Sunday 22 April 2018

Liverpool 3 Arsenal 3: Five things we learned from the pulsating encounter at Anfield

Joe Allen celebrates scoring the third goal for Liverpool with team mates
Reuters / Phil Noble
Joe Allen celebrates scoring the third goal for Liverpool with team mates Reuters / Phil Noble

Alistair Tweedale

Roberto Firmino raises his game for the big guns and the form of Aaron Ramsey could make it difficult for Arsene Wenger to reinstate Santi Cazorla are among the things we learned from tonight's game.

1. Firmino raises his game against the big guns

Amongst Premier League followers, only the football hipsters who spend any time lacking in English football catching up on Bundesliga goings-on have been treated to Roberto Firmino consistently performing at his best.

The £29 million Liverpool paid for the Brazilian rightly raised expectations and while he has not had a much instant impact, it is fair to say he has raised his game against the very best. He scored twice here – the second a curled effort that oozed class – to add to another he scored at the Etihad as well as assists against Man City, Chelsea and Leicester. He is one for the big occasion.


2. Injuries cannot dampen this fixture

Two injury ravaged sides met at Anfield but both the spirit of the players and this fixture, which has produced its fair share of Premier League classics over the years, could not be diminished.

The game started at breakneck speed: it was 1-1 after a quarter of an hour and 2-2 with 25 minutes gone as both sides set out to win. They played with an attacking intent and freedom that belied the caution that 16 players’ absences through injury might have initiated.


3. Cazorla may struggle to get his spot back

Steven Gerrard reckons Aaron Ramsey is the best attacking midfielder in England and it’s hard to argue with him. He is not an ‘attacking midfielder’ like Mesut Ozil or David Silva is an attacking midfielder but his stealthy forays forward from deep are among the cleverest in the game.

He showed exactly how difficult his runs are to track as he ghosted in behind the Liverpool defence for his 14th minute equaliser, then provided further insight into his value with the assist for Olivier Giroud from a corner.

He is a completely different player to Santi Cazorla; Cazorla is a passer and Ramsey looks to do damage with his movement. Neither is necessarily a better option, but the Welshman’s form and the goal threat he is providing from his preferred central role makes him extremely difficult to drop. Cazorla may find that his spot difficult to regain.


4. This Arsenal side come in many guises

Liverpool’s gegenpress caused Arsenal to record their lowest passing accuracy in a Premier League game this season. Their passing, usually so fluid and the best in the Premier League this season, was effectively and efficiently disrupted.

They went behind twice in the first half, yet they did not lie down. They were intelligent in when they attacked and in how many men they committed, and for the most part they defended resiliently.

Ultimately a punt into the box prompted their downfall but they showed a battling mentality needed to challenge at the top.


5. Klopp needs a few transfer windows

If anything displayed just how much work Jurgen Klopp thinks his team needs it was his decision to throw Steven Caulker on up front for his Liverpool debut.

Yes, they are severely weakened by injury and yes, it (sort of) worked, but this was Klopp at his most desperate and he won’t want to have to resort to such tactics many more times in the future.

Early on in his tenure reports from Germany suggested he would struggle to have the desired impact without a full pre-season and it seems that is the case with results distinctly mixed. He needs to mould his squad and that will take time, and probably a fair amount of money, too.

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