Liverpool secured a vital three points at Arsenal thanks to key contributions at both ends of the pitch.
Arsenal 0-2 Liverpool
Premier League (29), Emirates Stadium
March 16, 2022
Goals: Jota 54′, Firmino 62′
The front five get the job done between them
Jurgen Klopp couldn’t have hoped for much more once he decided Diogo Jota would come off to be replaced by Roberto Firmino.
The Portuguese netted having already been chosen as one of the players to be replaced. A bonus goal before leaving the pitch.
Then his replacement, Firmino had almost set up a goal just before scoring his own (but Thiago and Salah couldn’t finish the chance between them after the Brazillian pulled the ball back into a good area).
He was then in the right place to turn home Andy Robertson‘s cross from the byline shortly after with a skilful flick followed by a celebration with the Liverpool fans, for which he was booked.
It hadn’t seemed like the attackers would get the job done in the first half and it felt they might be relying on Salah off the bench, but Jota got his goal, and Firmino secured the three points.
From trouble to triumph in a matter of moments.
Before the excitement of two goals within ten minutes, there was some worry for Liverpool fans.
At one stage, even a point seemed like it might be a decent result as Alisson pulled a supreme stop out of the bag to keep the scores level.
Becker showed his world-class ability to recover and reposition himself in time for a Martin Odegaard drive, with the rest of the team scrambling to return to position following an unforced error.
It was an important moment in what could turn out to be a very important result against an opposition who were looking good.
Arsenal will have wished Aaron Ramsdale had shown similar dominance in front of goal when Jota fired his left foot strike at his near post. But the Englishman wasn’t set, maybe expecting a shot across the face, and the finish was too powerful for an off-balance keeper to stop.
Alisson on the other hand was committed, well-positioned and strong to stop the Norwegian’s attempt following a Thiago error.
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Tools in transition
Mikel Arteta spoke before the game about the importance of managing not just the transitions, but controlling the second and third balls against Liverpool.
He was wary of balls in the air and direct play as much as he was the counter-press.
Arsenal did manage to do well for long periods, but in the end the second goal came from a duel on the far side — a second ball won by Robertson in a 50-50 with Bukayo Saka.
Liverpool were slightly off the pace in the first half, as admitted by Thiago post-match.
“We felt our high pressure was not as accurate as it normally is,” he said. “But we had half time to correct things and we did it.
“We made our pressures, started to play our game again, and dominated the second half.”
It shows that Liverpool’s transition play isn’t just about gegenpressing, and for Jota’s goal they showed they also have a player in Thiago who can open up a defence with one pass.
Add this to the set-piece threat we’ve seen recently, plus the classic counter-press, and Klopp’s side have a number of tools to break down the opposition.
Gabriel Martinelli looks like a Liverpool player
It’s not often you watch an opposition side in the Premier League and think one of their forwards might be good for this Liverpool team.
The Reds face many decent opposition attackers, but there’s usually something missing when looking at how they might perform in Klopp’s system. When picking a pre-match combined XI, very few players would get into the front three ahead of Liverpool’s in-form trio.
Spurs forward Son Heung-min may have been one, and Gabriel Martinelli looks like he will be the latest example.
Still this. https://t.co/CCmjHfpjDY
— James Nalton (@JDNalton) March 16, 2022
He was the best attacker on the pitch in the first half, on and off the ball. He’s effective in build-up play, skilful, hard-working, and is able to take players on — as shown when he skinned an isolated Trent a couple of times and nutmegged Henderson.
Klopp hasn’t hidden that he’s a fan of the 20-year-old Brazilian. “Martinelli by the way, everybody should remember that name. Outstanding player,” he said after the sides met earlier this year.
Liverpool may struggle to sign a player from a fellow Premier League side, and they’ve acquired Luis Diaz for a place in the forward ranks recently, and he seems half-decent, so it’s not like they are desperate to sign Martinelli. But who knows what will happen a few years down the line.
Gap closed to one point
Liverpool’s next game is an FA Cup quarter-final against Nottingham Forest, but from now until the end of the season the Reds will always have their eye on a second Premier League title in three years.
The next league fixture is Watford at home, but after that it’s the biggest game of the season — Man City away.
City’s draw with Crystal Palace at the weekend, coupled with this Liverpool win in North London, means the gap at the top of the table is now just one point.
Liverpool’s goal difference is also five better than the defending champions’.
At the very least it’s a title challenge. A third in four seasons, and a team for who trophies are an expectation not hidden.
This is why the FA Cup game is also important, and those who come into the squad for that fixture will get the chance to show they too are can be a big part of driving the club to more success this season.