After being on the the losing end of a match this weekend that would have had every Arsenal supporter waking up in the middle of the night with cold sweats, Arsenal are on the winning end of a game that on paper should have been a comfortable win for the Premier League champions. That’s why teams play the full match, I suppose and Arsenal wont mind one bit how they got the 3 points if it helps them in the end.
Liverpool dominated Arsenal, to put it bluntly ending the game with 69% of the possession and outshooting Arsenal 24-3. It was about as one sided of a game as you can get and a thorough reminder of the gulf that lies between Arsenal and the notion of being title contenders. However, not a single Arsenal fan will lose a wink of sleep knowing they won where it count – the scoreboard.
Call it gifts, call it fortune, say whatever you would like, Arsenal capitalized on two major errors from Virgil van Dijk and Alisson Becker and punished the Merseyside team, taking advantage of the two chances they we were given.
Up 2-1 at halftime, Arsenal came out in the second half and resolutely defended their goal to keep Liverpool out. At the 75th minute mark, Liverpool had registered 85% of the possession in the second half, but couldn’t manufacture clear cut chances.
There was one moment in the 2nd half that certainly will have Arsenal fans up in arms as Trent Alexander Arnold put a late and high challenge in on Bukayo Saka in a manner that resembled Eddie Nketiah’s red card challenge. While they will have been relieved to see Saka up and off the turf quickly, the lack of review from VAR is the type of inconsistency that has driven fans mad throughout the year.
When it comes to a game so one-sided and that dominant side loses, there are few things you can do but chuckle. When it comes to takeaways, it can be tough but there are a few aspects and individual performances that deserve to be highlighted.
Rob Holding has been a center back who has struggled to get into the side consistently going through runs of form from good to bad to great. Its caused him to be passed up come selection time in favor of other center backs and, recently, even Kolasinac at the left-center back role.
Yesterday, against Liverpool, he showed what a consistent and solid presence he can be in the back. An asset that is huge for an Arsenal side filled with defenders that have questionable streaks in their games and moments of absolute calamity in their locker.
Taking over for Mustafi on the right side of the back three, Holding’s defensive display was relatively solid from start to finish. There was little he could do on Liverpool’s goal after Soares lost the header in the midfield and left him very exposed. Other than that, Holding’s stat tally showed impressive numbers across the board.
With 7/9 duels won, 7 clearances, 1/1 dribbles succeeded, 2 aerials won, 2 recoveries, and 2 fouls won – Holding acquitted himself impressively against Sadio Mane. In addition to these stats, he offered a good presence on set pieces and crosses, something that Arsenal have struggled with all year, including last weekend on Spurs winner. Arteta will have plenty to think about when it comes to Arsenal’s FA Cup match against Manchester City.
Arsenal fans have been made to wait quite a while to see what this man can do for a backline, but the wait has been more than worth the payoff. Not only is this period a sweet experience for Arsenal fans to experience, Tierney’s injuries this year opened an avenue for Bukayo Saka to get consistent game time and show the club what he can bring. However, if anyone was in doubt before Tierney returned, that doubt will be eased.
The Scotsman has been absolutely fantastic in his return, picking himself up a Player of the Month trophy from Arsenal, and last night was no different. Sliding him into the left-center back role in place of Kolasinac and putting Bukayo Saka on the left as a left wingback makes a lot of sense and Tierney’s ability to shut down Salah shows yet again why he is capable of being the best in the league.
With 3 duels won, 4 clearances, 1 foul won, 2 tackles (most in game), 2 interceptions, and 4 recoveries – Tierney managed to maintain the prolific Mohamed Salah. Again, Arteta is left with a decision for the weekend. With Kolasinac coming off the back of a terrible blunder against Spurs, Arteta may look to keep the same lineup for a City match that is likely to require the same level of diligent defending. At this rate, Tierney could have a real claim at being one of the best if not the best in the league if he can stay healthy.
Martinez has been one of the players who has put out an appearance in each of his starts that has been worthy of a mention in one of these articles, but has been overshadowed by a few other narratives, but after this most recent match, it’s impossible not to give him a shout.
Martinez made 8 saves on the day, but commanded his box and cleaned up everything within his reach on crosses and set pieces. To take it one step further, one of this final contributions came off a remarkable save at full stretch off a ricocheted shot, heading for the far corner. It was the type of save that left you wowed and wondering if even Bernd Leno could have been up to the task. I wouldnt take it as far as questioning whether Leno should return to the side once healthy, but Emi is certainly stating his best case.
His distribution is impressive, despite almost being caught on the ball by Firmino and almost conceding a goal, and he is showing the quality he has as a shot-stopper.
It was an odd game, it was one that Arsenal got away with, but one that they won’t care one bit about. The three points keep Arsenal in the race for 7th place and Europa League qualifications through the Premier League, all without needing to put out their strongest lineup and offering some respite to legs that needed to be saved for the weekend.
The path is still tough, but we all will take it! Enjoy the win.