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Arsenal v Liverpool A Liverpool Perspective
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Liverpool are really starting to look more like their old selves under Klopp once more. It was very like a large number of last season’s games, dominating possession but failing to make the most of the chances that arrive, yet still finding a way to win. The big difference is the main reason behind the failing was not missed shots, but missed chances to take shots as there is a lack of confidence in the front three that started. There has become a real tendency to pass when in a good position, due to that lack of confidence. Hopefully a win like this will go a long way to repairing that confidence.
The overall play is looking much better and more confident up until that final moment, the defence and midfield look so much happier as a unit with square pegs in square holes. Fabinho sat in front of the defence makes a huge difference, it must be said. He cuts out so many passes, sometimes it is like opposition clearances are drawn towards him, and the build up can start all over again then.
Arteta has once again been shown to be out of his depth at the higher levels. It is understandable that his team struggled to get possession early on and were dominated for the first half. The issue is that what he did at half-time was, well, nothing, and that allowed Liverpool to just crank up the dominance. The mindless passing around at the back continued, no matter how many times it played defenders into trouble, with no idea of how to get out. When you have three forwards with great pace up against a fledgling centre-back partnership that is not blessed with pace, surely it does not take a tactical genius to see an out ball there?
The front three should have been running in behind the moment Arsenal gained possession, but they barely did that, instead they were dropping off to link up play. Considering that Aubameyang’s career has been built on running in behind defences, the fact that he is no longer doing it (and consequently struggling for goals) can only be due to tactical instructions given to him. It is not natural for him and it is costing the team, as he is not a good link player. Even with the couple of players missing through injury, Arsenal have a good enough team to do more, but they are playing to instructions that stifled them badly.
Klopp – he made an interesting tactical tweak for this game. Clearly they have spotted something with Gabriel as he was the trigger for the press. Firmino was dropping onto Partey to keep him from being an option, leaving the centre-backs free to get the ball, but as soon as it went to Gabriel, Salah was quick to close him down. It worked as well as he was flustered and gave the ball away repeatedly. Without the simple option of rolling it into Partey, Gabriel was under pressure and made a number of mistakes. It really showed how much the pressure had got to him on the second goal, when Gabriel made a complete hash of things to allow Salah to win the ball from him and score.
Other than when it went to Gabriel, the press waited until the ball went into midfield, when it smothered Arsenal completely. Admittedly they were helped by Arsenal’s tactics, with the front three looking to drop off and get involved in link up play, the play was condensed, enabling the press to swarm them until the ball was won back. It made for a very one-sided game.
Alisson – he managed to get through a complete moustache-care routine in the first half, then spent the second half catching up with family on social media. I think that’s what he did anyway, as he was certainly not busy on the pitch except when someone took pity on him looking bored and passed the ball to him. Does anyone know when his audition for Magnum is by the way?
Alexander-Arnold – he was absolutely brilliant yesterday. I find it difficult to understand why there is even a discussion over who should be starting for England at right-back, but yesterday’s performance should have ended it. The cross he put over for the opening goal was world-class, Beckham at his best level of cross. There was only one man in the box and he was giving away a good few inches to the Arsenal defenders around him, but Alexander-Arnold put in such a good ball that Jota had to get to it.
His vision is exceptional, he was linking up the play, laying off the ball, playing through balls and quality crosses. Alexander-Arnold’s performance showed him to be, in my opinion, the best right-back in the world and the lunacy of discussing whether or not the likes of Trippier deserve a place in the England team ahead of him needs to stop. You build the team around a player this good and hope he stays fit and on form.
Phillips – he is growing as the season goes on, looking more and more confident. One thing that can be said of him, he does not look at all out of place in a Premier League match. You can only think Klopp must be regretting not trusting in him much sooner, rather than putting midfielders in defence.
Kabak – as his confidence has grown, his performances have improved markedly. Admittedly he was not pushed in this game, I doubt if he has had an easier one in his short career so far, but he is looking a totally different player from the one who first played after arriving from the Bundesliga. What was particularly pleasing were the signs of understanding and communication between him and Phillips.
Robertson – linked up well and drove forward like he always does, but his delivery was poor. To me he looked shattered and it was no surprise he was taken off early to have a bit of a rest. The amount of football he has played this season must be affecting him, he is massively in need of a break.
Fabinho – back to his excellent best, sweeping up everything in front of the defence as well as providing some lovely passes too. His presence in midfield makes a huge difference to this team. The ball over the top to Salah for the second was a peach as well, though Gabriel did make a mess of dealing with it.
Thiago – this was why he was bought, to provide that metronome in midfield that everything goes through, and everything was going through him. Arsenal were being completely overrun in the midfield as they could not get near him.
Milner – his performance was very good but he really should have done better with his chances. You need to hit the target at least when you are set up that beautifully.
Firmino – his link up play and pressing was back to something like its best, especially when he dropped deeper after Jota came on. Still needs to work on his finishing though! However those moments when he has the ball at his feet and is turning Arsenal players inside out without breaking sweat make up in large part for his struggles in front of goal. It was interesting that he looked even better when playing a little deeper. Could be the long term answer to getting Jota in?
Salah – he was working incredibly hard, but right up until he scored, things were not really going his way. Really he should have had at least one more goal and a couple of assists too, but the profligacy in front of goal he and Mane displayed.
Mane – Holding will be having nightmares about him for weeks, as he bullied him constantly, winning almost every ball played in his direction, just using his strength to maneuvre Holding out of the way. Mane does look absolutely bereft of confidence in front of goal, choosing to pass up a really good opportunity to shoot early on and completely fluffing every other chance that came to him. He was worryingly bad in front of goal.
Jota – replaced Robertson in the 60th minute. Once again he showed why he was bought. He may not be the best at linking up with the others but he is a clinical finisher and fully deserved his two goals. Jota is the kind of player you find a way to get in the team, when he is fully fit and fresh. It was understandable Klopp did not want to risk him from the start in this game, after just returning from injury then playing three games in quick succession for Portugal. You have to expect him to start against Madrid though.
Wijnaldum – came on in place of Firmino in the 77th minute. Looked much more like the Wijnaldum of the early part of the season in his little cameo. He obviously did just need a rest and to not have to play a role he simply does not understand.
R. Williams took Kabak’s place in the 82nd minute. It says a lot about Arsenal’s abject performance that he was under no presure in the time he was on the pitch.
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Written by Tris Burke April 04 2021 12:20:50