In the English Premier League’s last game on Sunday, it was Liverpool who came out on top 4-3 over Arsenal. A depleted Gunners side saw the inexperienced defensive duo of Rob Holding and Callum Chambers attempt to cope with pressure from perhaps the most potent attack in the league. Maybe with better instruction and direction from the Arsene Wenger, a better result could have been attained.
What Arsene Wenger Did Wrong in Loss to Liverpool
In the marquee fixture of the opening Barclays Premier League weekend, Arsenal saw three of its most important players being rested after extended breaks from the Euro 2016 tournament. Stars Mesut Ozil, Laurent Koscienly, and Olivier Giroud were not involved in the opening fixture; despite showing excellent form over the summer games. Although this is a longstanding philosophy of the French manager; the club’s best players really should be playing against the best opposition. While rushing back players is always a concern for injuries, as seen with Aaron Ramsey pulling up around the hour mark, it is important to be at full strength.
Wenger’s policies of resting players until they are fully fit was hypocritical in the game lineup today, as seen above. Both Ramsey and Alex Iwobi were picked over fully fit Santi Cazorla and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlin in the starting eleven, and both payed the price.
Injuries aside, the lineup lacked real intention to find the balance of protecting the inexperienced back four and keeping meaningful possession for the majority of the game. With limited offensive skill, Francis Coquelin struggled to find the right pass. His cover in front of the two central defenders was excellent, however, an area where fellow starter Mohammed Elneny. The gameplan was unclear as Wenger started both Coquelin and Elneny, a defensive and box to box midfielder respectively. A better duo to find the balance of protecting the back four and finding the right pass to get away from the treacherous Jurgen Klopp high press would have been Francis Coquelin coupled with Santi Cazorla from the very start.
Presumably, whatever Wenger said to the players in the dressing room during half-time did little to motivate or inspire them for the next 45 minutes. Arsenal looked flat and out of sorts in the second half. They quickly went 3-1 and 4-1 down within the opening fifteen minutes. Any sort of talk like “More of the same boys,” would have done the players no good. Liverpool were in the ascendancy. They had momentum coming from Philippe Countinho’s free kick just before the half time whistle.
Need for Defensive Cover
All throughout the second half, the Liverpool attackers were running rampant at the Arsenal defense. There was far too much space being given to the likes of Coutinho, Adam Lallana, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane. As lackluster performances from the midfield and center back duos kept giving the ball back in dangerous areas of the pitch. Chance after chance was created. In addition to Cazorla’s inclusion in the starting eleven; Coquelin should not have been allowed to leave Chambers and Holding’s area. His presence as cover for the two young center halves was more than necessary. His crunching tackles were needed to sweep up Liverpool advancements.
Also, as the game progressed, the Arsenal formation seemed to condense which allowed Liverpool’s wingers and fullbacks to advance down the flanks and whip in crosses. This space must be covered in future games. Hopefully, the Arsenal management finally realizes that the squad needs reinforcements to contend for the Premier League title.