Liverpool vs Arsenal — Tactical Analysis
Liverpool vs Arsenal has always been a mouthwatering tie for fans all across the globe. The managers came into this one with Mikel Arteta having an upper hand over Jurgen Klopp because of Arsenal’s recent win over Liverpool in the Community Shield final. Meanwhile, Liverpool were totally in form and had 6 points from their first two league games coming into the fixture and had a 7–2 victory over Lincoln City in the Carabao Cup on Friday to boast about. Arsenal themselves were having a great run before this fixture, 6 points in the league, and a really impressive 2–0 victory over Leicester City in the League Cup on Thursday.
Formations and Positional Analysis
Liverpool showed up with their common formation of 4–3–3, which usually shifts to a 4–5–1 upon transition into the defensive phase, with Mane and Salah dropping back to help out in defense. As expected, Liverpool started with what is known as the best front three in the Premier League(and arguably, the world) with Salah, Mane and Firmino.
Mikel Arteta set up Arsenal in a 3–4–3 which was expected due to their recent success using this formation. In the defensive phase, Arsenal set up as 5–2–3, with Maitland-Niles and Bellerin as the wing-backs, and Tierney as the wide center-back.
During the game, whenever Lacazette went high up to press, Liverpool often changed into a back three with either Robertson or Trent joining their center backs according to the situation. This was done to make it a 3 v 3 situation whenever Willian and Aubameyang joined their center-forward upfront. With the threat of both Salah and Mane making in behind runs using their pace, the Arsenal center-backs were forced to defend deep creating a lot of space between the lines for Firmino to drop into.
Also, Arteta’s side was constantly outnumbered (2 v 3) at the center of the pitch, forcing Lacazette to drop back and mark Fabinho. Often Willian or Aubameyang would be the ones pressing the center-backs instead of the French center-forward, hoping to use their cover shadow to cut out the opposition fullbacks.
Arsenal’s Tactics and Goal
Arsenal always looked to build-up play from deep, with two center-backs in their own box to receive a pass from Leno, and pivots Xhaka and formerly loaned out Elneny just outside the box. But, Liverpool’s wingers were always ready to press high up as soon as the first pass was made. The third center-back, usually Tierney, was instrumental to get them out as he would be present at a wider position on the left.
Arteta’s outnumbered midfield of Xhaka and Elneny was literally being mocked by Klopp’s men. Therefore, wing-back Maitland-Niles had to come central to help them out. This in turn was causing problems to Liverpool, as Trent was left in two minds, whether to press Tierney upfront or Maitlan Niles in the center. This is what led to the opening goal, with most of Klopps’s men pressing high up the pitch. Tierney received the ball wide being pressed by Trent, leaving Aubameyang in a one on one situation with Gomez. With Trent and Gomez both out of position, Lacazette received the ball and released Maitland Niles into acres of space. Even though Klopp’s men were able to recover, Robertson’s miskicked clearance fell straight into Lacazette’s feet, who had continued his run to the box and had an easy finish.
Liverpool’s Tactics and Goals
On the right side, Aubameyang was easily attracted central during the defensive phase, leaving Maitland-Niles alone against Salah and Alexander-Arnold. This would mainly lead to Maitland-Niles going up to mark Trent, forcing Tierney to come out of position to cut out long diagonals coming to Salah. Salah was obviously expected to come out on top in any 1v1 against Tierney, and we saw that in Liverpool’s 1st goal. We saw Maitland-Niles come up to Alexander-Arnold, forcing Tierney to come wider to mark Salah. Salah took on Tierney to get into the box and took his shot away, and Mane was there to find the back of the net on the rebound.
Liverpool gained most of its success on the left side using Robertson and Mane’s combination. This was possible with Wijnaldum dropping deep to cover for his teammate. Adding to that, Mane would often come central, taking his marker Bellerin with him and creating space for Robertson. This would bring the responsibility on to Willian to track Robertson’s runs, which, to be honest, he wasn’t able to do, especially for Robertson’s goal. The buildup was from the right almost similar to the first goal, but this time, Trent put in a cross, and as Mane had Bellerin mark him, Robertson was left totally unmarked.
Substitutions Making an Impact
Daniel Ceballos was brought in on 60 minutes, replacing Xhaka who didn’t really have a good game. Arteta’s men were now looking to take advantage of Liverpool’s high line using the exceptional passing capabilities of Ceballos. This looked pretty simple now, as Ceballos with taking positions where he was unmarked, and would not take much time to put in a through ball for his front three men to chase and score. Noticing Ceballos’ impact, Klopp even brought on Milner to mark him. The game totally changed upon Ceballos’ entry as Arsenal created several chances but weren’t able to convert them. Lacazette even got two clear one on one chances against Alisson but was unable to convert.
Diego Jota, one of Liverpool’s two big signings this summer alongside Thiago Alcantara was brought on to replace goalscorer Mane on 80 minutes. Jota quickly made his presence felt to everyone. He was getting into brilliant positions and had three brilliant chances. He even managed to get a goal on his premier league debut for Liverpool with a sublime volley from the edge of the box.
In conclusion, both managers should be happy with their respective team’s performances. It may be questioned that if Ceballos had played the entire game, the result could’ve been different. On the other side, Liverpool’s defense hasn’t been great, conceding 4 goals in three games. But, these two sides face off again this Thursday in the Carabao Cup to settle their 1–1 score so far. So, what we can expect is another beautiful game of football coming up.
About the Author: Namit Sharma is a student of MBA(Sports Management) at Symbiosis School of Sports Sciences, and a football enthusiast obsessed with an in-depth analysis of football. A big supporter of the flexibility of tactics and formations during a football match.
Namit is a creative writer at HeadKick.co