Dream weekend for Arsenal as Gunners go five points clear
Victory over Liverpool, defeat for Chelsea and Spurs stalemate leaves Arsenal sitting pretty
NOT a bad weekend for the Gunners. A convincing 2-0 defeat of Liverpool, coupled with Chelsea's surprising slip-up at Newcastle opened up a five point lead for Arsenal on Saturday night at the top of the table. Tottenham and Everton could have narrowed that deficit had there been a victor in their clash at Goodison Park on Sunday afternoon; instead the two played out a tame draw to leave Arsene Wenger's side well ahead of the pack a quarter of the way through the season.
Arsenal's rivals will point to the fact that they've enjoyed a relatively gentle fixture list in the opening three months – they've yet to face Chelsea or the two Manchester clubs in the league – but the Gunners might respond with a tour of their treatment room. Theo Walcott, Abou Diaby, Lukas Podolski and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have barely featured for the club this season, while Mikael Arteta and Santi Cazorla have only recently returned to the side after lengthy lay-offs.
On Saturday both Jack Wilshere and Mathieu Flamini had to watch from the sidelines nursing injuries yet their teammates still saw off the challenge of Liverpool, third in the table going into the game with Southampton the only side to defeat them.
Liverpool were looking to inflict on Arsenal their third consecutive home defeat, following on from Borussia Dortmund's 2-1 Champions League victory the previous week and Chelsea's 2-0 league cup win.
What the Reds came up against, however, was a vastly improved performance from an Arsenal side that left Brendan Rogers in awe. "The better team won, make no mistake," admitted the Liverpool manager afterwards. "Arsenal have wonderful technicians, good mobility. [Mesut] Ozil is world class. Ramsey has taken his game to another level, Arteta is a good player, Cazorla joining in, [Tomas] Rosicky – five players who are top-class technicians."
Ramsey is in the form of his life. His thunderous second-half strike was his tenth goal in 15 starts this season, but it's his contribution's all over the park that has led Gooners to crow that Real Madrid forked out £86m for the second best Welshman in Europe.
For Arsene Wenger the win was not just another three points, it was an emphatic riposte to the sceptics who had questioned whether Arsenal had the wherewithal to beat the big teams or only the likes of Norwich and Stoke. "It was a huge test because it came after two home defeats and with another one then you create another problem against Manchester United [who Arsenal play on Sunday]," said Wenger.
"You could see at the start we were focused but a bit nervous and we put Dortmund and Chelsea on the front foot ourselves. You could feel at the start that the players did not want to do that at all. After we scored you could see that we controlled the game."
Wenger says the win "creates a bit more belief" but he laughed off suggestions that Arsenal are running away with the title. "Ten games, 25 per cent of the season, you can see trends but it is still not settled yet," he said, adding that his more immediate concern is Wednesday's visit to Borussia Dortmund, who warmed up for the return Champions League clash with a 6-1 thrashing of Stuttgart on Friday.
"I watched the first half but after 20 minutes I knew it would be too easy a game for them," said Wenger. "I wanted something more testing. Unfortunately they had a good friendly!" ·