The historical significance of the match, being the fixture to have produced the most goals in the Premier League and its relevance in pitting the league leaders with one of the league’s most consistent English teams over the past four seasons amplified the pre-match buzz.
However, the post-match conversation revolved around VAR, penalties awarded and denied, the Gabriel-Henderson altercation and of course the entertaining display from two teams who were not afraid to have a go at each other.
In subsequent paragraphs, we discuss the events of the match and identify some key talking points.
Arsenal vs Liverpool: Match Report
It took the Gunners just 53 seconds to take the lead in the five-goal thriller. Gabriel Martinelli poked the ball past an on-rushing Alisson Becker after a quick counter which involved Bukayo Saka and Martin Odegaard.
Liverpool grew into the game after the first quarter of an hour and got a deserved equalizer in the 34th minute as the Reds capitalized on a mistake from Gabriel Magalhaes to equalize through Darwin Nunez.
However, shortly before half-time, the Gunners orchestrated another devastating counterattack which was finished off by Bukayo Saka.
Roberto Firmino had come on for the injured Luis Diaz in the 43rd minute, and continued his impressive goal scoring form against Arsenal shortly after the break to restore parity.
Arsenal would have the last laugh though as referee Michael Oliver pointed to the spot for Thiago’s foul on Gabriel Jesus. Bukayo Saka stepped up to convert the penalty beyond the outstretched arms of Alisson.
Arsenal vs Liverpool: Talking Points
Arteta showed tactical prowess with Tomiyasu inclusion:
Takehiro Tomiyasu was the surprise inclusion in Mikel Arteta’s starting lineup. In the absence of the injured Oleksandr Zinchenko, Kieran Tierney sat on the bench and the Japanese right-back – who had seen limited minutes prior to the match against the Reds was handed the task of dealing with Mohammed Salah in an unfamiliar role at left-back.
In fact, many raised eyebrows at Tomiyasu’s selection but as the game wore on, the logic became apparent. Tomiyasu’s height at 6’2″ was pivotal in stopping long diagonal balls from Virgil Van Dijk to Mohammed Salah thereby quelling one of Liverpool’s most-effective means of starting an attack. In addition to this, Tomiyasu being dominantly right-footed meant Salah found it difficult to cut in from the right-wing. Tomiyasu’s performance was so good that Mohammed Salah had to be taken off after 69 minutes.
Liverpool must get Salah scoring again:
Mohammed Salah has won the Premier League golden boot in three of the last five seasons. However, the Egyptian winger has struggled for goals so far this season scoring just twice in the league. The statistics tells us a story in this regard, as his expected goal (XG) numbers have declined, but his chance creation and hence his expected assists (XA) numbers have skyrocketed.
This change is probably tactical following the arrival of Darwin Nunez who is more of a natural striker. Hence, maybe the players have been instructed to create chances for the Uruguayan. However, this change has coincided with Liverpool’s worst start to the Premier League season in recent times.
In the match against Arsenal, Salah was far from the chances when Liverpool managed to create and had to be hauled off before the 70th minute mark. If they must turn their fortunes, then Klopp must find a way to get Salah firing on all cylinders again.
Martinelli and Saka are gems on the wings:
With a combined age of just 42 years, the duo of Martinelli and Saka wreaked havoc in the Liverpool defense on Sunday. Martinelli opened the scoring after 53 seconds, and was on hand to supply Saka with an assist shortly before half-time.
Bukayo Saka on the other hand stepped up to convert the penalty, banishing memories of his Euro 2020 Final penalty miss.
So far this season, Bukayo Saka has scored three goals whilst providing another four assists. Gabriel Martinelli on the other hand has four goals and two assists. If Arsenal can keep them at the club, they could form a long-term partnership and become two of the world’s most-feared wingers.
Klopp must sort defensive crisis:
Liverpool’s defensive crisis are well-documented and this season, they seem to have compounded. The Reds have only managed to keep two cleansheets (9 – 0 vs Bournemouth, 0 – 0 vs Everton) in the league. Even though Liverpool give up fewer chances than 80% of the teams in the league, when they do, they are usually big chances.
The defensive high-line and the general reluctance for Liverpool defenders to commit when on the back foot does little to help them defensively. They have had to rely on Alisson’s exceptional ability in one-on-one situations on many occasions. Jurgen Klopp and his and his coaching staff must address this situation if they are to get their season back on track.