By Richard Clarke at Anfield
New boys Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla scored their first goals for Arsenal as Arsène Wenger's side grabbed their opening win of the season at Liverpool on Sunday.
The German fired home from the Spaniard's assist on the half-hour. Midway through the second half, Podolski repaid the favour for Cazorla as Wenger's men recorded a morale-boosting and fully-deserved victory.
Arsenal had played out goalless draws in their open two games of the season. They remained resolute once again when pressured by Liverpool's response but there was much more attacking intent this afternoon.
Cazorla and Abou Diaby caught the eye in central midfield while Mikel Arteta stuck doggedly to his defensive duties. But then it is hard to pick out individual this afternoon. From Giroud's tireless work up front to Vito Mannone's crucial saves, Arsenal were excellent.
There was a sense of control and purpose about everything they did.
They are still unbeaten, still yet to concede a goal and, on the evidence of today, looking like contenders at the top of the table.
Before kick-off, Wenger's team showed one change from the goalless draw at Stoke a week earlier. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain came in and Gervinho dropped to the bench. It meant the manager was sticking with Podolski on the left and Oliver Giroud up front.
Carl Jenkinson remained at right-back despite the return to fitness of Laurent Koscielny. However Wojciech Szczesny was still troubled by his rib injury so Mannone retained the No 1 spot.
Arsenal had demonstrated a new-found defensive resolution in the opening two games of the season - but they had not scored either. A third goalless draw would be a record for the start of a Premier League season.
Liverpool were in transition. New manager Brendan Rodgers had seen his side beaten at West Brom on the opening day but had responded with a battling draw with champions Manchester City and a late victory over Hearts in a Europa League qualifier on Thursday night.
The home side used that momentum to edge the opening stages.
Fabio Borini fired narrowly over from an angle and Luis Suarez thumped a free-kick high. Cazorla had Arsenal's best opportunity but his pot-shot needed little tending from Pepe Reina.
In the 11th minute, Carl Jenkinson gave away a corner and an unmarked Daniel Agger nudged a header past the far post when he should have hit the target.
After that, Arsenal gradually found their game. Diaby started to use his quick feet in to find angles in tight spaces while Cazorla began darting through central midfield.
One of those forays created the opening goal. Podolski led the break before finding the Spaniard just inside his own half. The German then stormed forward for the return ball. He collected it with one touch and fired home with his second.
Liverpool were stunned but rallied just before the break. Borini hooked a high, hanging ball back into the area from the byline. Suarez won it in the air and eventually Raheem Sterling found the ball at his feet. He darted past his marker and fired into the sidenetting.
Shortly after, Anfield claimed a penalty when Sterling fell under Mertesacker's challenge. However replays showed the German, who picked up only the third booking of his Arsenal career in the opening minutes, had won the ball cleanly.
However, the visitors did not let those scares affect their confidence was and they might have stolen a second just before the whistle. Diaby strode through the midfield, drew the Liverpool defence and fed Giroud eight yards out.
It was similar chance to the one he had spurned late on against Sunderland. The result was the same aswell.
Liverpool had another shout for a penalty at the start of the second half when Suarez tumbled under Mertesacker right in front of The Kop. However, seconds later, Podolski sensed Gibbs overlapping down the left and the Englishman stung the hands of Reina with a low drive.
The game was heating up now and the chances began to flow at both ends. Suarez forced Mannone to tip over and Agger's long-range Howitzer kept the keeper honest.
Jenkinson's left-foot drive nearly surprised Reina and Cazorla drifted a shot just past the far post.
A couple of minutes later the Spaniard would find the net for the first time. He exchanged pass with Podolski on the left of the area and fired low towards Reina at the near post. The ball hit the keeper's arm and flew in.
The onus was now entirely on Liverpool. Arsenal were happy to sit back, soak up what the home side could throw at them and hit on the break.
They gave as good as they got.
Liverpool had thrown on Stewart Downing and then brought on Jonjo Shelvey to change things. They had pressure but no real opportunity.
Indeed, six minutes from time an unmarked Giroud nodded wide when he should have hit the target at least.
However Arsenal still had a job to do defensively and they nearly shipped their first goal of the season when Mannone blocked Shelvey's blast and Vermaelen smacked the ball away from danger. Then Suarez dinked a shot over the bar.
Mannone made a flying save from Shelvey at the death as Arsenal saw out time.
This was huge victory for Wenger's men. One that not only instills confidence but also makes those draws against Sunderland and Stoke seem a little better.
But, most importantly of all, Arsenal are out of the traps this season.
- Mertesacker Yellow Card
- Vermaelen (C) 90
- Cazorla Goal!
- Arteta Yellow Card
- Podolski 82 Goal!
- Oxlade-Chamberlain 73
- Koscielny 90
- Andre Santos 82
- Ramsey 73
- Jose Enrique
- Skrtel Yellow Card
- Gerrard (C)
- Sahin 67
- Borini 54
- Downing 54
- Shelvey 67