Arsenal were held to a goalless draw at home by a gritty Liverpool, who continued their unbeaten start to the 2015/16 season. It was highly entertaining game, albeit the 0-0 final score, as both teams had chances aplenty to break the deadlock.
Arsenal: Petr Cech, Nacho Monreal, Gabriel Paulista, Calum Chambers, Hector Bellerin, Santi Cazorla, Francis Coquelin, Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez, Olivier Giroud.
Liverpool: Simon Mignolet, Nathaniel Clyne, Martin Skrtel, Dejan Lovren, Joe Gomez, Lucas Leiva, Emre Can, James Milner, Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho, Christian Benteke.
Arsenal lined up in a 4-2-3-1 shape which indented forward from Sanchez’s side on the left, while Ozil, too, drifted into the left half space from his initial central starting position in the ‘hole’ area. The Gunners had a major reshuffle in their defensive ranks as both Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker were absent, replaced by Gabriel and Chambers.
Liverpool were in an unconventional shape with the absence of Jordan Henderson, although they, too, set up in 4-2-3-1, with Benteke farthest of their outfield players. Coutinho played through the middle after a stint on the flanks last weekend, while Firmino, who made his first Reds start, operated mostly along the right. Can and Milner occupied the midfield ahead of the deep-lying Lucas.
Liverpool’s Space Manipulation
Brendan Rodgers talked up his side’s tactics ahead of the game which centred mostly around manipulation of space rather than ball-oriented play which was evident as Liverpool created twice the number of chances Arsenal created in the first half despite their low possession rate.
Arsenal were not penetrating enough, their slick attacking moves often broke down in the final third owing to their lack of conviction in final passes. Skrtel was in good form, and so was his centre-back partner Lovren, both of whom helped Liverpool to their third clean sheet in three games.
Contrasting Patterns Of Play
Arsenal and Liverpool had contrasting patterns of play. While the Gunners passed their way through Liverpool’s midfield, the away side took a more direct route to their final third. This was evident from the pass combinations from Mignolet to Benteke (10), which was, incidentally, the highest from Liverpool.
Arsenal came alive in the final third of the match, when they constantly knocked on the Liverpool doors. 12 of their 19 total shots came in that period, and they were more effective with their efforts, hitting four of their five shots on target. While Liverpool did most of their attacking in the first half, as they were pinned back in their own half by late Arsenal pressure.
Tale Of Two Goalkeepers
Despite the 0-0 result, the game was fairly entertaining which required the intervention of the goalkeepers at various points. While Cech kept Liverpool at bay in the first half, Mignolet was up to the task to thwart Arsenal’s onslaught in the second period.
Arsenal struggled without their first choice centre-backs in the first half when Liverpool recovered most of the balls in their attacking half leading to plenty of early chances at goal. The Gunners monopolised possession in the second half which somewhat relieved the initial pressure on their back line.
Arsenal v Liverpool: Reactions
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger feels his side were unlucky to not find themselves on the winning side despite dominating the proceedings, while bemoaning the lack of fluency in the final third.
“We were a bit unlucky, we lacked a bit physically and collectively to finish what we started. Our game is still not fluent enough in the final third, and that’s why we didn’t score,” Wenger said.
While Rodgers hailed the clean sheet at the ground where his side conceded four goal last time around, and talked up Liverpool’s overall all round performance.
“We were outstanding all way through, first half defensively we were well organised and a real threat going forward. Overall we kept a really good clean sheet and I’m disappointed not to get a win,” said Rodgers.