Arsenal 2-0 Liverpool: Tactical Analysis
A chilly Saturday night in a packed Emirates stadium saw Arsenal take on Liverpool in what was a cracker of match a between two of the most high flying sides in the English Premier League. There was no Jack wilshere for the home side albeit a knee injury and Glen Johnson was ruled out for the travelling Merseysiders as he was ill, replaced by the young and energetic John Flanangan.
Liverpool arguably started better amongst the two teams slowing down the tempo and controlling the pace of the game playing between the channels within the Arsenal midfield. Mikel Arteta exactly showed why Arsenal were missing Flamini who is a much better holding midfielder than the Spaniard. Arteta lost the balls far too often, even though he has exquisite passing ability he is very poor defensively, with Suarez cutting him open time and again.
However the opening goal came as Mikel Arteta released the overlapping right wingback Bacary Sagna who cut back for Cazorla, the Spaniard could only hit the post on the first time but he reacted quickly to the second ball and slotted it home much to the delight of the packed Emirates.
So could the goal have been avoided? Let’s analyze:
Liverpool’s right wing back Flanagan is caught behind the ball, high up the pitch, Cazorla makes the run into the box and gets his header. When you are playing a back three that’s exactly the problem, Sakho goes out wide to stop the cross from Sagna, but fails to do so, Kolo Toure, given his age doesn’t know where he is and Skrtel should have reacted first to the second ball, doesn’t and there you go, its 1-0 for the home side.
Liverpool however would be furious from Martin Atkinson’s decision who, only God knows why failed to play the advantage when Suarez was tripped by Sagna.
Lets’ just analyze the situation: Suarez gets fouled by Sagna, quickly gets up takes the free kick quickly, lays it onto Sturridge who is onside, the Englishman plays it for the on rushing Henderson who rolls the ball into the net. That should have been 1-1 but Mr Atkinson thought otherwise. He could have easily waited for the next break of play and booked Sagna, instead he calls the play back with Liverpool being rightly furious at the decision. If we see the replays again and if it was a clear goalscoring opportunity (as per Atkinson’s decision) that probably should have been a sending off. If I remember clearly Atkinson was the man who, a few gameweeks earlier stopped Jozy Altidore, called the play back and denied Sunderland a goal through advantage against the Gunners at the Stadium of Lights sending Paolo Di Canio furious on the sidelines.
Liverpool passed the ball brilliantly switching sides but Arsenal held on till half time. At the beginning of the second half, Brendan Rodgers brought on Coutinho in place of Aly Cissokho reverting to a flat back four which meant Henderson and Coutinho would be playing as wingers, this perhaps suited Arsenal playing against this formation. Giroud had the best chance to put the Guneers two ahead when he picked a rare loose ball from Kolo Toure, but fluffed his chip wide on one against the on rushing Simon Mingolet.
Ramsey doubled the lead for the home side which epitomised brilliant technique to shoot from distance past the diving Mingolet. Liverpool however should have definitely not conceded this one, when you are playing a flat back four, you are expected to get tight with the players outside the box, which doesn’t happen albeit Sakho and Toure yet again. Much to Arsenal’s credit, Steven Gerrard had a shocker of an outing, neither tracing back nor going forward, playing too deep and into the hands of Arsenal’s dazzling midfield.
Liverpool’s best chance came after almost 72 mins when Suarez brushed his outside of the boot shot against the post. The Uruguayan was however not at his incisive best and Sturridge looked too static for the away side’s liking. But what for me was decisive was Olivier Giroud’s brilliant hold up play and bringing others into the game. He time and again won the aerial duels with Kolo Toure or Martin Skrtel which meant the likes of Ramseys, Cazorlas, Rosickys or Ozils would get more involved in the final third.
Unique Stat: This perhaps has been the first time I have seen a manager make three defensive substitutions, Wenger bringing on Monreal, Vermalen and Jenkinson thus withdrawing their two of their midfielders in Ramsey, Cazorla and also the injured Kieran Gibbs.
All in all it was a convincing victory for the home side given they were without Famini, Walcott, Wilshere and two others, which certainly ascertains their title aspirations. For Liverpool though, they did produce some good football, but I was disappointed on how Brendan Rodgers lost the game tactically against the Grand old man of the Premier League in Arsene Wenger.
Watch the highlights here: