4 things we learned from Arsenal beating title rivals Liverpool

  • Arsenal defeated Liverpool 3-1 in the Premier League on Sunday
  • The Gunners moved just two points behind the league leaders
  • Liverpool were uncharacteristically poor but it’s not all doom and gloom
  • Arsenal secured three crucial points against Liverpool

    There was one glaring, unmissable takeaway from Arsenal’s 3-1 Premier League victory over Liverpool on Sunday – Martin Odegaard cannot operate a long-lens camera.

    The celebration police were out in full force as Arsenal’s skipper celebrated his side’s victory by stealing Stuart MacFarlane’s camera to take a picture of the pitch-side photographer. When quizzed on the quality of his shots, Odegaard wryly admitted: “To be honest, I don’t know, it was a bit blurry!”

    Putting aside Odegaard’s poor framing – and the needless opprobrium it inspired – there were plenty of intriguing lessons to learn from a fascinating contest.

    Klopp is worried about Alexander-Arnold defensively

    Trent Alexander-Arnold endured an unusually subdued display / Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/GettyImages

    Trent Alexander-Arnold’s frailties out of possession are nothing new. Yet, Klopp has always hailed his right-back’s defensive skill set, insisting just a handful of days before the trip to Arsenal that “it’s not as bad as everybody makes it”.

    The positional tweak which has seen Alexander-Arnold wander into central midfield when Liverpool have possession – a change that began against Arsenal last April – leaves the England international even more exposed in transition. But as Klopp revealed after the match, the German had deliberately ditched that approach to make Alexander-Arnold’s life easier when faced with Arsenal’s wingers, instead sending Joe Gomez infield.

    “We didn’t use Trent in the way we wanted him to be used,” Klopp fretted. “We wanted Trent more on the wing with better protection with Joey in the centre. It could have worked better but it didn’t.”

    As a result, Alexander-Arnold was shunted out to the periphery of the contest while still subjected to Gabriel Martinelli’s unrelenting surges. Only two players in the Premier League have played more than Alexander-Arnold’s 140 passes into the final third this season yet he didn’t penetrate Arsenal’s blockade once. With their creator-in-chief muzzled by their own manager, Liverpool attempted just one shot on target – the club’s lowest tally in any match this term.

    Klopp insisted he would “have done it again like that”. If he does replicate the failed experiment, it would not be his only repeated mistake against the Gunners.

    Arteta learned from his mistakes, Klopp didn’t

    Jurgen Klopp made a rare tactical misstep against Mikel Arteta / Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/GettyImages

    “It is difficult to prepare for what Arsenal did tonight, especially in the first half. Kai Havertz and Martin Odegaard, more or less as ‘double 10s’ in a 4-2-2-2.” Klopp was discussing Liverpool’s trip to the Emirates in the FA Cup a month before Sunday’s Premier League encounter when he uttered this line.

    Liverpool knocked the Gunners out of the third round back in January but had been under extreme pressure and won by taking the few chances they had more efficiently than the many Arsenal squandered. Arteta underscored his belief that Arsenal were the better team “merit-wise” that day by deploying the same system on Sunday.

    Havertz and Odegaard wreaked havoc pulling Liverpool apart, drifting between the seams of a side that could not figure out how to press them. Liverpool won the ball back in the attacking third just once – the lowest figure of their entire season. Never was the devilish dynamic between Odegaard and Havertz more evident than Arsenal’s opener. Arsenal’s skipper was afforded space to receive the ball inside Liverpool’s outnumbered midfield thanks to Havertz dropping deep before tickling an audacious pass into the German’s stride behind Virgil van Dijk, who had been drawn to Odegaard.

    Arteta had to watch his side get torn apart by Manchester City at the Etihad when Kevin De Bruyne and Erling Haaland performed not wildly dissimilar roles last April – rotating positions to overwhelm Arsenal’s thwarted attempts to press high.

    It’s not often that Klopp makes a misstep and he held his hands up after the game. “Arsenal deserved the three points,” he shrugged, “no doubt about that.”

    Jorginho is Arsenal’s glue

    Jorginho held Arsenal together when they were wobbling in the second half / Marc Atkins/GettyImages

    Liverpool may have been outplayed for the first 45 minutes but Gabriel gave them a helping hand to ensure it was 1-1 at the break. As Arsenal’s title tilt hung in the balance, Jorginho recounted the scene in the bowels of a flat Emirates. “We went into the dressing room and we spoke, we said what we needed to say and we didn’t drop the energy of the team.”

    When Jorginho says ‘we’, he means ‘I’. The Italy international conceded that he is one of the most vocal members of the squad and explained: “But it is all in a positive way – just trying to help because the team was brilliant in the first half, so we couldn’t let the goal affect us.”

    Jorginho’s influence on Sunday extended beyond a running dialogue. No Arsenal player had more touches, stitching the game together as the Gunners wobbled at the start of the second half while also offering the bravery to break the lines of Liverpool’s rearguard. Off the ball, Jorginho’s bellowing served as the trigger of when to switch to a man-orientated press.

    The 32-year-old’s contract expires in the summer but surely Arsenal will trigger the option for an extra year in his deal. If Sunday’s performance is anything to go by, how can they not?

    Liverpool will be alright

    Jurgen Klopp’s side were second best but heavily depleted / Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/GettyImages

    “The job now is not to reflect on what they did and how fantastic they are or how good-looking they are on top of it,” Klopp warned ahead of the trip to Arsenal. The reverse is true in the wake of a defeat – Liverpool’s second of the league season: it’s not all doom and gloom.

    Liverpool were without Mohamed Salah, Dominik Szoboszlai or Wataru Endo. Fitness issues forced Darwin Nunez and Andy Robertson to start on the bench while Conor Bradley was sadly unavailable for personal reasons.

    “We didn’t play enough football,” Klopp moaned but it’s hard to grease so many new cogs in the machine. “We had a completely new right-sided triangle,” the Liverpool boss explained, “We needed to get used to that. It was tricky to find.”

    Salah and Szoboszlai may still have some time on the sidelines ahead of them but Nunez and Robertson are closing in on full fitness. Endo will be back from the Asian Cup by the time Liverpool next line up, affording Klopp’s side some much-needed ballast in midfield. As the German coach told the defensive midfielder upon his arrival: “We really need you. We have a really good team. Ready to work, but very offensive.”

    Liverpool shipped chances worth a combined xG of 3.52 against Arsenal – the highest figure the Reds have faced in a Premier League game ever recorded by Opta. With just a few more players back – or even a bit more time between matches – Liverpool are unlikely to suffer quite so much again.

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