Liverpool tore Arsenal apart at Anfield in a 4-0 win. Here’s how the Reds did it in a dominant – and timely – display.
This was perhaps a bigger game than it actually felt like. Liverpool hadn’t actually won either of their last two Premier League games, after all, and Arsenal sat one place behind them.
In fact, this could have been a second defeat to a potential top-four rival. That’s hardly a good look.
On top of that, Arsenal went into it in good form. Their performances hadn’t been perfect but they’d ground out results, avoiding defeat since August.
But the underlying stats suggested Arsenal had some struggles that results papered over. Liverpool knew how to take complete advantage.
Liverpool 4-0 Arsenal
As we wrote before the game, Arsenal actually struggle quite badly when they have a minority of possession. They suffered a negative xG in each game where they had under 50% of the ball.
Now, they did go on to win or draw a good few of those. It did, however, suggest a lack of control when their opponents had the ball.
Liverpool, then, set out with patience. They spent the first half taking very few risks, frequently passing the ball between the centre-backs and Thiago. The Reds were happy to bide their time.
Thiago controlled the ball. He had 64 touches in the first half, while Mohamed Salah had only 15. This was about waiting for the right moment.
That moment came on 39 minutes as a Trent Alexander-Arnold free-kick found Sadio Mane for 1-0. The Reds then simply saw out the final six minutes until halftime.
The goal was all-important. It meant that Arsenal couldn’t soak up pressure in the second half and instead needed more of the ball – it was the only way they’d get back in the game.
After all, Liverpool showed they were willing to just pass it to Thiago all game if Arsenal allowed them.
Liverpool changed their strategy, then. They now pressed high and tried to move it quickly, overwhelming an Arsenal side who wanted to get back into the game.
Again, you can look at the number of touches to see this change. Thiago, who had 64 in that first half, only had another 26 in the second. Alexander-Arnold jumped from 29 to 74.
And then there was Salah. As we say, he only had the ball 15 times in the first half. Liverpool set about really putting pressure on Arsenal, though, and the Egyptian finished with a massive 52 touches.
They pressed high, too, and completely shut off Arsenal’s ability to find their forwards. Here’s a crazy stat for you – Alexandre Lacazette had the ball 22 times in the first half and finished the game with 24 touches.
In 22 second-half minutes, Liverpool allowed the Frenchman just two possessions. Arsenal didn’t stand a chance.
This was a gameplan played to perfection. Liverpool controlled the game in two different ways, switching up their style to dominate Arsenal.
By the end of the campaign, we may well look back on this as the performance of the season.