In anticipation of a match report by David the Pool supporter, here are my quick observations of a pulsating full-of-life game that will be remembered for a long time:
- Tactically, technically and in terms of fitness, we matched the Pool team yesterday. After losing out against Citeh and the Chavs at the start of the season – not deservedly so against the latter – Unai has made progress with Arsenal in all the above mentioned aspects. We did not sit back and absorb pressure, but we also did not commit too many players forward; there was a good balance and it was telling to see that Van Dijk was Pool’s best attacker..
- Key to all this was the DM-pivot formed by a match made in heaven, Xhaka-Torreira. They bossed the midfield for large parts of the game and found that perfect balance between protecting the defence and supporting the attack. Torreira was MOTM but it could also have been given to Xhaka. In fact, I would give it both of them as they get the best out of each other and together they are three men on the pitch..
- Holding and Mustafi had a good to very good game. They clearly struggled with containing the aerial threat of Van Dijk and we got away with things a few times, but other than that they combined high energy performances with relatively cool heads. The same cannot be said about the goalkeeper who clearly is all about energy and presence but does not always make the best decisions in the heat of the fight. I don’t blame him for the goal as it looked he would have pushed the ball out into safety had it not been for Holding’s heel being in the way, but some of his decisions to come out and leave his goal empty behind him were not too clever. Still, Leno had more than a decent game given that he is new to these sort of PL encounters..
- Emery’s subs were very good again yesterday. Welbz, Rambo and Iwobi brought renewed energy and penetration to our attack and that proved vital to claim a point and we could have had all three of them with a bit more quality in our finishing (shame the last chance fell to Bells’ poor left foot). I would have liked Unai to have started with Welbz or Iwobi and bring on Auba for the last thirty minutes, but, in hindsight, his strategy worked very well and we finished the game as strong as we started it..
- We got lucky with the Pool ‘offsite goal’ but we were also unlucky that Mkhi, who is lacking a bit in sharpness in front of goal at the moment, did not score from his free header early on. The home of football’s woodwork was also kind to us and it just shows you that however good tactics, the players etc are, luck always plays a role in football (and in life); that’s why for example the Chinese cherish it so much! I think it would be hard to argue for anyone that a draw was not a fair result on the night..
- Mkhi, Ozil, Laca and Auba all gave their all to keep the Pool defenders busy and never let them settle down and this was vital for the outcome of the game. Unai really has got this team working hard and for each other and that is great to see..
- The home fans were terrific and really, really stood behind the team, and this was also vital for the outcome of the game: Arsenal Have their Supporters Back!..
- The last observation goes to the fabulous Iwobi and Laca. The Nigerian produced two moments of attacking genius that led to the goal and could have led to us winning the match at the end. He found Laca in space and he found Mesut in space when there was very little of it available. For this you need a cool head and good overview and lots of feeling in your head, and this is so much harder to have in a top game when the pressure is on late on. Alex Iwobi – you rock! And then there is the hard working Laca who could still find a Bergkampesque moment of stillness to produce that goal! Love that man.
8 thoughts on “MOTM is XhakaReira, Arsenal Have Their Supporters Back, Laca’s Bergkamp Moment of Stillness: 8 Observations”
TA …. excellent job. We were easily the better team even if they had the luck (not the bad luck) of more of the close shaves.
The Mane “offside” goal. The referee’s decision could be because Mane was active towards the ball from his original offside position. He went actively for the ball only that Firmino got to it a split second before him. It could be argued that his action might have influenced the keeper’s reaction. Now all an academic exercise.
I don’t think Leno was at fault for their goal. If he had not gone for the ball Salah, on the far side, was in a position to steer it into the net. Leno had to gamble. Unfortunately his full length dive parry, deflected off Holding’s foot into the path of Milner. Allison had a worse parry which went straight to Mkhi who unfortunately was too close by to control it well.
Our team moved the ball around so well in our half that it completely nullified Liv press. Without their press, playing against them became a lot easier. We made 20 tackles to their 13. We pressed them more successfully. Emery has done great.
Good morning from over here TA– and thanks for the top-shelf review.
Stopped by The Guardian (prior to seeing your reminder in my inbox)– digesting a semi-paean to Lucas Torreira. Where Ronay gave one line of props to Granit Xhaka in his feature– I’m of the mind that one (LT) could not have been MoTM without the other (GX) yesterday. We agree. For all of the obvious plays that Torreira made to stifle Pool’s attack– it was Xhaka’s passing through midfield that unlocked the match– relieving the pressure in our half– with time-and-again 20-25yd passes to Kola and Auba and Laca on the left flank and middle– allowing for the chances/half-chances available. Granit’s finest match as a Gunner IMO.
The workrate yesterday from an Arsenal XI? Nothing short of intense. And an effort to recall one as memorable. You are right to express that we rode our good fortune at times. Perhaps just better karma? Last year it seemed that every wayward bounce or deflection was a punishing one. This season most seem to be bouncing to, or off-of, players wearing the red&white. Like a good poker player never attributing good fortune to his own skill? We take the winnings– a point– and not look back.
So it’s here I’m going to insert an idea that I’ve not seen elsewhere:
Is Jurgen Klopp becoming the PL Jose Mourinho 2.0? His pulling back on the gengenpressing-reins this season– coupled with playing for draws against the big clubs? Sure feels like mid-00s Chelsea. A 21-5 GF/A after 11 played is reminiscent too. Other than a late, blitzing trio vs Cardiff last week– Pool had scored just 4 goals in their past 5 PL matches. Maybe he’s recognized a blueprint?
So. We’ve passed the test (4.5 stars!) that most all of us had marked on the schedule. Where does it lead? A tricky slate of 4 PL matches in the works. Bournemouth and Wolves have been no slouches. United showing signs of life. Then the anointed-ones from up-the-road.
Or now the fallback to OGAAT? 😉
TA, top notch observations there (no NEW POST prompt from last thread?). And to PE and jw1, excellent pointers and observations as well. I thought Xhaka should have been the MOTM but I guess some are still waiting to see if he puts in such a shift again before they oblige him; he had the best stats of all on that pitch: tackles, recoveries, passes and touches of the ball. Plus he took on Salah (I read he is rated 92 to Xhaka’s 48 in Pace, on FIFA; not that I know what that means) in a foot race and caught up with him. So much for his oft mentioned abject lack of pace. He has a poor starting burst but when in full flight, I guess he is able to keep up. He did chase down Arnautovic last season and caught him with same sliding tackle. Having said that, I will accept the compromise award because Torreira was immense yesterday.
It was hard to see how Emery could make changes given the full pelt performance of each of our lads, back to front. For the first time in a while, our boys was able to pass out from the back despite Pool’s best efforts to press (we simply played it around their press). I found myself giving a standing ovation in my sitting room as we executed a pass from the back routine, even as Mane, Milner, and co attempted to press us into errors. That was beautiful to watch.
Winning runs usually cause confidence and belief to grow; then there’s the expectation of the possibility of achieving something great. I think Emery has instilled hope in the boys and they’ve started to express themselves again and this time, we have a ball playing DM in place to boot. I couldn’t fault any of our players; not even the full backs, from where I feared we could be had. Bellerin was the reason Mane was pinned back as a defender a lot of the times. Alexander-Arnold’s didn’t have his best game because he feared the pace of Auba and Kola running in behind him. Incidentally, it was after he lost the ball that Iwobi dribbled his way forward to place that pass into Laca’s path for the goal. Did anyone else notice how Laca was already wheeling away before the ball had entered Allison’s 6 yard area? That’s a man who knew he had hit the ball in a way as to evade the defenders in the way.
Finally, Liverpool only had 38% possession! Not even City did that to them.
One fall-out of all of these good displays is more players being invited for national team duty. Laca, Holding, Mustafi and Leno may be deprived of the rest they used to have in the interlull. But, I’m sure they won’t mind that one bit.
Meanwhile, City is looking to do a number on Southampton and racking up on goals difference. We have to be ruthless when we meet these sides too, in order to keep up our scoring record.
While on the subject of Leno’s fault (or otherwise) in the goal….
Eris .. I have watched it severally. Without the full stretch dive Salah was likely to have poked the ball into the net
I believe Leno is the most crucial element in Unai’s revolution. It is the confidence Leno gives to the passing out from the back that fòrmed the basis of our dominance of Liv. It is incomplete to give value to him without factoring in the intangibles he gives to the tesm.
Very nice set of observations, TA, and I don’t think I’ve got any quibbles…
Additionally, I think JW provides a (very) well expressed (9th) one about Klopp & Mourinho. I’d argue that they’re not quite there yet (grinding out 1-nils or maybe switching their DNA to defending scorelines, and/or first playing not to lose)… Certainly (I think) we had that luck factor on our side (once again) and Pool had a strong period after their goal where they looked almost nailed on for a 2nd. But then they had that stoppage for the clash of heads and (maybe) our players had a little time to talk and get back on the plan while they also might’ve had a reminder of the scoreline and chosen to back off a bit. Mostly, I think, it was the introduction of Iwobi that made us the more likely to score…and score we did… Laca making something out of not too much, Bellerin and Ozil not quite being able to do likewise, but Iwobi always leading the way. Not bad for a guy many thought not ready for prime-time. And, doing at least some of it while actually playing at LB, I think. If so, it makes me consider a rethink about just how (VERY) attacking Emery wants his fullbacks to play…at least while chasing a scoreline…
I’m with you (TA) about Leno though he just about got away with his less than fully convincing work. I don’t mean to slate him too hard as, overall, he’s exceeded my expectations, AND, I agree (with others…), that he does look a bit less goofy (relative to Petr Cech) working the ball around at his feet. BUT, as PE wrote, conflating that with “the basis of our dominance” is, IMO, overstating things (in the extreme). First off, if their (perfectly legit) goal stands (with Leno rooted to his line) and Van Djik’s dribbler goes in, (Leno, late on the punch…) it’s game over (before half time…) and Arsenal are the team being (fully) dominated. Playing with his feet bump up the possession stats but they (simply put) don’t matter, esp. if you buy into (as I do…) JW’s analysis that it’s Joe-Say Klopp at the helm of the new Pool… (It’s also Joe-Say Emery, IMO, unless needs must, as they have in so many our matches thus far… But, I think, this is what we’re now calling “modern football” as opposed to Wenger’s–supposed–insistence on the attractive, attacking stuff, or something…and an argument for another day…though nobody seems to take me up on it on all the previous days I’ve put it out there…) When fully fit, Cech is the better keeper, I think, but, let me tell you kids, getting fully fit is tougher and tougher with each passing day/week/month/year past a certain age… The Liverpool press, I didn’t think, got beaten so much as it was half-heartedly attempted before retreating toward conventional lines of defenders…esp. once they got their lead…
Which is why it was so critical that we had Iwobi to work with his partners (first his FB, Kola, then his wide attacker Welbeck) causing the lines to bend if not break. MOTM for me, at least per minute played…
PE, is right, however, that Allison also had some issues and wasn’t quite up to speed with his own attempts at springing off his line, Lacazette punishing him in brilliant fashion for our goal…
Anyhow, again, fine observations…and fine comments too… Looking forward to the Pool supporter’s review as well…
Thanks all for commenting. Sorry v busy at the moment so could not respond to you again/
New Post 🙂