Rodgers got his pre match tactics spot on. He was aware that Wenger has one preferred way of playing football and built his pre match preparation to counter that perfectly. With the exception of Ramsey’s disallowed goal – admittedly wrongful – Arsenal were no match to Liverpool in the first half. Liverpool dominated the first half because of 4 main players – 2 from either side – Chambers, Coquelin, Lucas and Can.
One can only sympathise with an Arsenal defence missing its main central defensive pair. The young Chamber, alongside Gabriel, were given then the task of covering for the missing Mertesacker and Koscielny.
Chambers endured a torrid nervous start to the match, constantly losing possession and giving the ball away in critical areas. He was also guilty being out of position for most of the first half. A natural right back he was either too close to the bi-line and creating a huge gap between him and Gabriel, thus enabling Benteke to drive the ball into the box on multiple occasions or soft marking the Liverpool attackers and not going for the first ball when the ball was played in the box.
Coquelin simply does not possess adequate skills to cement a position in a top 4 team. In other words, he would not make the starting 11 of Chelsea, United, Liverpool, Tottenham, Southampton, Manchester City, Juventus, Roma, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Sevilla, Atletico, Bayern, Dortmund, Wolfburg, PSG, etc. The Liverpool game demonstrated that he does not fully understand his duties as a DM. Sitting far from his back four, exposed an area around Arsenal’s 18 yard box that Countino and co. owned. Arsenal push up their wingbacks really high up the field, meaning that the DM must be able to cover the space left behind the attacking wing back which Coquelin did not do quite well.
Henderson’s injury was a blessing in disguise for Liverpool as it meant that Rodgers started two defensive minded midfielders in the game. Can and Lucas were clearly given clear instructions to look at what Coquelin is doing and do the complete opposite. Sat close to the back 4 with clear instructions not to venture forward. Constantly broke down the Arsenal attacks. Milner, a workhorse himself, offered a lot of support as well while also occasionally supporting the attack. A tactically disciplined performance from Liverpool’s midfield.
In the second half everything changed but not because of Wenger superiority but because Rodgers decided to defend a point in the bag – given his recent away record against Arsenal – a justifiable decision in some fans’ eyes. The problem is that Rodgers does not know how to defend. There is an art to defending and it is not by retreating and putting 11 players behind the ball. This knocked the confidence out of a Liverpool team in ascendancy. Additionally, having survived a first half onslaught, Arsenal could only improve and attacked with purpose.
Incompetence vs Inflexible
Arsene Wenger was handed two lifelines in the second half. First was Rodgers’ abandonment of his attacking game and secondly when Lucas ran out of legs. The Arsenal team started asking difficult questions of the Liverpool backline until Giroud was taken off. Playing against a team that had Ibe – an attacking player – play behind the RB and he decides to take off his only target man. Not only his target man, but a player that was winning the majority of balls in the box. Wasted a couple of chances himself – one that was an obvious penalty after a two handed push from Lovren – and creating numerous chances to the likes of Sanchez. He made the same tactical mistake that LVG did against Newcastle and opted for a player with pace rather that overcrowd the box with big attackers. Against a team playing with 7 players in their box, how he expected Walcott to make any runs behind the defence is a question that will remain unanswered. Additionally, with a significant height disadvantage, Arsenal lost their edge.
Rodgers on the other hand, gifted Wenger possession and control of the second half. With no plan B and obviously having not acquired the defensive brilliance from his mentor Mourinho, he asked his team defend in numbers. But then when Wenger took off Giroud and offered him a lifeline he did not seize it. Rodgers completely missed the fact that Arsenal are pushing everyone forward. He should have countered and exploited the space in Arsenal’s second half easily. After Giroud was off, Arsenal were not as threatening. Ibe, Moreno and Benteke should have been given instructions to stay around the halfway line and hurt Arsenal on the counter.
Let us hear your opinion in the comments box below and please Like and Share if you agree.