The high-octane encounter featuring Liverpool and Arsenal was expected to be one of the games to watch out for last weekend of the Premier League but the Reds absolutely destroyed the Gunners, thus turning a much-anticipated fixture into a rather one-sided affair.
The fans at Anfield might argue that they had their money’s worth, watching Jurgen Klopp’s army continue their dominance in the Premier League, however, from a neutral perspective, it wasn’t a great game to witness.
Having lost just once in the Premier League since the start of the 2018-19 campaign, Liverpool were the outright favourites on paper but one would have expected Arsenal to put up a better fight, especially after encouraging performances against Newcastle United and Burnley in their first couple of fixtures this term.
Klopp hardly made any significant changes to the starting eleven that won 2-1 against Southampton, with only a couple of changes coming in the midfield.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and James Milner dropped to the bench to make way for Fabinho and Jordan Henderson, with the manager making no further alterations to his defence and the prolific front three of Mane, Salah and Firmino.
Unai Emery, on the other hand, went for a completely different shape, opting for a narrow 4-3-1-2 formation as opposed to the regular 4-2-3-1 style that he had fielded against Burnley.
That tweak in his team’s approach was what led to the Gunners downfall.
Unai Emery gambled, naming a midfield diamond that handed Liverpool’s full-backs, arguably the best pairing in the world, space to drive into and unleash crosses.
Because of Emery’s decision Robertson and Alexander-Arnold, players with a combined 23 Premier League assists last season could spend attacking phases of play camped in Arsenal’s half, waiting for Joe Willock and Matteo Guendouzi to get out to them as they took the time to pick the spot.
On other occasions, the full-backs could drift infield and play a pass to a man in space, something which would cost the Gunners dearly in the second half.
From the above data plot, it becomes very obvious the dominance the Liverpool fullbacks were afforded. Not surprising they both came out on top for most passes and most progressive passes respectively.
In retrospect, there are obvious changes that could be made. Lucas Torreira would have been far better suited to one of the wider, shuttling roles in the diamond; this was perhaps not the game for Dani Ceballos’ confidence to play a pass no matter the danger.
Ceballos was brilliant against Burnley and if you want him to replicate that performance then it makes sense to play him in that exact same position, the centre of the midfield to create the link-up play between defence and the forwards. Sticking him out on the wing was a poor move that ultimately saw the Spaniard struggle to impose himself throughout the game.
Alternatively, he might have dropped the Spaniard to add another body to the backline, allowing Nacho Monreal (or Sead Kolasinac) and Ainsley Maitland-Niles to defend higher up the pitch. That is all with the benefit of hindsight, however; no-one would have seriously advocated dispensing with Ceballos after his magnificent debut against Burnley.
Then perhaps the most unforgivable decision Emery made at Anfield was not starting a certain Alexandre Lacazette. Even worse because he had the chance to atone for that error by bringing on the Frenchman early in the second half but no here’s what Emery did.
Bringing on Lacazette for the last ten minutes
When you are three goals down is not when you bring on your best player. In fact, he should have been on from the start but if you are going to have Lacazette as a sub then at least bring him on when there is enough time to try and turn the game around.
It was inexplicable why he waited until the 80th minute to finally decide that it would be a good idea to bring the Frenchman on.
Emery fluffed his lines at Anfield in terms of his team set up and choice of personnel but can bounce back with a reaction against Spurs at the Emirates.
The Gunners have a good home record and Emery should capitalize on that to get the maximum points out of the game.
The defeat to Liverpool showed one thing – Emery should stick to the formation he normally deploys and avoid unnecessary tweaks, especially against rival sides.
Tottenham are not in the best of form as well at the moment and anything less than a win will be utter disappointment at the Emirates come Sunday.