Saturday 31 August 2013
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Saturday 31 August 2013
Friday 23 August 2013
Manager backs up Walcott's claim
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Scientists examine 1.3 million Facebook users to show how mutual friends (and friends of friends) play a part in keeping couples together
The Spanish club are confident that they can land the Liverpool striker in January and hope the sale of Benzema will fund the move
Balotelli's tweet prompted a leading anti-Mafia campaigner, Rosaria Capacchione, to label the player an "imbecile", while Italian soccer federation (FIGC) president Giancarlo Abete sympathised with him for always being "in the eye of the cyclone".
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This may prove to be Arsenal's Achilles' heel unless Arsene Wenger signs a back-up for Olivier Giroud in January. They are heavily reliant on goals from midfield when the Frenchman is not firing, and Nicklas Bendtner is clearly no substitute. Liverpool's famed SAS Suarez and Sturridge left their shooting boots behind, though they are usually the best double act in the league. Sturridge was off target too many times, although Suarez showed Arsenal what they are missing.
Strength in depth
Arsenal's bench looked worryingly short on Premier League quality by comparison with Liverpool's, which was packed with exciting young players such as Raheem Sterling and Victor Moses as well as experienced professionals such as Daniel Agger. The likes of Chuba Akpom and Isaac Hayden may be fine products from the Arsenal academy, but will they be good enough to help the Gunners sustain a title challenge through a long and tiring season?
Arsenal are in the box seat, five points clear at the top of the table after a convincing win, but the worry for Wenger must be the lack of depth in his squad. They have an abundence of creativity in midfield including the player of the season so far in Aaron Ramsey, a solid and steady backline, and goals from all areas of the pitch. But they don't have the depth of Liverpool, let alone Chelsea or the Manchester clubs. Liverpool lost because they defended poorly and their usually reliable forward line let them down, and they cannot afford too many more off-days if they are to be considered genuine contenders.
Arsenal clearly ahead of Liverpool as title contenders.
Wenger acknowledged there was only one way for Arsenal to silence the doubters. "It is down to us to prove them wrong," he said, pointing out for the umpteenth time this year that his side had taken more points in 2013 than any of their rivals.
Yet a closer examination of their fixtures shows that, other than home wins over Tottenham, this season and last Arsenal have failed to win any of their matches at the Emirates against one of the Premier League's big six.
"We have had a very good away record in recent years and we have suffered a bit more at home," Wenger said. "One of the targets is to turn that around. We need the supporters to help us to do that and I am sure they will."
Today is also the latest match of a defining period that takes in a trip to Manchester United and the visit of high-flying Southampton.
"It is an important period, of course," Wenger said. "You can see that I'm quite relaxed because I have the complete confidence that we will deal well with that period and I take that as an opportunity to show our strengths and I am completely sure that the players will be up for it."
Failure to do so would resurrect calls for Wenger, who finally spent big in the summer by bringing in Mesut Özil, to open the chequebook again in January. Tuesday's defeat to Chelsea seemed to expose the lack of depth in Arsenal's squad.
"You can come to that conclusion they are a more complete squad," said Wenger, who insisted that was largely down to injury and claimed he had yet to decide whether he would seek reinforcements.
"Do you want to convince me that [Nicklas] Bendtner did not have a great game the other night?" he said with a wry smile. "[Olivier] Giroud at the moment is a big part in our game, but if [Theo] Walcott had played, or if [Lukas] Podolski plays, the threat increases. "I don't know yet if we will strengthen in January."
It was a similar story when it came to Wenger's judgment on what this Arsenal side could achieve. "What we want first is to convince everybody that we can play at the top and hopefully in April we can ask ourselves have we got enough resources to cross the line."
"We live in a world where we have to be questioned and the only response we can give is on the football pitch. I am always confident but there is a long way to go. This was an important win for the team.
"We have have plenty of other big games coming up and this will help us to deal with them. It's down to consistency and we have been consistent since the first of January 2013. Ten games and 25 points is a respectable number. The players know each other better and have improved individually and collectively."
Santi Cazorla gave Arsenal a first-half lead before Aaron Ramsey made it 2-0 just before the hour mark with his 10th goal of a very impressive season and the Wales midfielder made it clear he was ready to maintain individual and collective high standards, starting at Dortmund on Wednesday.
"It was very important to get off to a good start and we have a nice gap now," he said.
"Hopefully we can maintain that over Christmas as we know our run-in form has been second to none over the last few seasons. If we get ourselves into a strong position in January we will have a very successful season.
"We go to Dortmund now and we were very disappointed with how we lost to them. It was a very sloppy goal when we were in control but we got a good result in Germany last season against Bayern Munich.
"So we have been there before and are used to the atmosphere over the and hopefully we can get a good result."
Arsenal have some injury concerns to mull over however, with midfielder Jack Wilshere missing the Liverpool match with an ankle injury and left-back Kieran Gibbs forced off with a calf problem.
Liverpool had their moments, with Luis Suarez, the man Arsenal tried to buy in the summer, hitting a post and Jordan Henderson having a goal controversially ruled out when Arsenal were leading 1-0.
Referee Martin Atkinson had ruled that Suarez had taken a free-kick without his permission as the official had been keen to stop and book Arsenal's Bacary Sagna for the initial foul.
Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers, who lost defender Glen Johnson to an illness that required hospital treatment, felt his side had been hard done by.
"I got an explanation from the fourth official," he said. "He could only give him the yellow card at that point so when we went into the next phase of the game, crossed and scored by all accounts he couldn't do that.
"If that's the ruling then it's not a ruling that's any good because we are always asking players to be honest and get up and play. It was disappointing because it was clever play."
Microblogging site Twitter could launch its flotation on the New York Stock Exchange as early as this week with analysts expecting high demand for shares.
In the most anticipated stock market debut since Facebook, the firm may announce its initial public offering (IPO) price on Wednesday with trading the following day.
No official date has been set but Twitter appears to be on a fast track for its flotation, according to reports.
The company will trade under the "TWTR" symbol and will not follow the path of a large number of technology companies by trading on the Nasdaq.
Twitter will seek to raise up to $1.6bn - one tenth the value of the Facebook IPO - by offering 70 million shares in a price range of $17 to $20 each.
That is a relatively small chunk of Twitter's capital, and implies a market value between $9.3bn and $11.1bn - a conservative figure compared with some of the private market trades in Twitter so far.
The firm appears to have learned a lesson from Facebook's problematic IPO in May 2012, that was marked by trading glitches, accusations about secret information and a plunge in the share value for months afterwards.
Lou Kerner, founder of the Social Internet Fund, said: "The Facebook situation last year was a perfect storm of an overheated private market, a fully priced offering, a massive amount of shares brought to market, all compounded by an historical technical glitch.
"That confluence of events is not likely to occur again."
Analysts say Twitter, unlike Facebook, will not flood the market, and that with demand exceeding supply the price will rise.
The early Twitter investors may not get maximum value right away, but could benefit over time from a rise in the share price.
There is considerable excitement about the IPO because Twitter is "a unique product that no one can replicate," said Michael Pachter, head of equity research at Wedbush Securities.
Mr Pachter and his colleagues said: "We believe that the market is likely to generate appetite for more than $1bn in stock.
"The simple rules of supply and demand suggest that by limiting the supply of shares offered to the public in its IPO, Twitter will be unable to satisfy demand."
Twitter has some 232 million active users around the world, but has lost money steadily since 2010, according to IPO documents. The losses amounted to $133m on $422m in revenues in the first nine months of the year.
Twitter makes most of its money from advertising, chiefly in the form of "promoted tweets".
Meanwhile, the story goes that Jack Dorsey proposed the idea of Twitter to fellow co-founders at a playground in San Francisco.
But journalist Nick Bilton, author of "Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship and Betrayal," said the history was not quite that simple.
Dorsey was a key member of Twitter's founders, but it was a collective effort, the New York Times journalist has argued.
It was not the most articulate line to have left the lips of Arsène Wenger yet it captured perfectly the sense of cautious optimism that has built around his Arsenal team. "It's a kind of people start to say 'Oh maybe'," the manager said.
Maybe Arsenal can win the Premier League. The very notion would have met with derision after the opening day home defeat to Aston Villa and the vehement backlash that rocked the club. But there they were on Saturday, composed, aggressive and incisive, deservedly beating an in-form Liverpool to establish a five-point lead at the top of the table.
"After the Aston Villa game, if I had told you we would have been five points clear in November, I would have had to run away because you would have killed me," Wenger said.
The pundits still say no. Arsenal have yet to face either Manchester club or Chelsea, they say. It remains too early to pass a definitive judgment while Arsenal's frailties of seasons gone by make it a risky business to tip them.
The last time that they sat five points clear at the top was in February 2008. Then came the infamous 2-2 draw at Birmingham City, which was scarred by Eduardo da Silva's leg break and William Gallas's meltdown and the club lost their bearings. It was not an isolated wobble. Recent history says that Arsenal will falter.
And yet momentum is growing, along with dressing-room belief. You will not hear any player make a bold statement about how they might win the title; no one wants to jinx it. But, privately, they know that they have a wonderful chance. The Manchester clubs and Chelsea are under new management and, as such, in transition. The league is tantalisingly open. But Arsenal are stable and they have been excellent from the final two months of last season onwards.
"We have more belief [this season] and we are starting to create a bit of fear in the opposition, and that gives us a better chance to win the games," Mikel Arteta said. "When you are on a good run and the confidence level is high, it makes everything much easier."
"In the last few seasons," Bacary Sagna said, "we were responding technically but when we had to go to tough, physical games, sometimes we were not responding. Now, we are more confident with the arrival of [Mesut] Özil and [Mathieu] Flamini. Özil has made us even better technically while with Flamini, we get the confidence of the physical challenge. The team is more together as a group and we can respond to every aspect of the game."
Flamini did not play against Liverpool because of a groin injury but it did not matter. Arteta was superb in front of the back four while Aaron Ramsey drove forward, prompted and killed the game with his long-range pot-shot. It was his 10th goal of the season for Arsenal; he had previously scored 11 in his five seasons at the club. Ramsey's improvement during this calendar year has been startling and it has helped to soften the blow of Jack Wilshere's continuing battle for fitness.
Arsenal's options in midfield provide the greatest reason for optimism and it was in that department that they won this game to make their loudest statement of the season. Brendan Rodgers, the Liverpool manager, started with three central defenders and two wing-backs, and he saw Arsenal take charge upon Santi Cazorla's goal. The visitors struggled to suppress Arsenal's runners from midfield.
Rodgers switched to 4-2-3-1 in the second-half, with the substitute Philippe Coutinho looking sharp at left midfield upon his return from injury. Luis Suárez bristled with menace throughout. But the frustration for Liverpool went deeper than the referee Martin Atkinson's decision to pull back Suárez's quick free-kick on 26 minutes, which led to Jordan Henderson putting the ball in the net.
They did not do enough offensively until after Ramsey's goal while Steven Gerrard could not exert his influence. Rodgers said afterwards that the captain "took a knock towards the end with his hip".
Liverpool intend to respond at home to Fulham on Saturday while for Arsenal there are the away games against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League on Wednesday and Manchester United in the league on Sunday. Dortmund hammered Stuttgart 6-1 on Friday night. "I wanted something more testing for them," Wenger said. "Unfortunately, they had a good friendly." Arsenal's defining period has begun well.
Man of the match: Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal)
This was the kind of win that persuades pretenders they can, indeed, be challengers. Arsenal were already top of the league before undermining Liverpool's credentials but Arsène Wenger's side ended the day in splendid isolation at the summit, their advantage from a division that is supposed to contain up to six other contenders an eye-catching five points.
The manager allowed himself a little punch of the air in delight at the final whistle, his sense of satisfaction reflected in the chorus of triumph that echoed around the arena. This squad may still feel shallow, with injuries having left inexperienced youth players on the bench, but the first team feels impressive when they click like this. Mikel Arteta was a steadying influence in midfield, Santi Cazorla and Mesut Özil a blur of inventive intent. Bacary Sagna looks the rampaging right-back of old, Wojciech Szczesny feels assured where last year he was susceptible and, in Aaron Ramsey, Arsenal boast a player enjoying a personal resurgence.
The Welshman's goal here, the ball collected and then dispatched from distance after Özil had shifted it inside and Kolo Touré and Mamadou Sakho had allowed their opponent a split second to adjust his body, was stunningly executed. Ramsey now boasts 10 for the season to date for Arsenal, plus one for Wales. He had managed only 11 for his club in his five previous years, though his contribution should not be measured in goals alone. He has clicked on to the same wavelength as Cazorla and even Özil and, when that trio thrive, the Londoners can feel irrepressible. Jack Wilshere, absent nursing those familiar ankle problems, was not missed.
The manager relished Ramsey's display and heaped praise on a defence that has shipped only six goals in nine league games since the startling defeat by Aston Villa on the opening day. Wenger referred to that as "our massive blip" but is fast being forgotten. Borussia Dortmund and Chelsea may have inflicted defeats at the Emirates Stadium in recent weeks but confidence will have been restored by this performance. In an unpredictable division where José Mourinho's team can then surrender rather limply at Newcastle United just when momentum appeared to be with them, Wenger can dare to dream.
The next few months will still expose just how prolonged his team's challenge can be. There are awkward games ahead, with contests against Manchester United, Southampton, Everton, Manchester City and Chelsea among the next seven league matches up to Christmas, but they have eked out breathing space with a sprinter's start.
"That's something we've been lacking over the last few seasons," said Ramsey. "We've got off slowly and have been left playing catch-up, but we've got a gap now. And our form from Christmas to the end of the season has been phenomenal in the last few seasons." If they repeat the bursts of form that secured them top-four finishes in the last two seasons, the rest will do well to keep up.
The home side were the dominant force here, particularly through the second period until sloppiness threatened to creep in late on, with their advantage having been established. Arteta slid a pass down the right channel beyond Aly Cissokho, whose rustiness left the visitors vulnerable, for Sagna to whip across goal on the gallop. The Frenchman's delivery was vicious, the ball bouncing once before Cazorla planted a header on to an upright. Liverpool were still in disarray, Martin Skrtel's reactions dulled and laboured, when the Spaniard thumped the rebound into the net.
In truth, Liverpool may have to endure this as a reality check. They had arrived in the capital buoyed by their own form and sensing blood, seeking to exploit all the doubts that had seeped in afterArsenal's recent losses in the Champions League and Capital One Cup, only to fizzle out in disappointment.
Luis Suárez, the subject of that infamous £40,000,001 bid by the London club over the summer, was slippery and menacing, Daniel Sturridge just as impressive at his side, but there was too much vulnerability at the back. Brendan Rodgers had been denied Glen Johnson after the right-back spent the evening in hospital the reason given was an infection to his face but everything felt makeshift in his absence. Liverpool's back-line morphed from three centre-halves to a back four, and then virtually a free-for-all as they chased the contest. None of the combinations or arrangements suggested surety.
This will have annoyed Suárez. The Uruguayan might have sparked an equaliser, sending Sturridge away down the left with a quickly taken free-kick after he had been fouled by Sagna. Jordan Henderson tapped in the forward's cross only for Martin Atkinson to opt to book the Arsenal full-back for the original offence and rule against the speedy taking of the dead ball.
"I got an explanation from the fourth official, saying if he'd allowed the second phase of play where we scored to stand he could not have booked their player," said Rodgers. "It was disappointing, a poor decision because you want to let the game flow and Luis's was clever play. It didn't help us."
Had that stood then Arsenal might have been exposed as fragile once again. Instead, they grew and, even if Suárez clipped a post, had delivered their own statement of intent by the end.
They have passed their biggest top-flight test to date. Next up in the league is a trip to Old Trafford.
A film of a woman being beheaded in Mexico caused an international outcry in October when Facebook refused to remove it from its site. There have been hundreds of reports about the video - but why has no-one identified the victim in it?
In the grainy footage, the woman is on her knees in jeans and a pink top, before a masked man holding a knife behind her says in a gruff voice: "Well, gentleman, this is what happens to all those in the Gulf Cartel. On behalf of Los Zetas."
The rest of the video is a gruesome 40 seconds of cold-blooded murder, which caused international controversy recently when it was posted on Facebook.
"Irresponsible" was the word used by the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, about the social network's policy permitting the video to be uploaded. After a day or so of impassioned debate on both sides, Facebook reversed its decision and took the video down.
Needless to say, it is still easy enough to find online, especially in Mexico. There are numerous websites dedicated to uploading videos of "narco-killings" or executions similar to the Facebook example.
Yet despite the fact the victim is clearly identifiable and that presumably someone somewhere in Mexico must recognise her - as their wife, daughter or sister - no-one has come forward to name her. As far as the BBC has been able to ascertain, there is no investigation under way in Mexico to establish the woman's identity, or find the culprits of her murder.
"The place to start [such an investigation] is with the municipal police," says Dr George Grayson, one of world's authorities on Los Zetas and author of the book, The Executioner's Men, about the criminal organisation. The problem, he says, is that although many municipal police officers may work for the public during the day - and sometimes even that is questionable - at night they work for the cartel.
As such, he says, fear is a powerful tool used by both the Zetas and their rivals.
"People are reluctant to report crimes, even heinous crimes. State forces are not much better in terms of their corruption and their collaboration with the cartels."
Meanwhile, the unfortunate lady in the controversial film continues to be nameless and with no known identity - a "Jane Doe", reminiscent of dozens, perhaps hundreds of others who met a grisly end on camera in Mexico.
In the case of the Facebook victim, one is faced with an even more basic problem when trying to identify her. Based on the non-descript wasteland in the video clip, it is almost impossible to establish where in Mexico she was killed and therefore which local authorities are responsible for investigating her murder.
In essence, the act could have happened almost anywhere in the country where there is drug-related violence.
"This gets to the heart of one of Mexico's biggest dramas - and that's the issue of investigation," says newspaper columnist, Julian Andrade, who has also published a number of books on the drug war.
"Remember that statistics show we have a 96-98% rate of impunity. The majority of crimes are never going to be investigated here in Mexico. This is the profound problem - that even high profile cases like this one which make an impact in the world's media still reflect the incapacity of the authorities to carry out investigations."
The BBC was due to interview the National Security Commissioner in Mexico, Manuel Mondragon, to pose questions about security and the investigation into the beheading which appeared on Facebook.
Despite repeated requests, the security commissioner's office has still not granted us an interview or made any comment on the video.
It may be the case, of course, that the woman in the film was deeply entrenched in the drug war as an active member of the Gulf Cartel, as her killer intimated before the attack. But George Grayson says it is almost impossible to know for sure what her supposed crime against Los Zetas was:
A temporary ban on violent videos was put in place in May 2013, after one of the company's safety advisors raised concerns.
This ban was quietly reversed in July 2013.
The Mexico beheading video entered public consciousness when a user of the social networking site alerted the BBC to its existence in October.
Facebook first declined to remove the video, but then reinstated the ban on violent clips after public and political pressure.
"Often these ghoulish events take the form of settling scores against someone who has offended Los Zetas or is in conflict with Los Zetas." It's possible she was just a relative or friend of a member of a rival drug gang, and was killed for revenge.
He recounts a story he has written about in the past in which a woman in Nuevo Laredo, said to be an informant, was allegedly beaten to death by the sadistic former leader of Los Zetas, Miguel Angel Trevino or "Z-40", in front of an assembled group of corrupt policemen, sending out a clear message not to cross the cartel.
"Twenty to 25 years ago, women were involved in the narco-trade but you typically didn't kill women. Now all the rules have changed and the Zetas have been the main impulse in changing the rules."
Despite the reams of words written about the Facebook beheading video, seemingly no-one asked the basic question, "Who was this woman?"
If her execution is now considered so normal in today's Mexico that it doesn't even merit an investigation, in the final analysis, it is perhaps this - rather than any decision by Facebook - that is the most "irresponsible" element of this brutal killing.
The talent of Arsenal's individuals was never in doubt, but for so long they seemed to be afflicted by a certain melancholy, the sort that overcomes a squad that has lost its best players and fallen short once too often. Now, they shimmer with the certainty of a side utterly comfortable in each other's company.
There were tantalising signs, too, of a developing rapport between Mesut Özil and Santi Cazorla. The comparison with Xavi and Andrés Iniesta at Barcelona may be a little trite, but there were echoes of that pair in the way Özil and Cazorla measured their runs against each other, each attacking subtly different spaces.
With a little more work, they have the potential to become Europe's most feared midfield pair, with Ramsey the grease to their cogs. Then there was Ramsey's goal, a spectacular dipping volley from 25 yards.
The Arsenal of a couple of years ago looked almost petrified to shoot from distance.
If this was something close to affirmation for Arsenal, then it was a strong pill of perspective for Liverpool. The more fanciful fringes of their support hinted at a possible title tilt after their club's strong start. This game confirmed that a Champions League place should be the limit of their ambitions this season.
"I think we've got a long, long way to go before we're looking to compete consistently," said manager Brendan Rodgers. "We won last week with a terrific performance, 4-1 against West Brom. Expectancy was high. Now it'll be a bit more realistic. But I've always said our ambition is to be up there in the top four. We would need some luck along the way."
No such luck here. Liverpool were denied the services of Glen Johnson just before kick-off, who was taken to hospital with an infection and later released. In his absence Liverpool contested the opening skirmishes well, and could have led through Jordan Henderson.
Allowed to run from the halfway line almost unchallenged, he scuffed his shot badly. Later, Henderson had the ball in the net after a quickly-taken free-kick by Luis Suárez, only for referee Martin Atkinson to bring play back to book Bacary Sagna.
"I thought it was a poor decision," Rodgers grumbled. "You have to let the game flow." But by then Liverpool's weakness against well-delivered crosses, a failing that cost them against Southampton and Newcastle, had already resurfaced.
Sagna's ball bounced kindly for Cazorla, whose header pinged against the outside of the post. Martin Skrtel was caught on his heels, and Cazorla pounced quickest on the rebound. First-time, and off-balance, he hammered the ball into the roof of the net. Goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, still prostrate after his dive, was left flapping helplessly at the ball, like a man sitting on his sofa trying to swat a fly.
The second half brought instant changes. The wretched Aly Cissokho was withdrawn at half-time, Philippe Coutinho replacing him on the left in a largely orthodox 4-4-2 formation. Yes, Brendan Rodgers going 4-4-2: the equivalent of Radiohead putting away their fancy computers and releasing an album of sing-along pub bangers.
If it was an unfamiliar sight, there was also a certain logic in opening up the game. Unfortunately, it opened in Arsenal's favour.
With spaces now opening up all over the pitch, Arsenal could now play at will and break at pace. The warning signs were there for Liverpool even before Ramsey doubled Arsenal's lead on the hour.
Ramsey was allowed far too much space by Kolo Toure as he received Özil's pass just outside the Liverpool area. After letting the ball bounce, he swung a right foot through it, giving the ball just enough dip and swerve to loop the ball out of the reach of Mignolet's dramatic dive.
Liverpool's flourishes were all too brief, the result never seriously in doubt despite the odd threatening burst. Suárez was outstanding in a lost cause, harrying and scurrying and chasing back and ignoring the chants of "you should have signed for a big club" from the Arsenal fans.
He even hit the base of the post late on with an opportunistic shot from a tight angle. But these were mere sparkles, in a game where Arsenal provided all the fireworks.
By Adam Crafton
PUBLISHED: 14:38 EST, 2 November 2013 | UPDATED: 10:29 EST, 3 November 2013
'We are top of the league,' chanted the buoyant Arsenal fans as they disappeared down the turnstiles after extending their lead at the summit of the Premier League table to five points after
For an audience weened on a diet of false dawns in recent times, there is a wariness about excessive optimism among those on the terraces. There were no ditties predicting 'We're going to win the league.' Not yet. They know better in these parts.
Nine years of trophy famine has that kind of effect, even on the supporters of a club of Arsenal's illustrious past.
Main man: Aaron Ramsey is pumped up after slamming home in Arsenal's 2-0 win over Liverpool
Goal bound: Ramsey (left) celebrates Arsenal's second with Santi Cazorla (right), who smashed home the first
But should Arsenal continue to produce performances like this, the rank and file will truly start to believe that their side can reclaim the title for the first time since 2004.
Against Liverpool, Arsenal were at their brilliant best, bursting with fluid counter-attacking and electric movement.
The tempo to Arsenal's game was blistering, blurs of red hunting in packs and forcing errors from a Liverpool side usually so well-oiled in receiving the ball under pressure.
Aaron Ramsey was terrific again, powering into tackles to win the ball from Steven Gerrard and dispossessing Lucas Leiva with the sheer force of his upper body strength on two occasions in the first half.
This is a determined, gifted player at the peak of his game, totally confident in his abilities and driving Arsenal forward on every occasion. His tenth goal of the season was no fluke, dipping unerringly over Mignolet and into the top corner to double Arsenal's lead and finish the game as a serious contest.
Game on: Santi Cazorla scored Arsenal's opening goal as they stay top of the Premier League
If the end of season awards were handed out at Christmas, Ramsey would be the leading contender for the individual prize. He has been that good.
Perhaps only playing due to the enforced absence of Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla was the star turn, stationed on the left-wing but roaming here, there and everywhere demanding the ball, committing opponents and making things happen.
One sharp turn on the half-way line left Steven Gerrard on his backside, chasing back in bewilderment. The Spaniard's half-volley to open the scoring after nineteen minutes was so sweetly struck and perfectly executed.
Alongside him, Ozil delivered another performance glistening with star quality, the ball seemingly adhered to his left foot, as he gave the slip to Lucas Leiva and Jordan Henderson time after time.
The German was so sleek, so composed, always keeping a cool head in a frenetic midfield battle.
Addressing the Manchester Lowry audience earlier this week, Sir Alex Ferguson reminisced about Eric Cantona, noting that the Frenchman 'made a simple pass look great'. The same can be said of the majestic Ozil, who appears effortless yet mesmerisingly precise in his distribution.
Instrumental: While looking menacing at times, Daniel Sturridge (left) and his strike partner Luis Suarez (below) couldn't breach the Gunners defence
Confidence flooded through the Arsenal ranks and their development into serious contenders is embodied as much by Olivier Giroud, all sparky attacking and selfless endeavour, as the headline acts of Cazorla and Ozil.
Up against three centre backs, the Frenchman embraced the challenge and was influential once again on Saturday. His intelligent movement and robust hold-up play stretched the Liverpool defence, pulling Kolo Toure and Mamadou Sakho out to the wide areas and freeing up space for the supporting cast to exploit.
Liverpool's experimental 3-5-2 formation didn't work, with Brendan Rodgers' players looking uncomfortable from back to front. Goalkeeper Simon Mignolet sliced two clearances and dropped a cross.
Ideal result: Arsene Wenger raises his arms in satisfaction as Arsenal's performance is capped off by Ramsey's goal
Aly Cissokho, as the left wing-back was completely out of his depth, exposed as a liability defensively and equally unconvincing in his attacking forays, running into cul-de-sacs and squandering possession. He was subbed at the break by Rodgers, who introduced Coutinho and restored a more familiar 4-4-2 formation.
They immediately looked more assured, as Liverpool briefly rallied at the beginning of the second half. Suarez twice sprinted in behind the home defence and only the timely intervention of Laurent Koscielny and a miscued volley by Jordan Henderson spared Arsenal's errant offside trap.
Hard yards: Ramsey also got down to the dirty work in the midfield against Steven Gerrard
Often hailed as a tactical innovator, Rodgers got it wrong here. Gerrard was unusally off-the-pace, Leiva was overwhelmed by the sheer ferocity of Arsenal's pressing.
Still, that potent striking partnership of Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez remained menacing, always on the move and worrying defenders. But the two never really clicked as a duo on this occasion.
Even the best have off nights and attention should be focused on Arsenal's formidable centre-back pairing, with the organisational qualities of Per Mertesacker perfectly complementing Laurent Koscielny's more impulsive tendencies.
Tall timber: Arsenal's Per Mertesacker (left) and goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny are all smiles after clean sheet
Arsenal didn't need a Suarez figure here and the home fans teased the Uruguayan, singing 'You should have signed for a big club'.
Given Liverpool's heritage, it was a little disingenuous but it was that kind of night for Arsenal fans, when everything made sense.
Two more showings like this one by Arsenal against Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday and Manchester United next weekend, and Suarez may just end up wishing that the 40million (and one pound) move to the Emirates went through after all.
Acting on information that a bid in excess of £40m would trigger a release clause in Suarez's contract it did not Arsenal pursued the unusual strategy, which prompted the Liverpool owner, John W Henry, to ask on Twitter: "What do you think they're smoking over there at the Emirates?"
Reflecting on Suarez, who faces Arsenal at the Emirates in a battle between first place and second in the Premier League, Wenger admitted that the bid for the player was "not the most subtle thing" that his club had ever done. "But it was not meant to be provocative at all. It could be interpreted like that but it was not our purpose. I don't want to dwell more on that situation."
It is an unfortunate consequence of Arsenal's transfer policy over recent years that they have had to come up against some of the great players who have left their club, including the likes of Thierry Henry and Robin van Persie. Coming up against one of the big players they missed out so publicly on signing is nevertheless a new experience for Wenger who, noticeably, never ruled out returning for Suarez at some point in the future.
The Arsenal manager said he did not believe that the Uruguayan would be booed by Arsenal fans, who may also hold out hope that he might join their club one day. Was there any regret on Wenger's part? "Not at all. Life is about opportunities that you miss, some that you take. We have a squad that is good enough to beat Liverpool and that is what we want to show and focus on. We want to win the game and the most important part is how we play, not how Suarez will play."
Asked whether the relationship with Henry and the Liverpool board was awkward now, as a consequence of their exchanges over the summer, Wenger said he did not believe that was the case. "We don't smoke!" said Wenger, not entirely accurately given Jack Wilshere's most recent indiscretion. "But relations are good [with Liverpool]."
The Arsenal manager will be without Mathieu Flamini and for the Champions League game against Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday. Mikel Arteta is back after a one-game suspension but the greatest concern remains an injury to Olivier Giroud, with so little quality cover in the position. Wenger offered up Nicklas Bendtner, Park Ju-Young and even Mesut Özil as alternative centre-forwards, although with little conviction. "I don't know yet if we will strengthen [in attack] in January," he said. "Honestly, I want to see where we stand at the end of December."
Asked whether losing three consecutive home games, albeit in three separate competitions, would be damaging, Wenger was sufficiently relaxed to laugh about the prospect. "Just your question is damaging! The question is trying to kill me! Liverpool is a big game for us in a completely different competition and we want to respond well. It was a disappointment on Tuesday [against Chelsea], and we want to respond in a very strong way in a competition where we are in a very strong position."
'We've only just scratched the surface of everything that Twitter can become," chief executive Dick Costolo tells viewers in the roadshow video made to woo investors before the company's stock-market debut this week.
There are around 2.4 billion people online worldwide, and 10% of them are active on Twitter. Impressive, but a long way behind Facebook, which claims its monthly users amount to half the online population 1.2 billion. Costolo's challenge is to coax the many millions who are too daunted or confused by Twitter into joining the conversation.
The extent to which investors believe he can do this will help set the float price, which is due to be confirmed on Wednesday. And that price will determine whether Twitter surges during its first day of trading on Thursday, or goes the way of online coupon site Groupon, whose shares have lost half their original value since it floated in 2011.
When Groupon came to market it was the first major internet stock to go public since Google in 2004. Although pre-IPO investors complained at the time that Google had underestimated its own value, helping the shares soar on the first day, Facebook last year illustrated the dangers of allowing a privileged few early backers to cash in too handsomely at the IPO. Despite the early controversy, the search giant's successful career as a public company remains the ideal.
In its roadshow, which started last Monday, Twitter is marketing 70m shares at between $17 and $20 apiece, valuing it at $10.9bn (£6.8bn). But Wall Street believes either the price or the number of shares sold are likely to be increased; Facebook notoriously increased both just before its first day of trading.
"It's conservative and likely going to be raised as they start the roadshow at least once if not twice," Sam Hamadeh of PrivCo, a research firm that specialises in private companies, said of Twitter's pricing. "The size of the offering is also a bit small. But they may only choose to raise the price once they gauge investor demand. Raising both the price and the size was Facebook's fatal mistake."
Pivotal Research Group has set a $29 price target, painting a picture of Twitter in five years' time as a company whose revenues have grown from the $650m forecast for this year to $4bn. The profit margin, it said, will be in the 30% range; Twitter is loss-making today. As a new business with losses to carry forward, Twitter will pay little tax in cash. Any levies due will be reduced by the granting of tax deductible stock options to employees. But Twitter will remain much smaller than Facebook about a fifth of its size. "Twitter is a niche business that will not likely be used by everybody, versus Facebook, which essentially is," said Pivotal analyst Brian Wieser.
Rick Sumner at research group Morningstar said Twitter was "undervalued" at $20 and has put a $26 fair value estimate on the shares. He is more bullish about its prospects than Wieser. His "base case" scenario pitched between the most negative and positive outcomes envisages that, in 10 years, Twitter will have 1 billion users, reaching about half Facebook's eventual size. It will also earn about $10 per user giving annual sales approaching $10bn.
"Although the company has not yet penetrated the mass market, we believe it will succeed in simplifying its applications, improving accessibility for users, and delivering a more pervasive Twitter experience," Sumner said.
Although Barack Obama, Pope Francis and a long list of celebrities, politicians, business leaders and journalists have made Twitter famous, by new media standards it is still not considered mass-market. The company's own IPO filings explain succinctly why this is. The prospectus states: "New users may initially find our product confusing."
The signup process is partly to blame. When a user joins Facebook, the software can immediately delve into their contacts list and finds other friends on the platform. Twitter has not yet found a way to do this: new arrivals have to build their own lists of people to follow, which means deciding what they have come to the platform to learn about.
While Facebook is the internet equivalent of a telephone directory, where just a home page is enough of a presence, Twitter is a platform for those who actively have something to say and are not afraid of the backlash expressing an opinion can often generate. But not everyone wants to be a public opinion-former, or engage in pithy 140-character exchanges with academics and analysts.
Twitter is doing everything to make itself easier to use. Costolo promises in his video that it will "bridge the gap" between wide awareness and the actual number of people signing up. Potential investors will have to decide whether taking Twitter to the mass market could justify some of the more bullish Wall Street predictions, or merely dilute the platform's power to influence.
Last season he was playing them less as a double act. Suárez or Sturridge would play out wide to preserve the shape the manager wanted. But Rodgers is the first to break from the norm. He knew his golden ticket was to get those two key players in the team in match-winning positions, then fit the team around them.
So Liverpool were the first to switch to three at the back. Teams nowadays are averse to playing four across midfield in a straight line. So if you want to play two up front you either weaken the midfield, which few are inclined to do, or weaken your back four by switching to a three.
That was the course chosen by Rodgers, solely to get the game-changing players into their ideal positions and the ones they want to play in.
When I was at Liverpool we generally had a forward making runs off a main striker. Emile Heskey was the most obvious example. But the current two both possess a great touch and are equally adept at coming short to receive the ball, while also being able to spin and dart behind a back four, in the centre-forward role. That is a nightmare for any defence.
We have all seen Suárez spinning to exploit chances. Sturridge has even more pace when he starts level with a defender. With the likes of Steven Gerrard breaking forward this becomes a potentially devastating combination. Suárez and Sturridge combine so well.
The last pair I can remember linking as well as these two were Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke at Man Utd. They were always looking for one another and flicking balls round the corner.
Talk to any Liverpool fan in the street and they are so excited about this partnership. Rightly so. They are fabulous players to watch.
The disturbance with Suárez over the summer was because he wants to be in a Champions League side and Liverpool were below that status. By that logic he would have to embrace other top names in the team and be grateful for their presence. He wants to win, and Sturridge will help him achieve that aim, so Suárez is bound to feel better about himself and the club.
Despite their worldwide reputation, Liverpool would not have been on Suárez's agenda when he was working his way up the ranks. Spain's La Liga will have struck him as the place to be. Nobody can pretend he came to Anfield with the Liver Bird tattooed on his chest.
He would feel no natural loyalty to Liverpool. His urge is to win and show his talents on the greatest stage. So he must be happier knowing he has such a good strike partner and is playing in a side that is performing well.
The disciplinary issues with Patrice Evra and the biting of Branislav Ivanovic are shadows across his Anfield career. History says that clubs are more inclined to bend the rules for match-winning players, which is precisely what Liverpool did. The club, the badge and the heritage are strong.
I feel the club handled the biting incident better than the Evra affair. They spoke unambiguously. There was still the question of whether it would be considered one strike too many but this time they put up a united front and were clear in their disapproval.
If one of the lesser players had found himself in so much trouble over the past few years, they would not have been able to count on the same level of support from the club. There is no hiding from that. In any industry the most valuable employees are the ones firms are most loathe to let go. In this case the gains were clear. Suárez wins games, helps you into the Champions League, brings you success. The maths are very simple.
Sturridge, meanwhile, is a player transformed. When Liverpool bought him it struck me that he had not broken through either at Manchester City or Chelsea. Bolton, on loan, was a more productive spell for him. I thought he was decent but not necessarily a trophy-winning player for a club of Liverpool's stature. I was mistaken to be slightly underwhelmed. I wanted them to buy one of the £20m-£30m strikers around Europe. But blimey, has he proved everyone wrong.
There is no risk of Sturridge being a flash in the pan. He is here to stay. He looks quick, sharp, lively, with a good touch. He scores scrapbook goals. These are dynamite qualities for a striker, especially if they are cute, and know where the ball is going to drop, and can finish. Sturridge has good feet as well. He can beat players. He has an awful lot going for him.
I would call it one of the best Liverpool buys in a long, long time, and it reflects well on Rodgers, who also spotted Philippe Coutinho. Straight away you give the manager credit for those acquisitions.
For too long in this country we have stuck rigidly to formations and squeezed players into them. At Liverpool, the good players are determining the shape of the team. Sturridge-Suárez has not become an either/or. You need a bit of imagination to piece such talents together. And Brendan Rodgers has it.
New York Magazine has advised its readers to go to "Birmingham instead of London" in an article this week that trumpeted the city's attractions from the culinary delights of the Balti Triangle to "the world renowned" Birmingham Royal Ballet, its thriving jewellery trade and music scene. A lack of tourist hordes was another reason.
That came after The New York Times last year declared it was "no longer simply flyover country" but a "big-shouldered, friendly and fun" place that its readers should definitely visit. Over the last five years, visitor numbers have seen double-digit percentage growth to some 34 million a year.
Singer-songwriter Jamelia is a feisty defender of the city where she was born and bred. But even she confessed when she first began traveling to work in London at 15 she was "embarrassed to say I was from Birmingham. It wasn't a place I was so proud of", she said. "Today, it's a different story. It's a fantastic city. I'm such a proud Brummie. There's no place better on Earth."
She said she was such a regular in its designer fashion stores and gourmet restaurants in the extensively redeveloped city centre that she feared they might be "sick of me". She admitted she had once lived in London for about a year, but when her two children, now aged 12 and 8, started talking like southerners it was too much.
"We do have a distinctive accent, but at the same time I love the accent that's one of the reasons I moved away from London," she said. "My children were speaking in this RP accent. I thought 'Actually no, we're from Birmingham, we're very proud of it and want people to know. Let's get back to Brum'."
Ian Taylor, a director of Marketing Birmingham, the body charged with selling the city to the world, said the city had "changed beyond all recognition" over the last two decades, but was aware there was a lingering perception problem in the UK. "There are people who probably haven't been here for a long while... who come and say 'wow' this place is fantastic," he said.
Mr Taylor, a Newcastle native who chose to move to Birmingham eight years ago, said the city had always attracted large numbers of people for business conferences, mainly from the UK. But there had been a recent surge in tourists, particularly from the US, China and India. "There's much greater recognition of what Birmingham has to offer internationally," he said.
Second city stats: The best of Brum
Birmingham dates back to Anglo-Saxon times with the name derived from the "ham" or home of the followers of Beorma, thought to have been a Saxon warrior or noble. The Domesday Book lists just nine houses in 1086. Peter de Bermingham was granted a charter to set up a market in 1166. In 2009, a vast haul of 7th century Anglo-Saxon gold and silver valued at £3.28m was found in the area: the Staffordshire Hoard is on display at Birmingham Museum.
Birmingham is bucking the UK trend and has one of the most youthful populations in Europe with nearly 40 per cent of inhabitants aged under 25. This "New Beat Generation" is helping to create something of a cultural renaissance in art, literature, dance and music.
Soul singer-songwriters Laura Mvula, shortlisted for this year's Mercury Prize, and Jacob Banks are the leading lights of the new music scene, but Black Sabbath, Duran Duran, ELO, UB40, Ocean Colour Scene and Jamelia all hail from Birmingham. The 19th-century Czech composer Antonin Dvorak once wrote of the city: "It's terrifying how much the people here manage to achieve".
The Electric Cinema near Birmingham New Street station is the oldest working cinema in the UK, having been established in 1909, when it showed silent films with piano accompaniment.
The University of Birmingham, or Mason Science College as it was previously known, has proved to be something of a hothouse of prime ministerial talent. Stanley Baldwin, who occupied 10 Downing Street three times in the 1920s and 1930s, was a graduate as was his successor and fellow Conservative Neville Chamberlain. The current prime ministers of Saint Lucia, Kenny Anthony, and the Bahamas, Perry Christie, also studied there.
The futuristic new Library of Birmingham is Europe's largest public library. The £189m building, designed by architect Francine Houben, has ten floors and will house the city's archives.
James Watt and the leading lights of the renowned Lunar Society radically changed the world in the 18th century. Lunar Society member and clergyman Joseph Priestley discovered oxygen, while other innovations made in the city include the spinning jenny and the pneumatic tire. It is also the home of Cadbury's chocolate and the Mini.
It may have been built on the back of heavy industry but it is also one of the greenest cities in the country with 6 million trees and more parks than any other European city.
With 32 miles of canals, Birmingham has more than Venice and attracts millions of people a year more, it was once claimed, than the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. And for motoring enthusiasts, there's the spectacle of Spaghetti Junction, one of the biggest motorway interchanges in Europe.
16 mins: Good spell from Liverpool, lot of men forward, over-committed, Arsenal break and Toure stops the counter with a foul that isn't given.
15 mins: Useful corner at that, a flick header takes it into the danger area but Arsenal clear in the end.
14 mins: Gerrard drives in the freekick Szczesny makes a mess of the punch. Corner.
13 mins: Liverpool pressing Arsenal very high up the pitch. Koscielny fouls Suarez.
12 mins: Kolo Toure seeind plenty of the ball down the Liverpool right, in an otherwise quiet period.
10 mins: Henderson robs possession and makes a storming run... it's all opening up... Suarez takes the centre back away... but Henderson's confidence seems to fail him and he grinds to a halt. Token effort weak shot at the end.
9 mins: Nice interplay with Sagna and Rosicky, Skrtel steps in to stop any nonsense.
7 mins: Mignolet makes two nervous clearances, the second of which goes stright out for a throw.
5 mins: Sakho slips, and Rosicky nips in, surges round the right and fires a low shot that Mignolet has to turn behind. The corner's cleared and the counter is on, Sturridge and Suarez breaking, but ref sees a foul. Arteta needs to, and is so far having, a busy afternoon if Arsenal are to win this.
4 mins: Cazorla and Sagna looking dangerous down that right, Liverpool get men back but warning signs are there.
3 mins: Glenn Johnson has been taken to hospital so hope whatever that illness was that has kept him out is not serious.
2 mins: Henderson and Cissokho come forward, and left centre back Sakho comes to join the attack. Ramsey handballs. Freekick cleared.
1 mins: Suarez moves off Mertesacker and nearly gets on a long ball.
17.29 We're about to kick off. Liverpool in white.
17.25 Tactical analysis from Jamie is that Arsenal can overload one of the wing-backs two against one. That's the disadvantage with the Rogers system, we're told. On the other hand, the advantage is that you have three in midfield, as well as two forwards. A relatively rare challenge for Mertesacker and Koscielny: playing against two out-and-out forwards.
17.22 The boy Redknapp looking swish in a nice three-piece - but did he just opine that a win for Arsenal would be a "fillet", as opposed to a "fillip", as currently being claimed by people on The Twitters? I was not listening; I was wondering where he got his suit.
17.20 Predictions? I fancy Liverpool 2-1.
17.15 Flamini a big absence for the Gooners, bigger than the ankle-knack Wilshere in my opinion. They look a bit wet without him in the middle. Still, Arteta is back into the fray, so there's that.
Bill Hargreaves writes: "I'd have him any day a Gunner. 1) I think that playing with AW and the rest of the team would slightly modify his aggressive nature, possibly? 2) I think that he might have matured a bit, taken his medicine, had a kid, etc. 3) He's red hot. Ronny and Messy aside, who finishes better?"
17.11 Another man who has his work cut out is Mertesacker, a big, towering fellow who has been shown to be vulnerable against small, nippy strikers... like Suarez.
17.10 Defender Glen Johnson is missing through illness, so Jon Flanagan comes into the side. Big responsibility for him at right wing-back.
17.05 Luis Suarez, as ever the name on everybody's lips, nearly signed for Arsenal in the summer (depending on who you believe), so some extra spice there. Anyhow. The team news.
Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Ramsey, Arteta, Rosicky, Ozil, Cazorla, Giroud. Subs: Vermaelen, Monreal, Fabianski, Bendtner, Jenkinson, Akpom, Hayden.
Liverpool: Mignolet, Toure, Skrtel, Sakho, Flanagan, Gerrard, Lucas, Henderson, Cissokho, Sturridge, Suarez. Subs: Brad Jones, Agger, Coutinho, Moses, Allen, Sterling, Kelly.
Referee: Martin Atkinson (W Yorkshire)
17.00 Hello, Tyers here. Exciting game in store, the top two going head to head, looking to make Chelsea pay for a surprising slip-up at Fortress Tracksuit. All nice and tight up the top of the table, three points covering the top six at time of writing. If Arsenal win then they can open up a pleasing five-point gap. A win for Liddypool and they are top.
Earlier Please join Alan from about 5pm - he'll bring you all the build-up ahead of this top of the table Premier League clash, and then the best minute-by-minute coverage once it's kicked off. In the meantime, you can read about:
Or below are the match details, as provided by John Ley.
Saturday, November 2 2013
Referee: Martin Atkinson. Matches: 5, R0 Y12.
Betting: Home 23-20, Away 9-4, Draw 5-2.
Stat of the game:
Jonathan Liew's prediction: Arsenal Liverpool
"It's always nice when you're linked with other teams, but for me, I'm very happy at Aston Villa."
And Guzan believes better times are ahead at Villa, something he wants to be a part of.
He added: "It's a club that I think is definitely on the rise, and it's something I want to be a part of."
The christening of Prince George has taken place in the Chapel Royal at St James's Palace in London.
The prince, third in line to the throne, was baptised by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Prince George was wearing a a replica of the lace and satin christening gown made for Queen Victoria's eldest daughter, Victoria, the Princess Royal, in 1841.
However, reports in Portugal suggest that Liverpool have now entered the race for the 25-year-old.
According to O Jogo, Brendan Rodgers has made Matic's signing a priority in January as he seeks to strengthen his midfield.
Matic was named Portugal's Primeira Liga Player of the Year for his performances last season, after winning the monthly award on three occassions.
BBC technology reporter Jane Wakefield tries out a pigeon simulator developed by researchers at University College London.
Her flight instructor is Dr Andrew Hudson-Smith, who explains how the tool can be used to navigate through London's streets and live data feeds.
The simulator uses a Microsoft Kinect sensor to convert physical gestures into movements through the Google Earth 3D web plugin.
Although Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger would prefer his player eased himself back gently after undergoing surgery, Walcott now faces competition from Andros Townsend for his place in the national team and, with England not playing again until March, and a World Cup on the horizon, he will be keen to feature.