Premier League: Liverpool 3-1 Arsenal - 5 Talking Points and Tactical Analysis
Liverpool cruised past Arsenal 3-1 in a pulsating encounter at Anfield on Saturday evening. The game had a good flow to it and produced moments of magic as well as madness.
The hosts raced off the blocks and started turning the screw early. However, the away side looked a threat on the counter attack and went close courtesy Nicolas Pepe and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
However, the Reds firmly got into the ascendancy once Joel Matip headed home from a corner in the 41st minute.
Three minutes after the break, David Luiz contrived to pull Mohamed Salah’s shirt in the penalty box, giving away a spot kick. The Egyptian made no mistake and thumped the ball home to give the home side a two-goal cushion.
Liverpool’s advantage was tripled in the 58th minute when Salah raced through on goal and finished past a hapless Bernd Leno.
Lucas Torreira got a goal back for Arsenal in the 85th minute but that merely acted as a consolation rather than a catalyst for an improbable comeback.
Here is a look at the talking points from the game.
#5 Arsenal and Liverpool produce a fascinating tactical battle in the 1st half
Unai Emery sprung a surprise with his starting line-up, naming Alexandre Lacazette on the bench and preferring a 4-4-2 system. The formation meant that the visitors unleashed the raw pace of Nicolas Pepe and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang up front in addition to stocking their middle third with four central midfielders.
Inevitably, the Gunners played a narrow system which allowed the likes of Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold to overlap for fun. However, surprisingly, Arsenal were content to allow the Liverpool duo to do so and instead focussed on restricting room for the hosts’ flamboyant front three.
The tactic worked a charm for the majority of the first half as Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane were denied adequate service for long stretches.
Subsequently, the Reds tried to adopt a more incisive approach and that led to them turning over possession on a few occasions. The Gunners used those openings brilliantly to release Aubameyang and Pepe into space. The strategy even enabled the African pair to fashion a couple of decent opportunities for themselves.
In retaliation, Liverpool pushed their central defenders a little wider to deal with the threat of Arsenal’s forward partnership, with Virgil Van Dijk in particular, actively shepherding Pepe in the latter stages of the first half.
Thus, it was slightly ironic that a battle of such high tactical quality provided the initial breakthrough courtesy a set-piece.
Over the years, Arsenal and Liverpool have served up some high-scoring thrillers, though the former hasn’t quite been on the right end of those score-lines recently.
Yet, on Saturday, the sides immersed themselves in a titanic tactical tussle in the first period and that facet alone made the game a joy to witness.