Hits and Misses: Liverpool (h)

Arsenal made a statement on Sunday. Liverpool arrived at the Emirates, presenting probably the truest test Mikel Arteta’s men have faced so far this season. Basically back to full strength, they required Arsenal to find another gear to beat them. And the Gunners did, winning an enthralling match 3-2 courtesy of goals from Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka. The whole world learned the truth: it is no fluke that Arsenal top the Premier League table. Below are four Hits and two Misses from a paradigm-shifting victory.


Bukayo Saka

It’s safe to say that worries about Bukayo Saka to start the season have been given some warm milk, read a nice story about a magical kingdom, and put to bed. Matched up against Kostas Tsimikas, Saka had a massively successful outing and finished with two goals. First, he latched onto Martinelli’s low cross past Alisson to tuck the ball into an empty net. And then, with the score at 2-2, he stepped up to take yet another penalty. Even with more senior figures like Gabriel Jesus and Granit Xhaka around, he took responsibility at such a highly pressurized moment. As he did against Chelsea and Manchester United, he scored it. It is a reminder that Saka personifies what this Arsenal team is all about: courage and perseverance.

Gabriel Martinelli

It took less than two minutes for Martinelli to show why Jurgen Klopp keeps cooing about him. On the counter, Martin Odegaard played him in beautifully for him to slot home past Alisson. After that, he proceeded to decimate the right side of Liverpool’s defense, getting into dangerous position after dangerous position. Just before halftime, his pressure told again and he set Saka up for Arsenal’s second with a craft pass across the penalty area. His exploits helped force Klopp into making defensive substitutions just to hold on to a 2-2 draw. Tite better have been watching, because Martinelli made one hell of a case to represent Brazil at the World Cup.

Takehiro Tomiyasu

Sure, he played a few minutes at left back against Bodo/Glimt. But playing a full 90 against Liverpool is another matter entirely. And yet, Tomiyasu did the job with aplomb. He slotted in seamlessly to the left of Gabriel, was secure on the ball, and kept Mohamed Salah quiet until the Egyptian was substituted off in the 69th minute. He was rarely beaten in one-on-one scenarios and dominated his aerial duels. The Japanese defender continues to be reliable when called upon, regardless of position.

Mikel Arteta

Credit also has to go to the man who deployed Tomiyasu and otherwise tactically outmaneuvered Klopp. Arteta selected Tomiyasu over Kieran Tierney against Liverpool for two reasons. First, Arsenal’s No. 18 is better in terms of technical security on the ball than Tierney is. Secondly, Tomiyasu is better defending on his right side than his Scottish teammate is. This is particularly important considering Salah’s penchant for cutting inside. As a result, Liverpool’s best player was nullified while their press also failed to force any mistakes. As well as Arsenal have played this year, Arteta has also played a massive role in getting them to where they currently are.

Granit Xhaka

At the time of writing, it is best not to speculate on what Jordan Henderson said to Gabriel to kick off a confrontation and spur the FA to launch an investigation. But Xhaka was the epitome of a leader in that moment, rushing to the defense of his teammate. He furiously got in Henderson’s face to tell him off, eventually having to be coaxed away to avoid getting in trouble. It isn’t the first time he has had a teammate’s back in the heat of battle, either. It must be comforting for the others at Arsenal to know that Xhaka is always ready to go to war for them. Among other reasons, that is why he is the unofficial captain of the team, even without the armband.


Martin Odegaard

Just kidding, Odegaard was also excellent. Time and time again, Odegaard sliced open Liverpool’s defense with a sumptuous pass. His first such through ball assisted Martinelli’s goal in the second minute of the match. He was much more dangerous in the second half, and was unfortunate not to score a clear-cut chance in the 49th minute. Despite this, he was one of the more front-footed Arsenal players on the day and provided a much-needed foothold in the final third as his side chased a winner. The captain can rest assured knowing that he led by example in a massive game.

Sham writes and podcasts regularly about The Arsenal, and wants you to know that it’s okay to put maple syrup in your morning coffee. He can be followed on Twitter @dopegooner.