Can Arsenal Find Some Consistency As Liverpool Visit the Emirates?
The interlull is over and Arsenal are eager to get back to action and see if they can pick up where they left off. It won’t be easy for the Gunners as title holders Liverpool visit the Emirates to restart the run to close the 2020-2021 campaign.
Liverpool come to the Emirates having found some form but aren’t the ferocious, ruthless team that won the league at a canter last season. Injuries and fatigue looked to have played their part in severely hurting their chances at holding on to the title this season.
Arsenal, are looking to continue the improvement they started showing since the festive period but are in desperate need of some consistency. While they continue to show improvement defensively and in their overall creative displays, they are still lacking in the mental fortitude needed to be consistent from match to match. If they come out with the commitment they did in the loss to City and the wins against Leicester and Leeds they will give themselves a good chance at a positive result, dome out like they have against the likes of Wolves and Aston Villa and they will make the day harder than it should be.
Scouting Our Opponent
Liverpool have had an awful defence of their title. There is a lot of finger pointing as to why and a lot of it has to do with their injuries, especially in the back but they much like Arsenal were in the fall, their poor form can also be attributed to not doing much with the ball when they have it. As the season has worn on they’ve seen their xG trend downwards to a 1.58 (from a high of around 2.65 early in the season.). Their xG conceded was experiencing some highs in the 5 game moving average but over the last two has improved. The xG conceded is a statistic that supports the fact that their defence fell apart likely due to injuries.
Against Leicester and Brighton Hove Albion, they had the majority of the possession but failed to create anything of substance. You contrast that to their match against RB Leipzig, with 40% possession, Liverpool still looked a dangerous side. Additionally, against the likes of Fulham, Liverpool managed to dominate possession but failed to score and were undone in the air and with long balls.
When you watch Liverpool play you come away seeing a team that looks very disjointed between defence and attack. With Henderson acting as a centre-back for the Scouse side, he can certainly hit the long diagonal balls but it also limits him from pushing up high and acting as the link.
Furthermore, when Liverpool do attack, either because of the defensive personnel they have available or a desire to be more protective due to poor defensive form, the defence isn’t supporting the attack as you can see in the image below.
Against Brighton as we’ve shown without numbers in attack they don’t have enough players playing between the lines. In the image above there are only 3 players hovering around the backline and none of them really are asking any questions of the back 4. With this passive attack up front there only way into the 18-yard box was blindsided runs from attacking players. However, since Milner was the primary outlet and link-up man, he rarely was in a position to overload the wide areas.
Defensively, against Brighton, Liverpool sat deep. But Klopp’s team were fortunate that Brighton weren’t actively pressing the back 4.
When opponents have been attacking Liverpool, they’ve been finding a lot of luck in the wide areas of the pitch. Trent Alexander Arnold and Robertson have been seen tucking in but they aren’t getting the help they need from the wide forwards in front of them.
Another issue that has been popping up that Arsenal could look to exploit is not only how slow Liverpool’s centre-backs are but how slow the team is as a unit in transition. Against stronger opponents, Liverpool have been made to pay, like against Leicester.
Liverpool has a lot of attacking talent but ever since they’ve dropped Henderson back into the centre-back role, they miss his ability to link play between the defence and attack. Thiago for all his skill and talent isn’t found very often and hasn’t offered much of an attacking threat Liverpool Need. Alexander-Arnold and Robertson are being tasked with one too many things as they attack and cover the opponents in transition they are finding themselves run into the ground before a match has ended.
When you watch Liverpool play, you come away with the feeling that they are a team that is very susceptible to passing and attacks through wide play. It’s a set up that could benefit the likes of both Pepe and Aubameyang – if we can get them into that position.
Defensively, Arsenal are going to need to lock down the midfield. 25% of Liverpool’s threats in attack start from the middle third in front of the 18 and between the halfway line. This means Partey and Xhaka (or whoever partners Partey due to Xhaka’s illness) are going to have to work effectively on denying Liverpool any space here to attack.
This past fall, Arsenal were dropping points from winning positions for fun. After taking the lead at Anfield behind Lacazette’s opener, the Gunners were undone but what Mikel Arteta said was a superior side. And it was true. But Arsenal also have recent history to show that they can play and beat Liverpool as they did in July as they outpressed them on the way to a 2-1 win.
That win in July was a perfect example of a team fully buying into a tactical plan that the manager sets up. As poor as Liverpool have been this season, they are still a well-coached team with plenty of talent and if Arsenal show up flat it could be another long afternoon. However, if they are set up right, and they commit to the plan for the entire 90+ minutes, they could walk away winners from this match. And that would set them up nicely for a positive run in to close the season.
What the Manager Says (courtesy Arsenal.com)
“One of them is related to the attention and focus that you need during the whole game. For example, the way we conceded the second goal against West Ham, where we turned our backs on a free-kick close to our box, is something that we cannot do. It just gives a goal to the opponent. And there’s also the other face, that we really like, the way the team played and reacted, the character we showed and the quality that we provided on the day to come back against a really good opponent from three goals behind.”
“Against these types of teams, with the quality that they have, they are going to punish you for every error that you do. Even when you don’t make errors and you do everything perfectly, they are still able to break your lines, to create an individual action and to score a goal. Obviously, it is a team where nothing has to be given to them.”
Arsenal Record vs Opponent (League Only)
57P 16W 22L 19D
Average Goals For
Arsenal 1.29 (home)
Liverpool 1.86 (away)
Average Goals Conceded
Arsenal 1.07 (home)
Liverpool 1.29 (away)
Average xG (all competitions)
Arsenal 1.53 (opponents avg 1.26)
West Ham 1.8 (opponents avg 1.32)
Referee: Stuart Atwell
Assistants: Constantine Hatzikadis, Sian Massey-Ellis
Fourth official: Andre Marriner
VAR: Jonathan Moss
Assistant VAR: Andy Halliday
Match Facts (courtesy BBC.co.uk)
- Arsenal have lost just one of their past eight home Premier League games (W4, D3).
- They could record back-to-back top-flight home wins for the first time since the start of the season, when they beat West Ham and Sheffield United.
- The Gunners have failed to score in 10 Premier League matches in 2020-21, one short of their highest total in a 38-game season (set in 2005-06).
- Alexandre Lacazette has scored in each of his last three Premier League starts against Liverpool.
- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has failed to score in all five of his top-flight appearances versus Liverpool, failing to register a single shot on target.
- Liverpool have earned just two victories in their past 20 Premier League away games against Arsenal (D9, L9), winning 2-0 in August 2011 and 4-3 in August 2016.
- No Premier League fixture has produced more goals than the 166 between Arsenal and Liverpool.
- The Gunners defeated the Reds 2-1 at the Emirates in July and are vying to beat them in consecutive home league games for the first time since April 2015.