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Liverpool v Arsenal A Liverpool Perspective
A very one-sided match, with a result that massively flattered Arsenal.
Arteta has clearly inherited the arrogance of Pep and the ridiculous tinkering as well. Arsenal were utterly dreadful and Arteta, despite the bizarre media love-in with him, has to take the full blame as it was all his fault. Everything he did, from tactics to team selection was frankly shockingly bad. The problem with criticising it is where do you start?
I think I will start with the team selection. I get he has decided to bomb out Ozil, and he is clearly far too stubborn to admit it is a mistake, but that is no excuse for shoehorning players into positions that the club has very good players available for. You have Gabriel, a left-footed centre-back, who has played quite well so far this season, why drop him and play Tierney there? Especially when it means that you pick a right-footed central midfielder as left-wing-back to compound the error. It is not like Arteta does not have options, he has Saka, Tierney and Kolasinac who can play that role and will actually provide some much-needed width.
The commentary were constantly trying to claim the use of Maitland-Niles there was to allow Tierney to play an overlapping centre-back role, like Sheffield United do. That seems to miss the point that the Blades keep their wing-backs wide and the overlapping centre-backs are there to create an overload in wide areas, not to allow the wing-backs to drift inside and clog up the middle with excess bodies. What they have done is create a weakness to be exploited by opponents instead, as they are wide open down the flank.
What on earth possessed Arteta to pair Elneny and Xhaka in the centre? That was just begging to be attacked, the pair play with all the finesse and mobility of a 50 year old docker who has smoked 60 a day for the last 40 years and still plays in big, heavy hobnail boots. They were always going to get overrun and they just ended up dropping deeper and deeper to try and block the Liverpool midfield from running in behind them. They were then getting in the way of the defence and not offering any option for a pass. With neither of them possessing the ability to pick a quick forward pass over the top, it invited pressure.
I know Ceballos is powder puff, but when your tactics are based around quick counters from deep then you have to pick players who can actually play that way. Elneny can barely pass water, let alone the ball more than 5 yards and Xhaka is just too slow of thought to pick the quick pass over the top. Again it just invites a more complete press as there is no fear of the press being broken. You are just asking for trouble against a team that is so good at the press.
Added to that, why on earth would you instruct your players to play out from the back constantly? It was clear the players themselves were unhappy with it, both Holding and Tierney were terrified of getting the ball and knew that, even if they got the chance to look up, there would be no pass available to them. At what point does a manager look at it and say this is not working, it is time to try something else? Personally I would have thought that any analyst worth his salt should have been telling Arteta before the game even kicked off that to try it was idiotic. Yet he persisted with it for 90 minutes and it constantly cost them possession.
As a young manager, you expect Arteta to make mistakes, but you also expect them to be learning experiences and for him to make changes during the game to attempt to improve things. The fact he was quite happy to persist with a tactic that was blatantly not working is a major worry.
Klopp – I doubt Klopp has had many easier nights to be honest. Arteta played straight into his hands with the set up, even when Arsenal opened the scoring it never felt like Liverpool were in any trouble. Sure enough they were soon level again and all Klopp had to do was keep them doing what they were doing.
Alisson – had one of the easiest nights ever, though he will be disappointed with himself for not saving the mishit shot by Lacazette. He made it up for it afterwards, even if most of the attacks were offside. He did have a fair few kicks of the ball, as Liverpool tried to draw Arsenal out, but it was fairly routine stuff.
Alexander-Arnold – not quite at his extraordinary best, but still came away with yet another assist. Klopp was worried enough about him in the first half to ask the medical staff if he was OK, after a couple of misplaced passes. Alexander-Arnold gave the thumbs up to say he was fine, but it does suggest he was carrying some sort of minor problem, which is a worry for the future. His game did pick up after that and he was as good as ever, but it is interesting that Alexander-Arnold is so good that Klopp worries about him when he misplaces a couple of passes!
Gomez – a really good game for him, he shut Aubameyang out of the game pretty much. He fits so well with van Dijk, they are an excellent pairing. His pace comes in particularly useful in games like this and it ensured that Arsenal had no easy out ball over the top. The Arsenal forwards were not able to wait and outsprint him like they normally would, which meant they were caught offside trying to get the jump on Gomez and van Dijk. With no runners from midfield, as it was too deep, Liverpool were able to push right up when they lost the ball and crush the life out of the game.
van Dijk – back to something near his brilliant best. Not just defensively but some of his passing was incredible. Nice to see him get within range and try a shot as well.
Robertson – made a mistake which Arsenal scored from, ten minutes later he had scored to make up for it. That sums up Robertson, he is not perfect, he does make the odd mistake from time to time, but he works incredibly hard to make up for it. His mentality is that of a true champion, Robertson just keeps on going no matter what.
Keita – a better performance, but still not exactly impressive. He is still a little slow on the press, but at least he is pressing now. Still a little weak in the challenge but it is a step forward that he did not pull out of any. A five out of ten performance, which is a massive improvement over recently but I do have reservations about his partnership with Wijnaldum, which I will explain in his review.
Fabinho – it’s Fabinho being Fabinho. He does what he does and he does it brilliantly well.
Wijnaldum – I was thinking how subdued a performance it was from Wijnaldum right up until the moment Milner replaced Keita, then it was like he was unleashed. It is clear that he plays within himself and does not get forward as he can when paired with Keita. Whether that is a tactical instruction to allow Keita to make the forward runs or whether that is just that Wijnaldum does not trust Keita to track back I am not sure. It is very clear that it held Wijnaldum back in this match. It is not necessarily a bad thing, if Keita performs well it would be a good thing to free him up a bit from defensive duties. The problem is that Keita is not yet doing enough to justify it.
Salah – such a quality forward, poor Tierney will have had nightmares after this game. Salah tied him up in knots at times and never gave him a moment’s peace when he got on the ball. All that was missing was a goal and maybe that moment when he took the ball on as Jota was coming on to it he could have been more decisive. He dithered when his touch was not perfect and Jota did too, so it gave the defence a chance to clear. Salah was excellent though.
Firmino – a couple of loose passes but he was at the heart of pretty much everything good Liverpool did, as usual. He was the one receiving the brilliant ball on the right from Virgil, killing it on the run, then playing it back before making the run to pull the Arsenal players away to create space for Alexander-Arnold to saunter into and cross to Robertson for the second. His movement is exceptional, it pulls defenders all over the park and leaves them constantly having to think about what they are doing.
Mane – the best player on the pitch. I do think the right decision was made about him catching Tierney with his arm, a yellow was correct and I would have been gutted if it was a red, but that could have led to a completely different game. I am just glad the ref felt the same as me! It must be said that Holding defended really well, but still Mane tortured him. He is incredible right now.
Milner – came on in the stead of Keita on 79 minutes. He came in and closed out the game while freeing up Wijnaldum to get forward more. Liverpool will miss him so much when he goes.
Jota – brought on in place of Mane after 80 minutes. Worked hard and got his reward in the end. Showed some good stuff but needs to learn when to release the ball when he runs with it.
Minamino – replaced Firmino on 90 minutes. Never had time to really show anything.
Written by Tris Burke September 29 2020 19:03:44