Three comparative Arsenal tactical reviews. Part 1 Arsenal v Liverpool


I haven’t written for a while for a number of reasons, and felt like writing again recently. As older readers probably (hopefully☺) remember, I tend to focus on the actual football and take a fairly microscopic look at the truth on the football field. Who really did well and who did not, and why? It’s all an opinion obviously, but one that I hopefully can justify. Hopefully it complements the numerous excellent statistical articles on this site.

This time, instead of doing game by game – I thought of picking up 3 different types of games to analyze.

  • Liverpool – This was apparently one of the worst performances ever. And it was against a quick side who play on the ground.
  • Stoke – We lost badly here against a side that is very physical and plays the ball in the air a lot.
  • Chelsea – A game where we possibly had a lot of the ball, but still lost. I’m not sure this is the best game to do, so I’m open to suggestions.

For now, let me start with our game at Anfield (2-2). Lets go.

Giroud turns into a defender in the 2nd minute, Gerrard’s playing really deep – probably at the base of midfield, releases Markovic,  huge huge open spaces for Coutinho to run into .. and a trip by Per or was it a dive? to give a free kick away. We can’t be that open – this early.

Debuchy looks good in the air so far, clearing some balls away. Chambers and Sanchez both have given the ball away already a few times. If that’s any indication, the Liverpool left is going to be very active today. Lucas has a cynical hack at Gibbs going through, I’m not sure why that’s not a yellow – although if the Per foul earlier was a trip – it’s fine – he’s consistent.

There’s far far too much space for Gerrard to operate in centrally and keep play moving. Its much like what Arteta does for us when fit. Toure and Skrtel are dominating Giroud at the moment. Welbeck’s running a lot and I’ve not seen Chamberlain do a thing so far – maybe he wasn’t fit. Yellow card Flamini. He’s clearly got the ball, but taken him out with the trailing leg. What’s the ruling on this? Lucas having a good game so far, the moment Sakho lumbers forward 😉 he drops in making it a 3 at the back again. It’s a very very slow back 3 though, for Liverpool – I wonder if we should have tried playing Alexis behind Giroud today?

15th minute – How not to press as a team. Wellbeck presses Skrtel well on the right, ball drifts towards Jones who gives it to Sakho, Giroud presses Sakho immediately who passes back to Skrtel, Alexis starts pressing Skrtel now from the right. All good so far and there’s big potential for a 3 on 2. But now before Alexis can reach Skrtel, Skrtel gets the ball out to Henderson on the left. Now that’s fine – that’s what most CBs will do, go outside. But why is Gibbs or Chamberlain or Cazorla not all over that area? Henderson turns and keeps the ball and the danger is averted. And now the worse part? If Liverpool break on the counter, none of the forwards can come back to help coz they’re too far up the field. You either press…or you don’t – not a 50-50 like this.

18th minute. Liverpool’s well into our half, but we’re just sitting. We’re not coming out at all and Toure of all people is getting forward down the right. Then when we get the ball, since we’re so deep and no one’s making runs, Alexis has no options and we lose the ball. Again. No clear shots on goal – mind you, but we’re very very reluctant to go forward.

21st minute. First time AOC is on the ball but he loses it again. Pretty 50-50 so far anyway. Dreadful corner from Alexis, Chambers misses a tackle and Liverpool counter down the left with Markovic. Each time they come forward, there’s space to run into.

Game’s very static now, between 20 and 30 minutes, all the game is in the middle, atleast AOC is getting a bit more into the game which is good. Really though, again the ball’s getting deep into the Arsenal third very easily, all through the center.

32nd minute. How to press. Its the same team and the same players. Perfect pressing. Its worth watching. Its just that we’re still, despite AW wanting to play that way – still not able to do it on a consistent basis. The day we do that – every game – we’ll be more consistent.

Mistake by Chambers and a funny flick header by Welbeck, and Szcz has to save from Markovic. Fairly routine, but Liverpool is pressing much higher. Minutes later we break too, with AOC but Jones beats Giroud to the ball. Better though from Alex.

38th minute. Sterling’s turned Mertesacker completely and Markovic leans back on his shot sending it into the crowd. First time Sterling’s got into the game, we’ve kept him very quiet so far. But again..and again Markovic is getting space to run from right to left. Whatever we’re trying to do against him, it isn’t working.

Playing much better now, more control of the football – Welbeck probably best so far with Santi behind him. Sanchez hasn’t got into the game at all.

42nd minute. Could easily be a 2nd yellow for Flamini. Seen those given. A bit lucky I’d say and there wasn’t any threat – no need to throw those sly elbows.

45th minute. Goal. Stupid goal to give away. And yet again, its off a misplaced pass, this time its Giroud – that’s all, but it could have been anybody. Henderson picks it up, drives inside (Gibbs has been good really, so this is his first real run) and picks Coutinho out. Why he’s managed to get that pass off so easily I don’t know – there’s plenty of players back. Coutinho takes a touch that takes Debuchy out completely and it’s a great strike – Szcz isn’t saving that. Lovely goal really – but completely avoidable.

45th minute. Goal. Nice goal. Not so sure about the foul that got us the kick, didn’t see many replays. Old fashioned scrap in the box and nice leap by Debuchy to score.

Summary: We haven’t been outplayed, there haven’t been many chances – if we can shut Markovic’s runs from deep off more, we should be better second half – for sure. Sanchez needs to stay there, or AW needs to maybe move Welbeck on to this side. Its nowhere near the annihilation that was written up – very even.

2nd half

Nice start. Same Arsenal team, pressing well and high now. They need to be switched on like this throughout – that’s what that great Barcelona side under Guardiola did. Each time the ball came into their half, they’d swarm..together.

Chamberlain looking better now, Alexis and Flamini urging the team forward – it looks like they’re sitting too deep and there’s too much of a gap between the zones on the pitch. Sterling is a big target for sure – zero time on the ball, absolutely zero. Accident on Skrtel – clear accident – good to take the time to stitch him up. Markovic is still running at Chambers and he’s having a rough game for sure.. and since he’s not getting forward – its happening again and again. Commentators say that Liverpool have been more creative. I’m not sure why. Sure, they’ve hit more balls into our final 3rd, but that’s it. We’ve deliberately sat back and absorbed pressure. Szcz needlessly runs out and Sterling’s handball wasn’t caught so we could have been punished had Gerrard hit the target.

64th minute. Goal. Lovely movement. Brilliant play Kieran Gibbs. And great vision by Santi to find GIroud who hits it straight at Jones who lets it through his legs. Poor keeping I think.

Its suddenly a very open game with Pool on the offensive now. Debuchy has been absolutely excellent all night denies Sterling who’s getting more into the game now. Chambers finally gets forward in the 67th minute, which means Markovic is having less of an influence – mostly due to fatigue. Gibbs is forward too and as usual .. cannot use his right foot and we lose the ball. Now here, if you have both full backs forward – you’re open to a counter, and the midfield needs to drop deep coz neither fullback will get back in time if the counter is good.

70th minute. Henderson’s getting forward now, because Markovic is done for the day, but it’s a poor cross and Szcz claims. Wellbeck and Giroud have had poor games and lost a lot of possession. Alexis hasn’t been great either but he runs so much that it looks like he’s having a good game.

Yep. Markovic is off – just as I thought. Borini is on, looks like he’ll be central. Sterling immediately goes wide left and is dropping deep – he really hasn’t had a kick all game – we’ve kept him quiet.

Lovely run and shot by Lucas – Szcz may just have got to it, but Liverpool are on the front foot for sure. We’re just very very deep.

78th minute. Toure’s forward now ffs. Giroud and Wellbeck are in our own half. We’re basically parking the bus here to be frank. It has its uses – at times, but there’s no movement at all in front of us. Everyone is just passing back.

Kolo’s off. Lambert on. Switching to a funny formation now – maybe Lucas will drop back to make it a back 3 again. But there’s plenty of offensive players on the pitch. Lambert, Borini, Coutinho, Gerrard, Sterling, Lallana, Henderson (if you want to count him). Looks like its just going to be wave after wave of attacks now. This is a classic example of – Throwing the kitchen sink. The formation at this point is not a point – the manager just hopes the players will find a way.

Giroud’s off. Maybe it’ll at least force us to try and play now instead of lumping it long. Coquelin on – playing well. Lovely feet by Santi again, how he makes space is a joy to watch at times.

We’re trying to play, but again Chamberlain loses the ball – that’s been a big feature of our performance today. The ball just won’t stick to us at all. Great run by Sterling and a decent tip over by Szcz. Multiple saves by Szcz but they’re all routine saves – straight at him. Wellbeck and Sanchez are still running – how I don’t know.

2 yellow cards Borini – he looked psyched up for the game and was playing well. It’s a yellow card though, not a red – I think he was looking to win the ball. I don’t mind a yellow for these kind of fouls – honestly.

Lots of huffing and puffing, lots of corners and one ends up in the net. Really, that’s all it is. Maybe Per could have jumped – but I think its Chambers’ zone – because we play zonal, and he’s gone too late towards the ball. Santi still has a chance to win it – Monreal tries to cross instead of shoot and the chance is gone.

2-2. I’d say that is a fair result – we weren’t annihilated or outplayed or whatever the media and the AAA will tell you. Liverpool did dominate though, based on balls into the final 3rd and a few shots straight at Szcz.

Just for the effort we put in though – it’s sad we couldn’t stay focused for just those last few minutes. Honestly though, if this was the worst game you ever watched, I can only smile – this was a decent game – away at Anfield where we tried to absorb pressure all game long. Just because we didn’t score a 22 pass goal does not mean we sucked.

If you liked this article – are there any other games you would like me to look at similarly? Let me know – I’ll try and do them when I have time.


6 Replies to “Three comparative Arsenal tactical reviews. Part 1 Arsenal v Liverpool”

  1. Thanks Arvind.
    Having seen the match again for my ref review it is still a bit fresh in my memory.

    As you say somewhere that we lost the ball too easily at times is what this match was about for me. A few players not having their best match like Oxlade-Chamberlain who was a doubt till the last minute before kick off if I remember correct. But with lots of injured players still out we had to play him.
    As we couldn’t keep the ball we almost drew the pressure upon ourselves at times and certainly at the end of the match.
    I would have kept Giroud on the pitch to be honest because he is vital to cover the first post when we have to defend corners. Maybe that could have prevented the equaliser as now Per was covering that area and was running backwards (and stumbling) and couldn’t prevent the second Liverpool goal.
    That is one of the reasons why I think that Giroud is so important for Arsenal not just for the attack but also for defending dead balls.

  2. @ Arvind – thanks a lot ! What a great analysis, well thought, very objective and professional.

    Please keep them coming – I trust you to choose interesting matches.


  3. Walter – spot on about Giroud. He is so important in dead ball defending. He has shown that also by his goal scoring from dead ball situations.

    Arvind – I think our offensive pressure should remain with less support after scoring. This will put uncertainty in the opponents minds & allow us time to breath & build attacks.
    We seemed to do it so well against City albeit with a fuller squad.

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