Nobody expected us to beat Liverpool, nobody expected Van Dijk and Alisson to make errors, but both did happen in the Arsenal vs Liverpool game. We showed something absent under Wenger and Emery- character and we only have Mikel Arteta to thank for.
On paper, we set up in the usual 3-4-3 formation for the Arsenal vs Liverpool game, the notable exception being of our captain. With the ball, we set up in the usual 3-2-5 formation with Saka and Cedric pushing higher up on both sides. Pepe and Nelson switched sides. This, to me, was concerning as Pepe didn’t feel comfortable playing on the left, while Nelson didn’t have much of a problem playing on the right.
Without the ball, we set up in a 5-2-3 formation with Lacazette leading the press, while Xhaka and Torreira forming a midfield pivot. The reason why Arteta wanted to press Liverpool in a 5-2-3 shape was for Lacazette to cut off the passing lane to Fabinho so that Pepe and Nelson could attack the Liverpool centre-backs directly and it worked.
During Arsenal’s first goal, Nelson forced the ball off Van Dijk only for Lacazette to slot the ball home. And the shape worked again for the second goal when Nelson forced Alisson to give the ball away to Lacazette. Lacazette put in a neat low cross for the youngster to finish. This was Nelson’s first-ever goal in the Premier League.
When in possession of the ball, Liverpool set up in their usual 2-3-5 formation with both full-backs pushing higher up the pitch. Their goal was a typical Liverpool goal. Robertson used the space left by Cedric and put in a low cross for Mane to finish. This was Mane’s 17th goal in the Premier League this season.
The Reds kept trying to score using their regular pattern by forcing the centre-backs to go narrow, catch the full-backs out of position and use the space for crosses. Every time Arsenal pressed high, Van Dijk would look to go long and target Salah and this is the exact reason why Arteta played Tierney at centre-back. The Scot was tasked with anticipating Salah’s runs and Van Dijk’s long balls.
Salah got close to scoring the equalizer in the 54th minute. Van Dijk aimed a pass at Alexander-Arnold, who passed it to Salah. Salah did well to get past David Luiz and aimed it high, but Martinez did incredibly well to poke the ball over the net.
When Aubameyang, Willock, and Ceballos came on for Nelson, Lacazette, and Torreira, Arteta made a slight modification to the pressing shape. Pepe and Aubameyang played narrow and pressed the centre-backs whilst Willock positioned himself behind the forwards. The difference here was that Lacazette played as a false nine and Willock was instructed to play at the number 10 position.
Pepe stayed on the left and Aubameyang played on the right until the 68th minute, when they switched sides and went back to their natural positions. Minamino was granted the same freedom that Firmino was given when he came on for Chamberlain. The Japanese winger was tasked with finding space behind the defence and attacking those spaces. Keita was brought on to create a one man-advantage with Mane and Robertson.
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Martinez didn’t have much to do, but he performed exceptionally when called into action. His save off Alexander-Arnold’s shot in the 95th minute was beautiful. He had to scramble across the goal to make a vital touch and force the ball out for a corner. He anticipated long balls well, made vital saves, and kept us in the lead.
Liverpool kept attacking all through the second half of the Arsenal vs Liverpool game. According to Onefootball, the Premier League champions had 24 shots on goal and 8 on-target compared to our measly 3 shots on goal and 2 on-target. They had around 69% possession and 13 corners whilst we only had 2. This was a classic Atletico Madrid-like performance from us, Diego Simeone would be proud.