Arsenal and Liverpool entered the early Barclay’s Premier League match on Sunday suffering from the same problem – an inability to convert the chances they had created. Liverpool had at least score in their first two games while Arsenal had yet to open their account for 2012/13. Arsenal’s shooting accuracy was only 19% while Liverpool’s sat at 24%.
On the day Arsenal were the sharper side in front of goal although the statistics showed that Liverpool created more opportunities.
Liverpool persevered with crosses from wide positions but it proved an ineffective tactic.
The game was to large measure decided in the midfield with Allen/Gerrard/Sahin for Liverpool against Arteta/Diaby/Carzola. The Arsenal trio marginally out passed Liverpool completing 210 passes from 228 attempts (92%) to 171 successful passes from 192 attempts (89%) but the statistics masked the real difference.
Arsenal’s midfield was livelier and more inventive with Arteta, Diaby and Carzola all playing their assigned roles almost perfectly. Arteta played deep and broke up Liverpool attacks and offered Arsenal a solid platform. Diaby shuttled back and forward often taking off on long attacking runs that caused Liverpool concern. Carzola, however, was the primary threat. He consistently found space and he set up the first Arsenal goal and scored the second.
Joe Allen’s passing for Liverpool was perfect in the first half and not far short of the same in the second forty-five minutes.
After the match Steven Gerrard came in for some criticism and many pointed to the fact that his errant pass led to the counter-attack from which Arsenal opened the scoring. (More culpable were the Liverpool centre backs who must have stopped off for a cup of coffee as they moved slowly up field as Liverpool attacked).
Nonetheless Gerrard passing overall was not up to par.
Notwithstanding his passing, Gerrard was still the primary creative force for Liverpool and set up more chances than any other Liverpool player.
One of the most effective parts of Luis Suarez’s game is his ability to take defenders on. On Sunday his dribbling skills abandoned him.
Vito Mannone is Arsenal’s third string goalkeeper but he looks a far improved player than the one we saw in the Premier League a few years ago. However, one area that still offers significant room for improvement is his clearances.
Southampton’s manager Nigel Adkins came in for criticism for making what was perceived to be “negative” substitutions when leading Manchester United with around quarter of an hour to go. The reality is that it is really about the effectiveness of the substitutes rather than whether or not “attacking” players are withdrawn. At 2-1 even with attacking players the emphasis is to protect the lead and that is done most effectively by ball retention.
Arsene Wenger withdrew two attackers – Podolski and Oxlade-Chamberlain – for two more defensive minded players in Ramsey and Andre Santos. But one look at the their passing statistics shows that they not only understood their assignments but carried the job out well.
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