Liverpool v Arsenal: Eight Observations From a Big Learning Moment

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?

By TotalArsenal.

38 thoughts on “Liverpool v Arsenal: Eight Observations From a Big Learning Moment

  • Good points, TA.
    I think they targeted both of our flanks, but albeit Holding’s losing possession a few times where he was playing out from the back, he and Bellerin fended off Mane more successfully than how Kieran and Ainsley dealt with Salah.
    We were really unlucky with Liverpool’s second goal, as if TAA’s cross was a bit shorter then Holding could have cleared it with his head, and if it was just slightly stronger, then Bellerin would have moved back to mark Robertson, instead of jumping for the same ball with Rob. But we were lucky a few times as well, notably when Salah created a perfect chance for Jota, which he bombed to the side netting.

    Regarding the formation, I think you might be onto something here. I don’t really fancy 4-5-1, as we still have our 2 wingers deployed there in front of the full backs, but a 3-5-2 could work just fine. In such case we cannot have a classical striker on the field, so Laca or Eddie cannot help here, but an attacker who is capable to cut in from the flank and clinical enough to score goals from the penalty box, too. Luckily we have a few of them in the squad and while Martinelli is still injured this would be my proposed 3-5-2 against really strong teams:


    When everybody is available we can consider a Bellerin-Soares or a Holding-Mustafi/Saliba swap; and if Aouar is signed he can take the place of Willian as the spearhead of our midfield 5.
    Since – as many BKers correctly pointed out – we don’t have a really tall attacker capable of towering headers, this line-up while defensively is more balanced than our regular XI, wouldn’t be offensively less efficient than of storming from the wings on a regular basis.

  • Number 8 is food for thought indeed, TA
    3-4-3 was the right call by mikel, after the brighton debacle, but now the opponents have studied it, and I feel the best of them will no longer be surprised by the setup/ plan
    3-4-3 might take us to 4th in the league – which would be great – with a bit of luck, but if this club’s ambition is really to stand toe to toe with the very best at some point (‘pool, real, bayern, juve, …) I don’t think there is much future in it.
    We need to learn to be dominant again, to create more, and for that a back four is required, as well as an extra man in the engine room
    I, for one, would favour a 4-2-3-1, ideally:
    This very team could be picked Sunday against Sheffield, but I’d like mick to give the setup a try Thursday, with something like
    I’d love to see our versatile genius be given a go in Granit’s place in the engine room. As for the rest, this is just doing things by DK’s book (great link, ta):
    “It is such a big advantage if you can develop your own players because, unlike most players you buy, they don’t have to adjust to a new club or new country. They are already comfortable and they are available whenever you need them.”
    I watched Adrian’s “breakdown” of the game, and was bitterly disappointed, by his “flashpoint”. Laca could have scored, of course, but Becker’s was an extraordinary goal-keeping moment, one Neuer has provided Bayern with an unbelievable number of times.
    On the other hand, Adrian had no mention whatsoever of Mané’s punch in Kieran’s face, which should have been the actual “flashpoint”: ‘Pool were the superior team, by a mile, but the fact of the matter is that they should have had a 10-man team the whole game, otherwise this is gaelic football we’re talking about.
    If we don’t point that out, who will?

  • Cheers PB, yes we were lucky and unlucky, but more of the former so we deserved to lose on he night.

    I am also quite a fan of 3-5-2 but would definitely choose for an extra defensive mid next to Xhaka and have Ceballos play in front of the two (or indeed my favourite for the position, Willian). I would also work Saka into the team, possibly instead of Hector, who I like so much as a person but find our weakest link in the team.

  • Two sexy ohlalala line-up, LeG. One is BB and the other one is Betty Blue. I like it a lot, and the thought of Saka in the Xhaka position is very refreshing. It makes me think of tarte fraise with chantilly 🙂

  • It was naughty even nasty by Mane, LeG, but I didnt think it was a red. It could have been given, though. I also have no doubt that Tierney has this one banked and will sooner or later set the record straight with him.

  • Love the post TA. Also, Kolasinac has been sold to Leverkusen for €11 million plus add ons, who would have seen that coming (a 110% profit!).

    Bellerin summed it up best post-match by saying we need to lose to learn and that we’re still early in our journey to becoming a top club again. Bellerin has not been great but let’s remember that he’s not quite 18 months removed from his ACL tear, which is the normal recovery time for that injury.

    Our right side needs a ton of work, as Willian was very isolated in the first half, but I would say it’s better when Dani plays. He has a better understanding with Bellerin and is also one of the few ball carriers we have in midfield to help us beat the press in more ways than just quick passing.

    I would imagine a 3-5-2 would have been very interesting since we barely used Willian and Auba as it was and the added midfielder centrally likely would have helped numerically in the middle and given us less width where Liverpool were overloading. However, to maximize a narrower formation, you need great passers and I feel like Dani would have needed to start.

    Liverpool’s plan from the start was to overload our left and force the ball over to our right where we are understandably weaker with Holding is not the strongest with the ball at his feet and Bellerin’s passing still being inconsistent. It led to several errors and loss of possession, which immediately gave them possession back.

    If we were to sign a CM with pace and defensive ability like Partey, it would give us the freedom to play with 4 at the back. Otherwise, I do think a 3-5-2 is our best option for these big games as opposing teams are starting to figure out the 3-4-3 a bit. What I’ll end with is that we have never really felt in a game against Liverpool at Anfield in the past several years, so this was progress in my eyes. With a couple more midfield reinforcements, I really do believe we can be back competing with them soon!

  • Another brilliant thing I’m seeing from Arteta is his patience with young new players and not doing a baptism by fire for them. I like that he hasn’t thrown Saliba straight in and kept Gabriel out on Monday.

    I want both to build their confidence and be able to more bed into the league and tactics before they play more regularly, especially against those top teams. Gabriel is getting there, so I’d imagine he’ll definitely feature the next time we play Pool in the league.

  • Here is another classical genius, Schubert, who died so young at 31 but was so talented. Die Winterreise Lieder are my favourites but it is a bit long to put on here. But this is just a piece that sums up (the journey of) life. Or, if you want, the ups and downs of supporting a football team like the Arsenal.

  • I hope you are so right regarding our Hector, HH. To make a wing work you need the RCB, WB and RF AND (indeed) the central midfielder to form a solid, telepathically communicating unit. We are far from this right now, so all seems to go through our left. Ceballos could play a key role in this indeed.

  • Nice post Total, I heard a tactical suggestion on a podcast yesterday which might be worth consideration. Basically the observer said that with a front three of Aubameyang, Lacazette and Willian – the most experienced option – Arsenal lacked pace and this allowed Liverpool to push on and compress the space. His alternative front three was Saka, Aubameyang and Pepe, whose pace and technique would have caused Robertson and TAA to hang back in case of turnovers and thus lessen the overloads we had to deal with.

  • That makes sense too, Kev. We could also have played with two pacey centre forwards so when we tried to play over the top we had options (as per PB’s comment). Saka or Willian in the hole with two of Auba, Eddie or Pepe as ‘free CFs’ could have added an extra dimension (or two) when we had the ball.

  • I wonder if we’ll see both Gabriel and Saliba start together tomorrow, probably with Luiz in the middle of a three?

    Is Soares still injured, because he’s hardly been fit since he arrived and if this is an indication of his general fitness then despite a 4 year deal it might be prudent to move him on sharpish and bring in a replacement like Oyegoke from the academy?

    With the transfer of Kolasinac pending I really can’t see him being in the squad.

    I’m listening to Schubert as I type, very relaxing…

    Looking forward to seeing Nelson, Willock, Nketiah and Saka returning to Anfield and putting right what the seniors couldn’t achieve.

  • Agreed Kev, it is worrying how little we have seen of Soares until now. What is Oyegoke like then?

    I am going to stay schtum for the tomorrow’s team as the PB is writing something up whilst keeping his feet in the Danube 🙂

  • You know what Total, Pepe is a really nice guy or that’s the feedback I get when I read comments from within the camp, but that might well be to his detriment at the club and especially on the field of play.

    Bear with me here Total, he’s the clubs record signing at £72m a player brought in to elevate us to the next level and yet the club went out this summer and signed a 32 year old free transfer to replace him! Why was that? And what should his response be?

    If his response is to continue to be a nice guy, shrug his shoulders and accept it then maybe he isn’t the guy for Arsenal?

    Maybe a change in attitude is required? You know possibly Nicholas should be thinking to himself ‘I’ll bloody show you’ and therefore every opportunity he gets he should play so well and work so hard (eg Ceballos) that the manager finds it’s difficult to leave him out?
    But I’m not sure he has that in his armoury…

  • I’ve only seen some brief highlights of Oyegoke. He can play centre back or right back but he’s a big guy who is very mobile and is technically sound, he’s not ready yet Total but give him a year and maybe he’ll be set to be the understudy to Hector?

    I like what I’ve seen from him anyway.

  • Pfff agreed on Pepe, Kev. Not sure where and how he fits in. Not an Arteta system player if you ask me. I would just try him as CF but I am not sure he has the workrate/stamina for it. I am quietly hoping PSG come for him and we can cut our losses. Or maybe he will still come good somehow. The right wing really is the problem right now.

  • Hmm, not sure that I can disagree with your analysis Total, we’ve all wanted to see him rip it up and he’s been here long enough, but I’m not sure we’re getting the right response.

    See how this season goes but if he’s still content to play 2nd fiddle to Willian come next summer then maybe a decision needs to be made?

  • He has the left foot of Robben, and bloody hell it is good when he gets to use it, but he is so one footed and he lacks the ability to ‘dance’ past players like Robben used to do (still does actually – no at FC Groningen). Is it all confidence, homesickness, or just lack of desire and attitude? Somebody made a bad call there if you ask me.

  • Well it’s odd really isn’t it Total, because Emery never got the players he wanted did he?

    He wanted N’zonzi and Raul got him Torrieira, how different would it have turned out for Emery if he’d got his man?

    He also wanted that Argentinian midfielder whose name escapes me, I think he joined a team in the Middle East this summer, but he was very good, just a bit on the old side, like Willian…….

    Then we have Pepe, Unai wanted Zaha didn’t he and again we’ll never know how things might has turned out if he’d got his man?

  • Emery also remains the only manager who managed to get a performance out of Guendouzi, whatever we may think about them.

  • Morning all, here are the results competition choices for Week 4.
    I won’t be around today as I’m off out with my son and daughter to arrange a socially safe 79th birthday surprise for Mrs.GN5.
    Leeds v Manchester City
    Chelsea v Crystal Palace
    Arsenal v Sheffield United
    Manchester United v Tottenham
    Southampton v W.B.A.
    Benevento v Inter Milan

  • TA, good piece. I like your No.2 observation a lot. We have a gap between X-E and our forwards. I see 80 goals in the league from this team but we don’t get them because of that missing link between midfield and attack.

  • Here are my choices.

    Leeds v Manchester City – H
    Chelsea v Crystal Palace – D
    Arsenal v Sheffield United – H
    Manchester United v Tottenham – D
    Southampton v W.B.A. – A
    Benevento v Inter Milan – A

  • Leeds v Manchester City – A
    Chelsea v Crystal Palace – H
    Arsenal v Sheffield United – H
    Manchester United v Tottenham – A
    Southampton v W.B.A. – D
    Benevento v Inter Milan – A

    !!! benevento – inter starts … NOW

    I think the argentinian lad was banega, kev, and yes he was/is a good player – but I’d rather unai had treated aaron more respectfully than try to sign him
    As for pépé, provided everyone’s fit, he may have become our 4th choice, imo (1 bukayo 2-3 willian/reiss); so yes he really has to ask himself the right questions … he really seems to be a nice lad, and I think many at the club (including fans, for what it’s worth) would like to help him, but at the moment he looks to me like the drowning man whose reactions only result in taking himself and his rescuer down … sad, really

  • Thank you LEGALL – that’s what happens when I rush things – I’m glad that you caught it and my son is late in picking me up.

    Here is the revised list.

    Leeds v Manchester City
    Chelsea v Crystal Palace
    Arsenal v Sheffield United
    Manchester United v Tottenham
    Southampton v W.B.A.
    RB Leipzig v FC Schalke 04

  • Here are my revised choices.

    Leeds v Manchester City – H
    Chelsea v Crystal Palace – D
    Arsenal v Sheffield United – H
    Manchester United v Tottenham – D
    Southampton v W.B.A. – A
    RB Leipzig v FC Schalke 04 – H

  • Leeds v Manchester City Home
    Chelsea v Crystal Palace Draw
    Arsenal v Sheffield United Home
    Manchester United v Tottenham Home
    Southampton v W.B.A. Draw
    RB Leipzig v FC Schalke 04 Away

    Shoot. Thought the Inter match was a freebie too! 😉

    Best of GN5– with the celebration too!


  • That’s the fella LG, Banega and yes he was really good.

    GN5 that’s a good selection, as a lot of those teams seem to be consistently inconsistent and the results are going to be more of a hunch than anything, but that makes it interesting… Ok…

    Leeds Utd vs Man City….. D
    Chelsea vs CPalace…….. H
    Arsenal vs Sheff Utd……. H
    Man Utd vs Tottenham…. H
    Southampton vs WBA….. D
    RB Leipzig vs Schalke…. H

  • I like listening to the music as I scroll and read. When I glanced at it, I saw F minor as Firmino. Too much football I guess.

    When Pepe began slowly with us, I was calling for Ozil to play with him. I think that Pepe is poorly suited to our current formation. If he gets to play with a creative midfielder (hopefully joining us), I think he’ll look much more dangerous. But he must track back like everyone else including our star forward. If Auba has to do it, so will he.

    It’ll be Artetas job to get something out of this player. Can’t just throw him away like Guendouzi and Torreira.

  • Leeds Utd vs Man City….. A
    Chelsea vs CPalace…….. H
    Arsenal vs Sheff Utd……. H
    Man Utd vs Tottenham…. D
    Southampton vs WBA….. H
    RB Leipzig vs Schalke…. H

    J, agreed with every word on Pepe.

    That Firmino-experience could have been a nightmare. 🙂

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