Premier League Match Report (15/07/20): Arsenal 2-1 Liverpool
The Premier League's ninety-two remaining games, spread across nine rounds of games are set to play out beginning June 17th 2020, with Project Restart's health and safety conditions meaning the remaining games of the season will be played out behind closed doors. We will be providing match reports from these behind closed doors competitive encounters as the league campaign nears its end-game. All aboard.
Match Report (GW36): Arsenal 2-1 Liverpool
A much changed Arsenal side, with one eye on their FA Cup semi-final against Man City this upcoming Saturday, were the latest side that had to give a guard of honour to the new league champions and for the most part of the opening minutes, Mikel Arteta's side were sluggish and penned in their own half until the 20th minute when the Reds made the breakthrough when Emi Martinez's clearance was picked up in midfield and fed down the left-flank to Roberto Firmino. The Brazilian waited until Andrew Robertson over-lapped before playing the ball down the line, with the explosive Scotsman crossing low for Sadio Mane to tuck home a simple effort over Martinez for the first goal.
In the groove and playing well, Virgil van Dijk gave Arsenal a way back into the match against the run of play when the central defender was caught on the ball and passed back towards goal in sloppy fashion. Alexandre Lacazette picked up the loose pass, rounded Alisson before finishing the job off to equalise. Van Dijk complained that Reiss Nelson pulled him back and fouled him, which in turn made VVD do the wayward pass,, though it wasn't a foul and the big Dutchman needs to be a lot stronger in that situation - Nelson applies a bit of pressure and hounded VVD into a mistake.
Liverpool did it again, gifting Arsenal the lead when Alisson gave the ball away after a Robertson throw-in. The Brazilian's weak pass was picked up by Lacazette who looked up, found Nelson who controlled well, before the winger shot comfortably past Alisson to give The Gunners the lead just before half-time. A couple of goals for Arsenal, both gifted to them from Liverpool mistakes. It's looking likely here that the Reds are already on their holidays.
Liverpool dominated much of the play in the second-half and carved out their first real heart-racing moment on the 54th minute when Trent Alexander-Arnold drove down the right and delivered a good ball to Salah, who controlled well and tried to dink Martinez from close range, though the shot stopper got fingertips on the effort as it flicked off the top of the bar. Liverpool probed again though Salah wasn't able to show any composure or power when Mane picked him out at the back-post on the 69th minute, with Salah's downward header being easily caught by Martinez.
Five minutes later it was van Dijk who couldn't connect properly to a header from a deep Robertson cross. Heading into the final 20 minutes the travelling Reds just wasn't clicking in the final third, with chance after chance being wasted, despite the fact that the inter-play from midfield was largely positive and effective.
Xherdan Shaqiri, making a rare appearance from the substitutes bench, played a wonderful pass down the left with the outside of his foot on the 86th minute, freeing Mane, with the Senegal winger charging down on goal but finding his shot going wide-right of the post after a bit of pressure from Ainsley Maitland-Niles.
At the other end of the field, Arsenal's only real opportunity in the second-half came in the 89th minute after Liverpool allowed a ball to bounce across their penalty area after Aubameyang swung his foot at the ball, with Joe Willock charging down the ball, though his bulldozing effort spun away from Alisson's posts.
The final chance came in the last minute of extra-time with more Liverpool pressure, with Alexander-Arnold collecting the ball in the middle of the pitch and unleashing a fierce shot that takes a deflection of Willock, though to Liverpool's despair the ball spins onto the post and out, meaning it's more dropped points for the new champions during Project Restart.
Man of the Match: Sadio Mane (LIV)
Despite being on the losing side, Sadio Mane was the most influential player in the game. Arsenal played a defensive game and let Liverpool try to break them down. Mane did his absolute best and was a positive creative force throughout the game. Scored Liverpool's only goal and was the go-to every time Liverpool tried to breakdown The Gunners and even though his efforts were ultimately in vein, it was more than what Arsenal offered at the other end of the pitch.
The only other worthy contender is Emi Martinez, with the stand-in Arsenal goalkeeper making 8 saves and saving well from Salah and Alexander-Arnold to preserve the lead. Martinez has actually been superb since Leno was injured at Brighton and if we were Arteta, we wouldn't remove him when Leno comes back.
ARS 2-1 LIV - Insight and Analysis:
Can we all finally say as a collective whole that Liverpool are on the beach, running down the clock until the end of the season? Winning the league is their biggest domestic honour to date and we're not questioning how much Jurgen Klopp's side have dominated the league this season. It's just that without Jordan Henderson in the squad, and lapses of concentration costing the Reds games, evidenced more than ever tonight due to mistakes from the defensive leaders of this great team - Alisson and Virgil van Dijk - combined with the knowledge that there is nothing left to play for, with no fans in attendance to push the players, that the incredibly high standards set by Liverpool have been vacant.
What's odd though is that Liverpool largely dominated the game, had the lion share of chances, but the incision and decision making in the final third just wasn't up to scratch, all besides a lively Mane it wasn't a good night. Salah isn't converting his chances, Firmino's changed his hairstyle more times than he has scored this season and it was a shaky night for Alisson at the other end.
There's no doubt that the new season will shape up this squad in celebration, though it is so obvious that Klopp needs to add a 'Plan B' in attack, a Timo Werner type that adds a new dimension to this Liverpool attack, when they come up against stubborn and defensively minded outfits that are happy to sit behind the ball for 85 minutes.
For Arsenal, this was a big night. This squad might finally have a Manager who shows some versatility and resilience and is able to get results whilst playing well at both ends - how often is it in recent memory that Arsenal look like a well-balanced side? They rested players, executed a well-drilled defensive performance whilst limiting minutes to key players ahead of their FA Cup semi-final against Man City - a game much like tonight that will require total concentration and commitment.
Venue: Emirates Stadium
Manager: Mikel Arteta
GK: E. Martínez
DEF: R. Holding
DEF: David Luiz
DEF: K. Tierney
DEF: Cédric Soares (Maitland-Niles 76')
DEF: B. Saka (Kolasinac 85')
MID: L. Torreira (Ceballos 57')
MID: G. Xhaka
FOR: R. Nelson (Aubameyang 58')
FOR: A. Lacazette (Willock 58')
FOR: N. Pépe
Bellerín, Papastathopoulos, Ceballos, Aubameyang, Maitland-Niles, Mustafi, Willock, Kolasinac, Macey
Manager: Jurgen Klopp
DEF: T. Alexander-Arnold
DEF: J. Gomez
DEF: V. van Dijk
DEF: A. Robertson
MID: A. Oxlade-Chamberlain (Keita 61')
MID: G. Wijnaldum (Shaqiri 83')
FOR: M. Salah (Origi 83')
FOR: R. Firmino (Minamino 61')
FOR: S. Mané
Lovren, Keita, Adrián, Minamino, Shaqiri, Origi, Jones, Elliott, Williams
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