“What do you think they’re smoking over there at Emirates?” tweeted Liverpool owner John W Henry in July when Arsenal’s bid of £40,000,001 for Luis Suarez triggered not a release clause but a war of words.
Gunners fans had plenty of answers on Saturday night of course. “Victory cigars!” tweeted one. “Big, fat Cubans” added another on the same theme after Arsenal proved that, on the pitch at least, they were too hot for Liverpool to handle.
Back then, Arsenal’s argument was that it was cruel to keep such a talent at Anfield, home not even to Europa League football this season, when it could be paraded in the Champions League, until the quarter-finals.
Liverpool, regarded as pre-season contenders by no-one other than their most die-hard supporters, would have gone top had they won.
They didn’t of course, though with Suarez on the pitch it had been a possibility until Aaron Ramsey netted the game’s final goal.
It was the Uruguayan’s quick-thinking that seemed to have set up an equaliser for Jordan Henderson that turned out to be too quick for the referee’s liking; three times in quick succession he nipped in behind the Arsenal back line early in the second half only for lesser mortals to ruin the moment; a post was then hit and, finally, a good chance missed that left strike partner Daniel Sturridge, in position for a tap-in, fuming.
Suarez looked every inch a £40m man therefore on a day when, strangely, Mesut Ozil, did not.
The German flitted in and out of the game, seemingly content to let others win it on this occasion.
Which they did. Ramsey added to his impressive goal collection. So did Santi Cazorla, who troubled Liverpool’s three-man defence the most. And when it came to accurate passing Mikel Arteta was the man, far outstripping Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard.
Arsenal proved they are higher up the food chain than Liverpool, despite the worrying sight of Nicklas Bendtner on the bench. It is a question of which top-four slot they will occupy now whereas it would be something of a surprise for Liverpool still to be in that bracket come May. Brendan Rodgers knows it and has been honest enough to say it too.
Still, Mr Henry probably wasn’t too down-hearted by news of this defeat as he’s still celebrating his Boxton Red Sox baseball side’s World Series victory.
The Red Sox finished last in their division last year, proving that dramatic improvements are more than possible in sport and few in English football are more desperate for a similar upturn in fortunes than the supporters of Liverpool and Arsenal.
Arsenal risk clocking up a decade since lifting the Premier League trophy but have a realistic chance of ending that run now; Liverpool know at least a quarter of a century will have passed since they last finished top of the domestic pile. And, even with Suarez, it could be a lot longer than that.
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