Three things we learned: Arsenal v. Liverpool
Arsenal and Liverpool clashed in north London on Saturday with a 1-1 draw enough to see Jurgen Klopp’s men momentarily go top of the Premier League table as they remain unbeaten this season.
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Unai Emery’s side huffed and puffed and gave a good account of themselves against a fellow top six team with Alexandre Lacazette’s equalizer a thing of beauty. There is still plenty of work for the Spanish coach to do in the weeks and months ahead but this will be another positive step forward.
What did we learn from an end-to-end encounter at the Emirates?
ANOTHER BIG STEP FORWARD FOR ARSENAL
The Gunners deservedly grabbed a point on Saturday and the progression under Emery is clear for all to see when you compare this game against Liverpool to their opening two games of the season against Manchester City and Chelsea. Emery has now made Arsenal more solid defensively and they always carried a threat going forward against Liverpool. Overall there is now a better balance about the team. If you’d said to anyone connected with Arsenal at the start of the season that they would be unbeaten in 14 games in all competitions entering November and in fourth place in the Premier League, just four points off top spot, they would have snapped your hand off. Lucas Torreira epitomizes this new-look Arsenal with the diminutive Uruguayan midfielder shielding the back four, pressing Liverpool’s midfield and always looking to spring attacks with his slick passing. He gives them a solid base to launch their attacks.
Heading into games against Wolves and Bournemouth next up, Arsenal will hope to take care of business before back-to-back games against Manchester United and Tottenham in the space of four days in December. That will be the next big test to see how far Emery’s men have come. Right now, everything is heading in the right direction and their progress is clear.
DIRECT LIVERPOOL TRIED TO BYPASS ARSENAL PRESS
I’m not saying Liverpool are a long ball team every week, I’m just saying that on Saturday that’s how they played. The most joy Liverpool had going forward was when they went direct and got the ball up to Roberto Fimrino, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane as quickly as possible. A clipped ball over the top found Fimrino who hit the bar in the first half, with Mane finishing off the rebound which was incorrectly given offisde. If there was ever a decision which showcased why VAR most arrive in the Premier League next season, it was this one. Anyway, with the pace of Mane and Salah on the break, the key from Klopp was to bypass the likes of Mesut Ozil and Torreira, especially with Jordan Henderson and Naby Keita out injured and Fabinho looking a little shaky in midfield. It was a composed away display and although Liverpool will be upset to let in a goal late on after taking the lead, Klopp will be happy to leave the Emirates with a point.
Liverpool have now drawn against Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea and won away at Tottenham in their opening 11 games of the Premier League season. They’re top of the table and Klopp’s men look composed, as they have done for much of this season as they’ve contended with injuries and look much better defensively than in previous campaigns. Against Arsenal they hit the post, had a good goal disallowed and Virgil van Dijk went close on several occasions and although Arsenal did threaten at times, Liverpool who were in second gear for most of the game. Klopp’s record against the rest of the top six has always been good since he arrived in England, with dropped points against the so-called smaller teams causing problems in the pursuit of the Premier League title. Liverpool’s status as one of the Premier League’s title favorites remains intact.
GOALKEEPING BLUNDERS COSTLY
At both ends of the pitch Alisson and Bernd Leno will be disappointed with the goals they conceded. Both came and flapped at crosses during the game which almost saw them concede, but on Liverpool’s goal Leno was caught pushing a harmless cross back into danger when he probably should have stood back and let one of his defenders clear. Instead he knocked it into James Milner’s path and Liverpool led.
In the first half Alisson did something similar but Henrikh Mkhitaryan didn’t make him pay, while he was then caught out a little on Lacazette’s brilliant equalizer. It’s true that Lacazette finished superbly from a tight angle when everyone expected him to cross, but did Alisson need to rush off his line and try to get to that ball? Probably not. Leno and Alisson are new to the Premier League and they showed that on Saturday.