Well that was a thrilling football game and one that Arteta needed in terms of evolving his team to his ideal way of playing. We are on a journey and setbacks, however painful when we encounter them, are evolution-gold in the long term. Klopp’s Pool had been stung by us twice and now, at home, they were ready to show who is boss right now. It is amazing that Arteta managed to get results against them this summer, but this game showed we have some way to go to become their real angstgegner. It will come.
Klopp had Liverpool very well drilled and we struggled to keep control of our game at times. But we were in the game for a long time and will learn a lot from this tactical battle. Klopp had years to get to this stage and he has done it with buying just the one or two expensive superstars; the rest he developed into great players over time. I cannot see why Arteta cannot do the same.
My 8 short observations and points for discussion:
1. Our right wing needs a lot of work, both defensively and in terms of attack. This is THE area for improvement. Will it all change when Soares will finally be available?!
2. Either Willian or our false nr.9/CF need to get closer to the duo of Xhaka and Elneny and support them playing out from the back. They were left isolated. Some would want them to be better at escaping the press through dribbling skills, and there is something to that, but our passing game was limited through a lack of options in midfield.
3. Leno did well but we missed the presence of Martinez. However, we need to move on.
4. Pool targeted our left side – the right side is their strongest – and we were not tight there, which cost us. How did they manage to get between the hard working Tierney and usually so disciplined AMN on our left? I guess that is where the different levels of ‘evolvement’ between Arsenal and Pool showed the most on the night.
5. We scored a great goal from building an attack from the back. Okay AMN’s pass was not great and Laca was lucky to get the ball presented like that, but Xhaka’s ball to Laca was great and so was Laca’s ball to AMN. That was training ground stuff and a joy to watch.
6. The two first half goals we conceded came as a result of lack of concentration at the back. We had forgotten about our right side of defence and had vacated the middle too. We had Xhaka (rightly), Luiz (wrongly) and Tierney (wrongly) battling for the ball around the box. Pool managed to get the ball to the side and Salah was in…. Xhaka still pointed to Tierney to get his man but it was too late… And Luiz was not in the centre of defence where he was needed. Hector lost his man. Second goal came about in a similar fashion. Great stuff for Arteta and the team to analyse and learn from. How did they manage to get us so out of position?
7. Second half was much better. We started to breath again and had some belief. Ceballos introduction give us extra penetration and energy. Should we have played him from the start?
8. My biggest question is, should we play with three attackers in games like these? It stretches us out and leaves the two central midfielders with so much to do. 4-5-1 or 3-5-2 would make us much more compact and disrupt teams like Pool much better… Any thoughts?