Belief surging under Dalglish
Carragher savours victory at Arsenal
Published 22/08/2011 | 05:00
The last time Liverpool won at Arsenal, Highbury's giant screens sought to rally the home fans by showing highlights of famous triumphs in the 1971 FA Cup final, the 1987 Littlewoods Cup final and that unforgettable 1989 "it's up for grabs now" title decider.
Jamie Carragher was there that day, February 13, 2000, when Steven Gerrard sent Titi Camara through on David Seaman for a confident finish. "In the green kit,'' reminisced Carragher after Liverpool prevailed at Arsenal after such a long wait. "A great ball by Stevie. That was at Highbury so this is the first time at the Emirates. It shows what a hard place it is to come and what a great side Arsenal have had over the last decade or so."
If Liverpool's result 11 years ago was a surprise, particularly with Michael Owen and Robbie Fowler absent, and Camara supporting Erik Meijer, then Saturday's hardly registered high on the Richter scale of seismic footballing shocks. Liverpool's mood has been lifted by Kenny Dalglish, their squad deepened to such an extent that players of the calibre of Luis Suarez and Raul Meireles could come on, combining for both goals, an own goal by Aaron Ramsey and then Suarez's late finish.
"That's always been a complaint from supporters or people in the media about the bench at Liverpool,'' Carragher continued. "But to have that quality to come on, they were instrumental in killing the game off for us."
Unlike Arsene Wenger, Dalglish has strengthened where his team needed it most. Jose Enrique shone at left-back, utterly stifling Theo Walcott, while Stewart Downing again impressed on the wing. "I thought Jordan Henderson was outstanding,'' Carragher added.
In truth, Henderson still has much to prove but he is a useful option for Dalglish while Gerrard regains fitness. To those sceptics claiming Liverpool paid over the odds for Henderson (£20m) and Andy Carroll (£35m), Dalglish had a swift retort. "If you want to buy any of those players (now), you'll pay more than I did,'' Dalglish argued. "You want to put a bid in?"
Liverpool have certainly been bold, investing heavily in their squad.
"Bold?" mused Dalglish. "Stupid? Time will tell." As well as the new signings, academy prospects are being given a chance. Martin Kelly is back from his hamstring injury, and his rich promise at right-back is being closely monitored by Fabio Capello. "Kelly looked really strong,'' reflected Dalglish.
In keeping with Liverpool tradition, Dalglish is mixing tyros with experienced campaigners. In contrast, Wenger relies too heavily on the untested like Emmanuel Frimpong, whose naivety brought a red card and marred an otherwise good first Premier League start.
Carragher's trained eye focused on the problems and positives in Arsenal's defence. "Thomas Vermaelen was outstanding,'' the Liverpool centre-back said. "In the first half, he won a couple of headers at the back post just as someone was about to stick it in and he got there. Without Vermaelen, we would have been a goal up at least at half-time.
"Laurent Koscielny went off (injured) and it's very difficult, especially in the back four. You like continuity there. We all remember the great Arsenal back four. They used to play every week. When you get injuries in that position, it's difficult to get a cohesive unit so it's something that we tried to take advantage of and, fortunately, we did."
Arsenal were missing Kieran Gibbs and Jack Wilshere, but the England midfielder has a chance of featuring against Udinese this week.
"If everyone for Arsenal is fit, it's still a formidable team,'' Carragher said. "I know at the moment, it's the thing to criticise Arsenal and Arsene Wenger but if you look at last season, with 10 games to go, they were the real challengers to Manchester United.
"I certainly don't think they are a spent force. They've got a great manager, great stadium, great club and I'm sure he'll have something up his sleeve in the next 10 days if Samir Nasri goes. He's done it so often so I certainly wouldn't write off Arsenal."
While the inquest intensifies at the Emirates, belief floods through Liverpool, although Carragher typically refused to get carried away. "Maybe it will make people sit up and take notice and think that this Liverpool team could maybe do things this season but time will tell,'' he said.
Even with a first win at Arsenal in 11 years, nobody at Liverpool is getting carried away. (© Daily Telegraph, London)