Goals from Alexandre Lacazette and Reiss Nelson helped Arsenal to an unforeseen victory against Premier League champions Liverpool, denying the Reds the possibility of becoming only the second side in Premier League history to get 100 points in a season.
Liverpool’s Sadio Mane opened the scoring with 20 minutes on the clock before Arsenal capitalised on rare mistakes from Virgil Van Dijk and Alisson Becker to go into half time with a 2-1 lead.
The second half was dominated by Liverpool, however Arsenal’s new found defensive organisation held strong and, with the help of some excellent Emiliano Martinez saves, the Gunners came away with all three points.
Were Arsenal lucky to find themselves victorious though? The Gunners recorded just 3 shots with 31% possession which, according to stat pages @OptaJoe and @Orbinho on Twitter, are the lowest figures Arsenal have recorded in a Premier League game since the stats were first collected in the 2003/04 season.
Furthermore, given Arsenal’s two goals came from Liverpool mistakes, this means the Gunners had just one shot that didn’t come directly from an error. However, should Arteta’s side be given more credit than they have received for how they scored their goals?
Above is the moment which I thought was crucial in forcing Van Dijk’s mistake. Arsenal players are marking every forward pass the defender can make, with Bukayo Saka standing off screen marking Trent Alexander-Arnold at the top of the pitch.
Here he wants to pass to his fellow Dutchman Gini Wijnaldum, the midfielder in the centre of the pitch, however he is being marked tightly by Lucas Torreira forcing him to adjust his body positioning.
This is when Arsenal really put the pressure on because, as a result of the pressure from number 24 Reiss Nelson, Van Dijk can only turn towards his own goal, meaning he has to pass backwards to Alisson. Arsenal’s striker Alexandre Lacazette spots this and starts running towards the goalkeeper, anticipating the back pass from which the Frenchman scores.
Whilst Arsenal were certainly fortunate Van Dijk’s pass was a poor one, I believe the Gunners should be given credit for how they forced the defender into this uncomfortable situation, with their press on the night proving difficult at times for Liverpool to handle.
This picture is moments before Arsenal’s second goal and once again it is as a result of intelligent pressing. As Nelson puts the keeper under pressure, Lacazette realises the only player Alisson could pass to is left back Andy Robertson and he therefore starts running towards the Scotsman.
Alisson’s only other options are to either go long, or to Joe Gomez, the only other Liverpool player in the penalty box. However, he would have to risk taking a touch and passing the ball before Nelson gets to him, whilst Gomez would need to be careful of number 19 Nicolas Pepe, who is rushing towards him and trying to cut off another possible option for the goalkeeper.
Arsenal’s second goal was not just because of Alisson’s mistake, but also thanks to Reiss Nelson’s intelligent movement and composure. Before this image, Nelson sprinted back from pressing the goalkeeper and got into an excellent position for Lacazette to find him. The Englishman was also aware of the time he had, taking a touch instead of shooting first time, and guiding the ball perfectly into the far corner.
Without doubt, there was a strong element of luck in Arsenal’s victory, with both goals coming from mistakes that Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp would certainly deem avoidable. However, in my opinion, Arsenal’s pressing in both scenarios has been overshadowed by the errors.
It is no coincidence that these goals were the 4th and 5th times that Arsenal have benefitted from the opposition making a mistake leading to a Gunners goal since the restart. The pressing style Arteta has implemented during his spell at the club is yet another positive change he has made and this result was another sign that, with financial backing, Arsenal can go places under their new Spanish manager.