28 August 2017

Visualized: Liverpool 4-0 Arsenal

Previous Match Infographics: Hoffenheim (h), Crystal Palace (h), Hoffenheim (a), Watford (a)

Match data from WhoScored and Liverpool FC

As said yesterday, this played out an awful lot like Liverpool's Champions League qualifier. The same set-up from both sides. The opposition blown away from the start. Four Liverpool goals. Almost exact passing totals from the two sides.

Arsenal's opposition scouting has a lot to answer for here.

This is the also second game in a row where Liverpool had six Opta-defined clear-cut chances. Liverpool didn't have six in a match at all last season. And, like Hoffenheim, Arsenal had none.

I still maintain that I'd blame Arsene Wenger for this defeat far more than I would the Arsenal players, but I will also readily admit that individuals did not help their cause. Most of the criticism has fallen on Arsenal's first half midfield, especially Ramsey, or Bellerin's error for Liverpool's third. I'd like to highlight Arsenal's supposed defensive stalwart, the rock between a youngster and a left-back.

Just before the first goal. Koscielny clearly has Firmino.

Koscielny does not have Firmino.

Then, the fourth goal. Koscielny clearly has Sturridge; he's even looking right at him!

Koscielny does not have Sturridge.

If this were from Dejan Lovren, we'd be howling for weeks.

Conversely, while there are a ton of very good things to pick out from individual Liverpool players – the potency of that front three, Wijnaldum completing eight successful take-ons, Emre Can's role in transitions – I'd like to point out one that I've seen go unmentioned so far. Liverpool's first two goals came from Joe Gomez interceptions: one in the final third, one in Liverpool's penalty box. Guile and ability from a 20-year-old who's hardly featured over the last two seasons, at both ends of the pitch, including a weaker-footed assist perfectly weighted to open the scoring. From the third-choice right-back, who's also fourth-choice center-back.

Liverpool have now kept seven clean sheets in their last nine PL games, going back to mid-April last season. Matip-Lovren started all but Liverpool's 1-0 win over Palace last week. There have been ground-out wins: 1-0 West Brom, Watford, and Palace. There have been massacres: 4-0 West Ham, 3-0 Boro, and 4-0 Arsenal. There have been frustrations: 0-0 Southampton. And there have been mistakes: 1-2 Palace, 3-3 Watford. Three of the five goals conceded – one against Palace and two against Watford – came from corners.

There are still mistakes in that unit. It's still too shallow for my liking, with another center-back seemingly necessary. But, because of those notable errors, because of the set play failings, we're sometimes blinded to the fact that it's actually better than we admit.

It's been two years since any side kept a clean sheet in this fixture – since 0-0 at Arsenal under Rodgers in August 2015. It's been more than 11 years since Liverpool kept a clean sheet in this fixture at Anfield, since a 1-0 win in February 2006. This was the first time Arsenal's been held without a shot on-target since October 2014. It's only the fifth time that Liverpool have held a league opponent without a shot on-target under Jürgen Klopp.

It was as thorough a beating as possible. And we're all aware of how good it was in attack. How good Firmino, Mané, and Salah already are, and can continue to be, especially when they're allowed this much space and that many chances to counter. But we also need recognize how good Liverpool were, and can be, in both midfield and defense as well, in contrast to what we feared after the first two games of the season.

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