Liverpool Review: Point Taken, Point Made

Arsenal 1 – 1 Liverpool

Unai Emery declared himself “50% happy” with yesterday’s match. That’s at least 30-35% less than most of us. That final 10-15%? That’s the gap between a point and three. A draw was a fair result with a great number of positives for Emery to continue to build going forward. Not least of which was the first 90-minute performance of Emery’s reign. Much more of that please, gentlemen.

The pressing game worked well, principally because teamwork ensured no-one was left isolated. Even those whose performances faded began well; Mkhitaryan being a prime example. Some bright moves, to begin with, he became less effective going forward and shifted to the periphery of the game. Nonetheless, his defensive work didn’t diminish. This is the ‘Emery ethic’; as much as your own performance matters, forgetting teamwork is unacceptable.

That notion applies to all with Alex Iwobi shifting to left wing-back when Danny Welbeck entered the fray. Two effective substitutions once again by Emery. Pro-actively changing the outcome of matches, or at least putting the pieces into position to give us a chance of changing the outcome is a sea-change.

Eyecatching performances came from the spine of the team. Holding, Torreira, Xhaka and Lacazette; standing out. Outstanding. There were others such as Mustafi who performed well. The lines in the team held high, held together. They weren’t perfect, as Mane proved for the disallowed ‘goal’. In my view, it was offside; the officials got it right with Mane too close to the action to not be interfering with play. 

The officials got it right again by ignoring Mkhitaryan’s claim for a penalty. If that was given, Leno conceding one later in the game when he clattered into Van Dijk as the Dutchman hit the post with a header.

Xhaka Can

It was a mixed evening for the German. Superb saves, excellent distribution but found wanting with crosses, especially with the Liverpool goal coming from that very source. It was a goalkeeping error, pure and simple. There were three places Leno couldn’t put the ball but alas he put it in one of them.

The response was excellent. For the past decade, that scenario saw us capitulate in big matches – some smaller ones too – but this time, not so. That’s a measurable yardstick, if you’re seeking one, of improvement from earlier this season.

Torreira and Xhaka were fundamental to all the good work. The Uruguayan did everything but tackle with his head; every other part of his body though while Xhaka showed a rare turn of pace to keep up with Salah, before producing an excellent sliding tackle on the Egyptian. Too knackered to moan at anyone for losing the ball afterwards, though…

Xhaka’s value to side is being seen with the right partner. Playing Xhaka as the defensive midfielder is never going to work because he isn’t a defensive midfielder. Monchengladbach and Switzerland played him alongside a defensive midfielder which brought the form we noted to the fore.

It’s not rocket science.

More importantly, the value of the pairing was seen as they outperformed Liverpool’s midfield trio. Keita and Henderson were missing but Fabinho, Milner and Wijnaldum are no slouches. Torreira and Xhaka kept them busy for 90 minutes.

Behind them, Holding continues to thrive with the responsibility of first-team football. He is maturing nicely with each of the left-backs benefits from his presence and willingness to cover behind them. If we could get that mentality on the right side, there’s the basis for a title-winning defence.

Trust Your Instincts

That core of good performances was completed by Lacazette. His finish was instinctive, the sort Wrighty used to produce and a natural goalscorers’ goal. It was sublime, from Iwobi’s pass to the close control which kept Alisson at bay and a shot curled around the defenders on the line. Tantalisingly in their reach but reality didn’t provide the Reds with a Matrix solution of stopping the shot.

He’s probably the first instinctive goalscorer we’ve had since Wrighty as well.

Having that spine of performances come together underpinned everyone else’s contribution. They didn’t carry the team, far from it, but they imbued confidence in others. Belief.

So too do Emery’s theatrics on the touchline. Passion, will-to-win; he’s the new breed rather than the cerebral body language of the past. Constantly talking to the players in earshot. Telling them what to do; encouraging.

If there was a match to define a new era, this was it. Not an outstanding result but a watershed moment. That it takes the unbeaten run to 14 is almost unnoticed. There is a feelgood factor emerging; long may it continue.

’til Tomorrow.


23 thoughts on “Liverpool Review: Point Taken, Point Made

  1. There seems to be a greater sense of belief in these types of games now. I thought that we were unlucky not to get something from the Chelsea game and yesterday we should have won. Let’s start winning these games and put that awful inferiority complex to bed once and for all.

  2. It was a step in the right direction. Best performance of the season so far from a lot of players. I’d like to see this intensity from the start again vs Sporting and Wolves now

  3. Spot on Yogi!

    I would like to also give full credit to Sead and Bellerin who not only defended but were willing to push forward which, as Dixon rightly pointed out, caused Mane, Salah, and the Liverpool FB’s to defend more and with Sead and Bellerin’s pace, they helped stop their counters.

    It was a joy to watch us go toe to toe with another one of the title challengers and shows we are more than capable.

    Not for nothing but its quite refreshing to not here how some thought Ozil was a passenger and the armband and Emery demanding more has seen a more consistent influence from him. I know Holding is getting praised, and rightly so but Mustafi has superb yesterday as well and IMHO, they compliment each other just need to find consistency and continued partnership development.

  4. I will say Yogi, we will have to agree to disagree about Leno’s error. Sure he should of caught it but he pushed it out in the right direction but the unfortunate deflection off Holding(who was tracking Salah) directed it into Milner’s path. Leno will develop that part of his game to simply catch those in the PL but for all the plaudits Allison has been getting all year, Leno has been every but as good with up to this point an unsettled back 4.

  5. C,

    I suspect that he ill learn, most new keepers do have shakey starts in the PL but that was a bad clearance, however you dress it up. He will come good, I believe.

    As will the team. All credit to the manager.

  6. consolsbob,

    He will learn and will come even better.

    Full credit to the team and manager. Its quite amazing just how quickly Emery has changed the mentality and culture up to this point. We see Liverpool and Citeh now but that is 3 seasons later, and it just shows that the present and future are bright for Arsenal.

  7. Better performances against the top 6 was one of the things I felt Arsenal had to achieve going into the season and this game was every bit of that. Modest, but achievable, targets from which the team can grow. The full 90 minute performance was a relief and anything less would have been catastrophic.
    I thought the CBs were tremendous, particularly Holding. Ozil worried me in the early going but put together a sound performance overall. That leaves Mkitaryan and I’m puzzled with his seeming lethargy in almost every game. He had some good moments but the body of work was definitely lacking. Ozil-itis? I hope not but something’s amiss.

  8. C:
    I will say Yogi, we will have to agree to disagree about Leno’s error. Sure he should of caught it but he pushed it out in the right direction but the unfortunate deflection off Holding(who was tracking Salah) directed it into Milner’s path. Leno will develop that part of his game to simply catch those in the PL but for all the plaudits Allison has been getting all year, Leno has been every but as good with up to this point an unsettled back 4.

    Leno fucked up C – at this level you get punished,and we did.
    Nevertheless I still want him as our first choice keeper.
    He did also,it must be said,fluster a couple of times in the air coming from set pieces-it wasn’t just the push out to Milner.
    I thought we looked together,not impervious,but Emery has instilled a real teamwork ethic – the boys all play for each other,you can see it when they stop a goal,put in a tackle,score one…they run to one another to celebrate.
    In a quarter of a season Emery has achieved such a lot…..he’s the kiddy.

  9. Blue Yonder:
    Better performances against the top 6 was one of the things I felt Arsenal had to achieve going into the season and this game was every bit of that. Modest, but achievable, targets from which the team can grow. The full 90 minute performance was a relief and anything less would have been catastrophic.
    I thought the CBs were tremendous, particularly Holding. Ozil worried me in the early going but put together a sound performance overall. That leaves Mkitaryan and I’m puzzled with his seeming lethargy in almost every game. He had some good moments but the body of work was definitely lacking. Ozil-itis? I hope not but something’s amiss.

    I feel just the same about Miki-he almost looks not bothered some times

  10. Jonnygunner,

    Not saying he couldn’t have done better but that deflection played its part and you can’t deny that. As stated, he is learning the PL and with that comes learning how to deal with corners and crosses. With that said, he also madr some quality saves, his quickness off the line is what we need along with his ability to play most certainly helps us deal with pressing teams and launch attacks.

    Agreed about Emery, he has put a team spirit that we have lacked and even when its not coming off the boys continue to push.

  11. Very pleased with that…minor thoughts

    Mane clearly offside and moved a fair distance toward the through ball – therefore off.
    Both keepers in going for the ball – missed and took out the attacker around head height. Penalty and card.
    Leno pushed it at full stretch and the deflection off holding was decisive.

    Maybe a bit early but feels like we are getting our arsenal back

  12. Two Owls,

    I love how he’s got that old school edge to his very new school all round game.
    Loves to be remembered for his last challenge….particularly by the recipient.
    Even in the very last challenge of the game, refs whistle was already in his mouth and Holding did a signature followthru airial challenge. He wouldn’t last ten minutes on a rugby pitch.

  13. C

    Re Leno and the cross.

    If you look at the trajectory of the ball before Holding touched it, it was directly at Kolasinac. The problem was that SK took three paces after RH touched the ball and ended up well in front of its’ potential path. Milner, from the angle of his run, was still favourite to get there. So while RH deflection made it a more straightforward finish, I’m unconvinced it altered the final outcome.

    There’s a difference between that and the one Alisson got away with in the first half. The Brazilian got a good two fists to the ball meaning it bounced less benignly at the Arsenal player closest to him (HM, I think) and travelled a lot faster. Swings and roundabouts; BL had his luck with VVD hitting the post.

  14. YW,

    I think for me that is the thing as you acknowledge, it was headed towards Sead as opposed to the deflection taking it right to Milner. The deflection played a part because otherwose, as you rightly point out, it was head towards Sead. Nobody knows what would have happened then but it wouldn’t have fallen directly to Milner and thats the only point I was making.

    With that said, Leno will learn and possibly could have/should have caught it. The fact Allison coacked it up to, it happens and is part of the learning curve for ALL GK’s when coming to the PL from leagues where the GK’s often don’t always have to deal with crosses as their CB’s do by instruction. All and all, Leno had another good game and despite his learning curve, has shown he is our #1 both present and future.

  15. I’m not sure that ball was catchable by Leno.He was at full stretch as it was. The deflection and Milner being un-covered made it a perfect storm. The fact that we are analyzing (mostly) just one play in the game shows the improvements Emery has made. In previous seasons there would have been any number of disasters to dissect against a side as good as Liverpool.

  16. The CBs are starting to gel and Koscielney’s return is just around the corner to give them more depth. Under Wenger, he would automatically take his place in the side but this is a new world at Emirates with no guarantees for anyone. That’s part of what makes each game more enthralling. Haven’t been able to say that for a number of years.
    A bit more depth needed at fullback; perhaps the January window will address that.

  17. Almiron scores for Atlanta in the MLS playoffs against NYFC, Citeh’s baby brother. First game back from injury and he has been buzzing and looks fresh

  18. Blue Yonder,

    My Pat Jennings paw prediction was more than a touch facetious. It happens when I’m excited. And C loves to chew over such stuff.
    As you say. There is cause for excitement it seems.

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