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Feb 092014

Serves me right for essentially previewing Saturday’s Liverpool-Arsenal match with a post titled “Why Can’t Liverpool Get Over The Hump?”.

The Reds went out and stomped Arsenal with four goals in the first 20 minutes, including the opener coming less than a minute after the match kicked off. To be completely honest, I wasn’t confident going into the match. Given the way Arsenal dominated the first match at the Emirates Stadium back in November and the list of injuries plaguing the backline, it looked like Liverpool would be fortunate to win by a single goal; if they even won at all.

There were certainly a number of players who stood out on Saturday. Here’s a few of the top candidates.

Raheem Sterling

The young winger scored the third and fifth goals and looked like he took a major leap forward in his development. Saturday was the first time Sterling scored a goal that wasn’t assisted by Luis Suarez. He’s always had issues finishing, but showed no such issues against the Gunners. I was more impressed with his second goal given how he made amends for a poor decision to shoot by finishing calmly.

Martin Skrtel

Another player plagued by inconsistency this season, the Slovakian center back kicked things off in style by getting on the end of Steven Gerrard’s free kick and putting the home side up less than a minute into the match. His second was much more impressive as he redirected Steven Gerrard’s corner kick into the upper corner. While the fast start didn’t exactly make things easy for Arsenal, Skrtel played a near mistake-free match in defense.

Steven Gerrard

He served up the first two goals via set pieces and helped shut down Mesut Ozil and Jack Wilshere, even with the comfortable early lead. At one point he leveled Wilshere after being on the receiving end of a hard foul from the frustrated Gunner in the first half. He continues to adapt well to his new role as the holding midfielder bridging the gap between the back four and Philippe Coutinho.

My Pick: Steven Gerrard

Raheem Sterling and Martin Skrtel both had outstanding matches contributing two goals each, but I’m not convinced both have necessarily taken huge steps forward. Sterling is still prone to poor decisions (and poor finishing) as we saw with his second goal and Skrtel has been inconsistent throughout the season.

This match was huge if Liverpool were going to stay in the hunt for a Top 4 finish and the captain set the tone from the start with both of his set piece deliveries. The corner that led to the second one was executed perfectly. In a must-win match with so many young players (including Sterling and Jon Flanagan) starting, Liverpool needed their most “grizzled” veteran to step up and lead. He did so not just by setting up the first two goals, but also by rendering Ozil and Wilshere non-factors, even with the four goal lead. Liverpool essentially broke Arsenal’s will in the first 20 minutes and nobody had a greater hand in doing so than Captain Fantastic.

Adam Uthe

VP of Content Development for GFT and proud supporter of Columbus Crew (MLS) and Liverpool FC (EPL). @AUtheGFT

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