers it, don't you? Though completists might want to read this Joy of Six from just a few months ago.
The teams are in, and they look quite a bit like this. You'll notice a Liverpool debut for Nuri Sahin, who snubbed Arsenal in favour of Anfield in the summer, with Daniel Agger and José Enrique returning to the starting line-up. Arsenal start with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and leave Theo Walcott on the bench.
Liverpool: Reina, Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Jose Enrique, Gerrard, Allen, Sahin, Borini, Suárez, Sterling. Subs: Jones, Henderson, Coates, Downing, Carragher, Shelvey, Kelly.
Arsenal: Mannone, Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Diaby, Arteta, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Cazorla, Podolski, Giroud. Subs: Martinez, Koscielny, Andre Santos, Walcott, Ramsey, Coquelin, Gervinho.
Referee: Howard Webb.
This from @OptaJoe on Twitter:
1 - Liverpool have won just one of their last 10 Premier League games against Arsenal (W1 D6 L3). Outgunned.
"Given the almost universally accepted received wisdom that it's better to stick with a manager than to twist, the current situations of these two clubs suggest that the two approaches may not produce wildly different results," writes Gary Naylor. "Okay, Arsenal are in the Champions League, but they look as far away from a trophy as ever over the last five years and Liverpool did win one last year and go to the final of another." If the only trophies that count are the league and the Champions League these teams have taken different routes to the same position, namely nowhere near winning either of them, without being a total irrelevance.
William Hill are offering 7/5 against Arsenal failing to score a goal again today – their fans are yet to enjoy a goal this season, in either net. Match betting: 23/20 Liverpool; 12/5 Arsenal; 23/10 Draw.
ice cream festival – a festival of ice cream – taking place over the road? It looks like a rocky road ahead for me.Get my excuses in first dept: how am I supposed to concentrate on football when there's an
Sahin and Lucas Podolski have a bit of handbag-based history. Best keep my eyes on them...As @chipsandlager points out via Twitter,
The crowd are currently not walking alone. Kick-off is imminent.
1 min: Peeeeeep! We're off!
1 min: Liverpool kick off, going from right to left as the TV cameras look at it, and immediately give the back four a bit of stroke-it-about time, which a bit of closing down later becomes hoof-it-clear time rather quickly.
4 min: It's Arsenal keeping the ball more impressively at the moment, working it rather well around midfield even if they never looked sure what was going to happen next. A Liverpool interception, was the answer.
5 mins: Borini picks the ball up on the half-way line and advances with intent. By the time he's 25 yards from goal, and still hasn't been closed down, he reckons it would be rude not to shoot, and the ball zips low and wide.
6 mins: Suarez takes the ball past Mertesacker and is pulled back, 30 yards from goal. The German is booked.
7 mins: Suárez slams the free-kick well over the bar.
9 mins: Borini dwells on the ball, attracting several defenders, and then pokes it through to Glen Johnson, who is prevented from sprinting clear by the offside flag.
10 mins: A frantic start from Liverpool. Raheem Sterling slips away from trouble on the half-way line and the ball is worked right to Borini, whose shot flies wide of the near post.
12 mins: Cazorla has Arsenal's first shot, not a particularly dangerous one, that trundles into Reina's arms.
13 mins: Gerrard drives in a corner, and Agger is unmarked as he rises to ... um ... totally miss the header.
17 mins: "Vito Mannone I have heard of, though I only vaguely know the Gunners. Is Martinez on the bench also a keeper? What happened to Szcsczzcsezcszcsczzcsny?" asks Rob Moline. Wojciech Szczesny is indeed injured, and Damian Martínez is indeed a goalkeeper – an Argentinian celebrating his 20th birthday today. So is my mum, incidentally (she's not 20, but it is her birthday). Happy birthday mum! And you too, Damian!
18 mins: Liverpool attempt Rodgers' patented tap-tapping play out of defence, the move breaking down when the ball reaches Suárez, who you would have thought would be quite good at the close-passing thing. A few seconds later, Vermaelen attempts an ambitious shot from very great distance which goes nowhere near the goal.
23 mins: Liverpool break after Sahin's lovely backheel interception, and Suárez finds half a pitch of space, but Gerrard's pass is too lofted and slightly overhit, and by the time it has been controlled Suárez is so wide, and so many defenders have got back, that the threat is swiftly snuffed out.
26 mins: Mertesacker gives the ball to Sterling, whose sprint towards the penalty area is ended when Arteta connects with his ankle. The Spaniard is booked, and Liverpool have another well-placed free-kick.
28 mins: Suárez taps the ball for Gerrard to hit, but the ball flies only into the legs of an advancing defender, and Gerrard angrily demonstrates to the Uruguayan where he actually wanted the ball.
GOOOOAAALLL! Liverpool 0 Arsenal 1 (Podolski, 31 mins) Steven Gerrard gives the ball away in midfield. It's immediately worked to Cazorla, who carries it towards the penalty area before sliding in Podolski, who finishes calmly.
34 mins: Self-confessed "heretic scouser" Paul Ewart writes: "Stevie G needs to go. Three misplaced passes, three goals in three games. He simply does not get possession football."
36 mins: Moments before the goal I was merrily polishing off an update about Liverpool being marginally the better of two not truly convincing teams thus far. Sterling is playing rather well.
38 mins: Liverpool hit the post! Gerrard overhits another pass, though Borini does brilliantly to stop the ball from going out for a goal kick, volleying it high back into the centre. When it finally drops, Sterling takes it and slams it with his left foot, scraping the outside of the near post. "Strolling through the TV listings last night I noted that TV Guide calls Green Acres 'a popular, broadly played hoot about a city couple enjoying life down on the farm,'" writes Paul Taylor. " What a great description: 'A broadly played hoot'. Remind you a Wenger presser, perhaps? For me, sadly, it sounds like my own life story." For me, a "broadly played hoot" sounds a bit like a Madonna clarinet solo.
40 mins: Sterling goes down in the penalty area under Mertesacker's challenge. There's a loud appeal from the fans, but Howard Webb is not impressed.
41 mins: Another shocking miss from Giroud! Arsenal break again, through Diaby, who is allowed to carry the ball a horrific distance without challenge before sliding it into the path of Giroud. From almost exactly the spot where Podolski scored the Frenchman – who to be fair is running across goal rather than towards it – spears his shot very convincingly wide.
45 mins: We'll have two minutes of stoppage time here, in which Liverpool will continue to work the ball optimistically towards Arsenal's penalty area. Anyway, here's Ryan Dunne's personal all-time favourite TV listings moment: "Personally, I'm fond of (as well as the unhinged missives in the 'You Say' bit) the Sunday Times' description of Tim Burton's rubbish Planet of the Apes remake: 'Gorillas to be missed.'"
45+2 mins: Peeeeeep! It's half-time! And Liverpool look like a good team without a striker. Funny that.
Half-time: An entertaining game, played at a familiarly frantic pace. Liverpool are doing OK, but Gerrard and Suárez are not, and they lack cutting edge. Arsenal are counter-attacking excellently when they get the opportunity, with Cazorla and, yes, Diaby excelling. Still all to play for.
46 mins: Peeeeeeeep! We're off! Again!
47 mins: Martin Skrtel is booked for a foul from behind on Abou Diaby.
49 mins: In the first half Joe Allen succeeded with every one of his 39 passes. Olivier Giroud, meanwhile, found a team-mate with none of his six.
51 mins: Gerrard slides a lovely ball into the penalty area from the right, and Suárez would surely have got to it first had he not collapsed under pressure from Mertesacker. To me it looked like a penalty – he did appear to be pushed – but it wasn't a certainty, and a decent penalty shout is not as good as a very clear goalscoring opportunity, which is what he'd have had if he stayed on his feet.
54 mins: Liverpool replace Borini with Stewart Downing.
55 mins: Another Liverpool penalty shout, as Vermaelen falls over and accidentally punches the ball as he lands. Liverpool seem to think, not entirely unreasonably, that the person most likely to craft a clear goalscoring opportunity for them is Howard Webb.
58 mins: Liverpool find Suárez in plenty of space on the right edge of the penalty area. His shot is very hard but very central, and is palmed over. "Since everyone seems to be getting aboard the Gerrard now crap bus I thought I might as well add my two cents and say that Stevie G was possibly never the awesome footballer he was made out to be, in fact he was constantly shown up as a tactically unaware and positionally clueless by Alonso, who not only had a better footballing brain but was a better ball winner and better passer," writes David Flynn. "Where Gerrard made up for all this was that A - he was English, B - he was a Liverpool lad captaining Liverpool and most importantly C - he was capable of special moments that changed games and beat teams while playing not especially well for the rest of the game. These days though, through a combination of injury, age and a manager who now values passing, possession and positioning over all else, he is no longer capable of these special moments as often as in the past and his shortcomings are becoming more and more exposed. I'd also like to preempt the naysayers and point out that if in the second half he scores a net bursting 30 yard volley, it'll only prove my point."
61 mins: Skrtel's desperate lunging intervention stops Podolski from finding Giroud in the penalty area.
62 mins: Daniel Agger stings Mannone's palms with a shot from, what, 50 yards?
64 mins: Downing cuts into the penalty area from the right wing, quite nicely really, but his shot is blocked. A minute later Sterling's cross finds Downing again, at the far post, but he's not much of an, um, headerer and the ball merely flicks his forehead on its way out of play.
67 mins: Crumbs, this is frustrating, and I'm not even a Liverpool fan. They are doomed to spend six months, or at least until Michael Owen signs, looking to the bench with about half an hour to play and realising there's nobody there who can make anything better. Jonjo Shelvey replaces Nuri Sahin.
GOOOOAAAAALLLL! Liverpool 0 Arsenal 2 (Cazorla, 68 mins) It's all over, surely. Cazorla's shot, from a fairly acute angle to the left of goal, was low and hard but distinctly saveable. Reina got most of his body to it, but succeeded only in deflecting the ball into the roof of his own net at the near post.
71 mins: It looks like Oxlade-Chamberlain, who has been moving rather gingerly of late having suffered what might have been cramp, is to be replaced by Aaron Ramsey. "It's not been all doom & gloom for Reina this week as the commentators are saying," writes Jonny Mac. "It was his birthday on Friday, so that was nice."
75 mins: Shelvey shellacks a shot well wide. Since David Flynn's anti-Gerrard rant (58 mins) I've had precisely 0 messages of support for the Liverpool captain, and perhaps 20 messages of support for David Flynn. "As a neutral (Glorious Glasgow Rangers aside) I too think Gerrard has long been overrated," writes Ryan Dunne. "This was especially true when he was being contrasted to the supposedly glory-hugging Beckham; Becks, for all his off-field exploits, still had his glory years performing excellently in a defined role (being the best crosser of the ball in the world helped). If you put Stevie G in the same side as Messi, Ronaldo and Xavi he'd still try and do everything himself, to the detriment of his team".
79 mins: Liverpool have no ideas left. Arsenal are content to play deep and limit risk, of which there is very little.
81 mins: Podolski, with a goal and an assist to his name, comes off, with Andrei Santos replacing him. Liverpool win a corner as Downing's dangerous shot is deflected narrowly wide.
83 mins: At the other end Arsenal win a corner of their own. Cazorla whips it in, and Giroud shoulders a very presentable chance over the bar.
86 mins: Shelvey's low shot from the 18-yard line is too firmly struck for Mannone to gather, but Vermaelen clears the rebound. Downing, for those who have asked, isn't playing at left back but at right midfield.
88 mins: Suárez sends a half-chance over the bar. "It's 1986 and Manchester United were a faded giant, they hadn't won the league for over 20 years and they were regularly deluding themselves that the odd cup run was sufficient in asserting their status as a 'big club'. They were over reliant on an, often injured, central midfielder who was England captain, and a temperamental, skilful centre forward who often struggled for goals," writes someone called Verve. "To arrest that slide they appointed a man who had successfully broken up the old firm duopoly and improbably taken a small provincial team to League and European glory, a man who then went on to prove his management genius.
"It's 2012 and Liverpool have Brendan Rodgers, who was sacked by Reading. Good luck with that."
90 mins: Another good shot from Shelvey, from 20-odd yards out, which is arrowing towards the top corner before Mannone intervenes. And Koscielny comes on for Vermaelen.
90+2 mins: We're nearly half-way through four minutes of stoppage time.
90+4 mins: Peeeeeep! It's all over!
Final score: A straightforward victory in the end, and Arsenal will celebrate not just the result but their defensive solidity (even with Jenkinson in the line-up) and the integration of Podolski and Cazorla, even if Giroud continues to struggle. For Liverpool today's cloud has no silver lining. None of their established stars looked at all good today – Reina was at fault for the second goal and continues to forge a reputation for fallibility; Gerrard gave the ball away to allow Arsenal to break for the first goal, and seems unsuited to the Rodgers style; and Suárez is a creator unhappy and uncomfortable with the role of finisher. Raheem Sterling and Joe Allen played well, but are not (yet?) matchwinners on their own. Their failure to sign a striker on or shortly before deadline day has been remarked upon a million times, and will be remarked upon a million more between now and January (at the earliest).