Tactical Points from Arsenal's Humbling defeat at Anfield
By Vinay Shankar (Tactical Analyst)
An overwhelming second half for the youngest teams in the league but crucially, there were differences from previous visits despite the similar nature of the goals conceded.
Deciding between Tierney and Tavares was the main selection headache but it would be incredibly harsh to drop a player in form despite his inexperience. Attacking quality on the left side was going to be key to exploiting Alexander-Arnold’s defensive shortcomings.
Liverpool have always started on the front foot at Anfield and it was important to ride out the early pressure and then build on that. Arsenal weren’t very aggressive with the press but they made sure to cut out the supply lines to the forwards. Liverpool barely had a shot or chance for the first 20 minutes but it was important to change the tempo of the game after this. The confidence in beating the press and playing out from the back was visible as well. Turnovers were generated in some dangerous areas for the likes of Saka and Aubameyang to beat the offside trap but there was a lack of end product from these dangerous moments.
The midfield duo were barely involved in the build-up in the first half but Arsenal had to be direct in their play to beat the high line and release Aubameyang in the space between Matip and Van Dijk.
Until the goal from the set-piece, the Arsenal players were definitely up for the fight and there was a belief in what they were trying to do. The normally-noisy Anfield crowd growing eerily silent was perhaps another one of those mini-battles that was being won.
If Liverpool were perhaps culpable of not showing their typical intensity, they certainly made up for it in the second half. The mistakes from the previous visits to Anfield were avoided in the first half but not in the second. It was great to see Arteta being decisive by bringing on Maitland-Niles but the resistance shown in the first turned into rookie mistakes trying to beat the press.
Not getting Smith-Rowe into the game was perhaps the biggest takeaway from this game to improve on. A lot of dangerous moments arrived from the right with the attacking midfielder on the periphery for most of the game. Credit has to go to the Liverpool players in how quickly they doubled up with the full-backs to prevent any 1-on-1s and this pretty much minimised our attacking threat.
A lot of lessons to learn from this young team but they definitely held their own for some moments of the game and this is something to build on for the games against the Big 3 of Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea.