Sensational Salah Slammed Home from the Spot as Reds Surge Past Arsenal
Arsenal’s Defensive Line-Up
Both the managers had a good line-up for the match at Anfield. Liverpool team started with a 4-3-3 formation, their offensive juggernaut formula. But Arsenal pivoted slightly and goes for a 4-2-3-1 line up (as expected by the Anfield manager).
Penetrating Arsenal’s Midfield
Liverpool had the ball possession from the first minute and set the attacking pattern for the strikers. The 4-3-3 formation gave them a natural width and a numerical advantage over Arsenal. This forces the Gunners side to sit deep and don’t press high against the Reds. Fabinho was the major outlet whenever he plays at the back and Ceballos was instructed to tie him up to stop the ball progression. But Liverpool sometimes drops Wijnaldum alongside Fabinho to provide him more options and space to work aggressively at the midfield as Henderson pushed higher giving their midfield a 2-1 shape.
Liverpool’s Relying on Crosses
Liverpool’s full-backs were fierce and battle-ready; they kept pushing the Arsenal’s midfield back. It was challenging for Arsenal to put intense pressure on the ball because they are leaving their wings vulnerable whenever they try to squeeze the Liverpool side. Mane and Salah often tuck into the inside forward position to shackle the Arsenal’s full-backs. This strengthens the offensive strategy for the Reds. The secret plan of Klopp was to impact a single side (the right flank) allowing Robertson to charge on the left. As a result, Robertson opens many chances for Liverpool from the left flank. This forces Guendouzi to shift quickly across as the wide central midfielder to cover and stop the winger or full-back.
When Liverpool attacked from the right, the buildup was lethargically slow because Arsenal has more players outside the box. Firmino had to drop deep into the midfield to occupy the extra Arsenal midfielder and Salah had to drift into the inside midfield space as well causing a central overload. This helped Liverpool full-backs make several crosses showing the home side was using the flanks pretty well against Arsenal. But this was Emery’s tactic from the start to give up their wings and use the narrow (horizontally compact) shape to win the crosses. Despite the score line, Emery’s strategy was successful for most parts of the game because Arsenal didn’t concede a single goal on crosses.
The Chinks in the Armor of Liverpool
Arsenal had no chance but to open up after they were 2-0 down and had to press higher. This allow Henderson to create chances and Salah had to compete against David Luiz. But this also gave Arsenal a chance to attack using the wings. Liverpool had massive gaps in the flanks whenever they try to push through the midfield. Arsenal attacked with full-force using direct transitions. When the away side won the ball, Ceballos drop deep and find a free player with enough space to isolate the center backs and attack from the sides.
The Reds Front-Foot Approach
Liverpool was winning balls pressing high up the pitch but as the match went on Arsenal found success. Liverpool’s midfield was not willing to press and prevented the pass and through balls to the strikers. This helped Xhaka and Ghendouzi to form a double pivot. Aubemyang and Pepe were isolated most of the times and Arsenal had to rely on the through balls. It was a high-intensity game at Anfield with both teams finds tough challenges to break each other.
But did Arsenal have an alternative? Please share your comments down below to discuss what Arsenal could do differently to prevent the thrashing at Anfield.
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Mohamed Salah 49′ (P)
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Liverpool 3 : 1 Arsenal