Tactical Analysis – Emery tried something different but Liverpool were too good
Liverpool continued their recent dominance over Arsenal with a comfortable 3-1 win at Anfield on Saturday. However, if we analyse the game in depth, Unai Emery’s men did well when compared to the previous seasons at a ground which is dreaded for them.
Up until the end of first half, the scores were level and it was the away side who had two great chances to score. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang missed his chip by an inch, while Nicolas Pepe showed some good pace and should have finished off the chance against Liverpool keeper Adrian.
But once Joel Matip headed the home side in, the small capitulation took place early in the second half with David Luiz making two horrendous mistakes to allow the magnificent Mohamed Salah to score and take the game completely away from the Gunners.
Arsenal didn’t give up though and did not allow the scoreline to get ugly. They even scored a late consolation through Lucas Torreira to prove that they are going to fight until the last second of every game.
Below, let’s tactically analyse the game and find out what Emery tried and how Liverpool overpowered his tactics:
Emery’s flexible diamond did well but it had flaws that Liverpool exposed
Let us now analyse the game using an image of the formation, stating how the tactics were played out by both managers.
As shown in the above image, Emery went with a diamond midfield formation to flood the central areas of the pitch and dominate the game from there. His idea was to sit back, soak up the pressure and hit Liverpool on the counter using the pace of Aubameyang and Pepe.
While the Gunners were able to stem the attacks centrally, they couldn’t stop fullbacks Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson from bombing forward at every opportunity and cross the ball without much pressure in the wide areas.
Ceballos was originally placed as a number 10 to link up the play but the influence of Trent forced him to track back on the left-hand side, from where he failed to have any impact on the ball.
On the other side, with Mane forcing Ainsley Maitland-Niles to remain very narrow, Robertson’s forward runs kept Guendouzi guessing whether he needs to stay wide or mark Georginio Wijnaldum in the midfield.
In the first 30-35 minutes of the game, Liverpool were good in moving the ball around but the crossing wasn’t up to the mark. So Arsenal were able to defend and create two good chances on the break.
However, once Matip headed in his chance, this defensive approach had to be changed at half-time.
Emery started with the similar system at the start of second half and Liverpool began to stretch Arsenal’s midfield by using Henderson and Wijnaldum as wide midfielders doubling up with the attacking fullbacks.
This is where the Gunners’ boss made his first real mistake, that was punished by Jurgen Klopp’s men, who looked so much better even while playing in third gear.
This is the setup of the second Liverpool goal. As shown in the above image, Henderson played as a wide attacker, doubling up with Trent, while the front three were very narrow.
This, in turn, allowed space in the middle of the park, for the right-back to pick out Firmino. The Brazilian then laid it off for Salah, who was then held back by Luiz and a penalty was given.
The third goal was pretty much on those lines, with Henderson at the far side playing as wide attacker, Fabinho found with a through ball in midfield, with the Arsenal midfield completely stretched.