Liverpool vs. Arsenal: Stats and Tactical Analysis
The 2-0 victory for Arsene Wenger's side saw the Gunners mix defensive solidarity with an ability to take their chances, while Brendan Rodgers should start to worry about where his goals will come from.
Liverpool lined up in a standard 4-3-3, while Arsenal used something approaching a fluid 4-5-1.
Liverpool made a bright start to the game and utilised all their peripherals superbly. One of the most important, if unsung, elements to a possession-based blueprint is a full-back's ability on the ball.
Glen Johnson and Luis Enrique were superb in the passing game and constantly offered an option out wide. The statistics, in terms of positioning, receptions and passes made that Enrique recorded are on a Jordi Alba level.
When out of possession, Liverpool pressed high as you'd expect, and Arsenal struggled to get into their rhythym. In direct contrast to the Reds' full-backs, Kieran Gibbs and Carl Jenkinson really aren't as comfortable as you'd like under pressure.
These two, along with Per Mertersacker, made it difficult for Wenger's side to make much of an impact early on.
Liverpool had begun to build immense pressure on Arsenal's penalty box with both Johnson and Enrique high up the pitch, so the Gunners starting launching quick, incisive counterattacks.
As much as it's in the Arsenal DNA to play possession football, this crop of players is suited heavily to an explosive game.
Abou Diaby, Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla can all travel with the ball at pace, making things happen and making split-second decisions.
Three counterattacks—all down Johnson's side, coincidentally—exposed the Reds in several ways.
Where's the cover?
Johnson doesn't exactly race back into position, but with him so advanced that's understandable, as it becomes the holding midfielder's job to cover the gaps and fill in the holes.
Liverpool are fine, because they're playing two holders, right? Wrong.
Joe Allen and Nuri Sahin are deep-lying playmakers, they're not anchors. Lucas Leiva is an anchor, but a frustrating injury to him has ruled out his participation for a little while.
On deadline day, I made a joke about putting a stop to Jay Spearing's pending loan deal to Bolton. Maybe it's not such a laughable suggestion now?
Both goals Arsenal scored were either finished or built down Liverpool's right. Fabio Borini's defensive contribution is negligible, Stewart Downing's useless despite the effort.
Johnson let Podolski in front of him for the first and could only watch as Cazorla zipped past him for the second. As good as he is in possession and on the attack, his defensive awareness is worryingly limited.
Arsenal exploited Liverpool's full-backs in using the space behind them, while Liverpool failed to exploit the slow turning circle of Per Mertesacker.
Sahin and Allen stepped on each other's toes for the entire game, and it's clear both want to play the same position. The Turkish loanee was thrust in too soon, and needs time to play with his team mates and work out his own unique role.
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