Jurgen Klopp appeared to get the upper hand on Mikel Arteta by doing nothing on Monday. His Liverpool side finally beat Arsenal after three attempts.
Liverpool struggled against Arsenal in their last two games with the Gunners. Firstly, there was the 2-1 defeat at the Emirates back in July.
The Reds dominated the game but struggled to break through despite over 20 shots. Arsenal, on the other hand, attempted three shots in the game, scored twice, and took three points.
A pattern developed in the Community Shield. Liverpool were unquestionably superior but the Gunners held them at bay. It finished 1-1 and Arsenal took the Shield on penalties.
These being the only two times Klopp faced Arteta led to a fair conclusion – Liverpool struggled against Arteta’s 3-4-4 system. Hence a tweak in the Community Shield.
Klopp made a notable switch in that game. After a poor first-half was followed by a disappointing first 15 minutes of the second, he changed formation. Liverpool went 4-2-3-1, as Takumi Minamino came on.
The Japanese international went to the left. Roberto Firmino dropped in as a no.10, Mohamed Salah played as a striker and Sadio Mane came across to the right flank.
Given that Liverpool played 4-3-3 in every single game with the first-choice attack last season, this was quite a change. It worked, too. Liverpool got their equaliser and looked far more threatening from then on, even if they didn’t win the game in the end.
And so it was reasonable to expect that Klopp would turn to it again on Monday. Arsenal would play their usual 3-4-3, after all, and that 4-2-3-1 is the only time Liverpool have gotten the better of it.
But that’s not how it went.
Arteta lined up with a 4-4-2 on Monday and it’s difficult to pinpoint why. Arsenal had all of their usual players but played in a new way. A way that was new to them, anyway.
In truth, they played as a mirror to Jose Mourinho’s tactics from last year. When Liverpool faced his Tottenham Hotspur team, they came up against a 4-4-2 as well, only Serge Aurier was a right-midfielder who effectively played as a second right-back to counter Andy Robertson.
Here we had Ainsley Maitland-Niles playing as a left-midfielder who was effectively a second left-back to counter Trent Alexander-Arnold.
But why? Liverpool have struggled against the 3-4-3 both times they’ve played against it. There were no major injury concerns for Arsenal, either.
Arteta changed, though, and the only reason we can think of why is that he thought Klopp would change, too. If he thought Klopp was going 4-2-3-1, then it made sense to switch to a 4-4-2 to catch him out.
But Klopp did nothing. He went with the tried and true. And it worked excellently against Arsenal’s 4-4-2 , as seen with the 3-1 win. The Gunners rarely had a sniff of goal, while the Reds could have scored a good few more.
It’s speculation on our part, of course, but it certainly seems like Klopp won this one by simply doing nothing.