Liverpool vs Arsenal: Pressing issues, injuries and set-pieces ahead of Saturday Night Football clash

In different occasions, Liverpool’s run of kind may draw extra consideration. Two wins from six and factors dropped in opposition to West Ham, Brighton and newly-promoted Brentford would not look on paper to be the hallmark of a workforce on track to raise the Premier League title.

But the Reds are nonetheless inside touching distance of leaders Chelsea and in no want of panic. After all, Liverpool have been the one unbeaten facet within the division earlier than their defeat on the London Stadium final day trip.

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Jurgen Klopp’s workforce are additionally the best scorers within the division, with arguably the most effective participant on the earth, Mohamed Salah, main the cost. They have scored in each league match since a house defeat by Fulham in March, some 21 video games in the past.

Even so, there are considerations on the different finish of the pitch. “Defensively, he’ll be worried,” was Sky Sports’ Jamie Redknapp’s transient evaluation after throwing away a lead – twice – at Brentford in September. Little extra was stated on the time, and it seemed to be a one-off. After all, Liverpool had began the season with 4 clear sheets from 5 video games.

But the run which has adopted suggests it’s not a one-off. Liverpool have shipped 10 of their final six league matches, greater than the earlier 17, and in all competitions have conceded twice or extra in six video games already this season.

Even at their free-scoring finest, that does not make life straightforward for Klopp, and Arsenal supervisor Mikel Arteta will consider his resurgent Arsenal can turn out to be the newest to upset the Liverpool apple cart on this weekend’s Saturday Night Football clash on Sky Sports Premier League.

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Is this a return to the gung-ho soccer of the early Klopp period? The objective tally would recommend so, however the method of these conceded comes from extra than simply committing males ahead. The Reds’ vulnerabilities are diverse, however most hyperlink again to points in midfield the place injuries, kind and the loss of Georginio Wijnaldum are being sorely felt.

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On the floor, their statistics nonetheless stack up. Liverpool have received the ball again within the remaining third greater than anybody else. They cease groups passing out from the again extra often than anybody else. They pressure groups to begin their very own assaults additional again than anybody else. So what is going to Arteta look to use?

It’s not a lot the standard of urgent, and organisation, which has been an issue for Liverpool during the last six video games – extra one of consistency. Klopp has been compelled to call 9 totally different midfield mixtures already this season, which has not helped construct a sustained rhythm in his gameplan.

What he needs from his midfielders has not modified from the day he walked by way of the door at Anfield six years in the past, as Jamie Carragher defined on Monday Night Football in 2018 when discussing why he was routinely choosing a trio of Wijnaldum, James Milner and Jordan Henderson.

“What they are all about is energy, pressing and getting after people. We haven’t got passers, but as Klopp has said himself, the best number 10 in the world is counter-pressing. That’s why he plays them, to counter-press and win the ball,” he stated then.

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Three years on, Milner is about to have fun his thirty sixth birthday and Wijnaldum is gone. Curtis Jones, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita, have every appeared to step as much as the plate this season however none have proven they’re able to fill the energetic presence Wijnaldum supplied with out the ball. Put his stats on possession received within the remaining two thirds and aerial duels side-by-side with theirs and there isn’t a contest.

But it is not nearly him. Fitness has meant Henderson and Fabinho have began solely 5 video games collectively this season, and neither has appeared totally match at occasions. That has performed a significant half in Liverpool’s problem in controlling video games – they’ve now dropped six factors from profitable positions in 2021/22, greater than their whole title-winning marketing campaign two years in the past. The present charge is even on track to beat that of final season’s defensive disaster.

Even in a 3-0 win in opposition to Crystal Palace in mid-September, the final recreation earlier than their current run of six, Liverpool have been unusually open and Klopp known as their victory “one of the most hard-fought 3-0 wins I have ever seen”.

In-game warnings have gone unheeded too. From the very begin of a 2-2 draw with Brighton the place the hosts blew a two-goal lead and had their physique language criticised by Klopp, they appeared uncomfortable. With barely a minute on the clock, the Seagulls’ false 9 Leandro Trossard was given sufficient day trip extensive to show, lookup and discover Solly March’s run from deep, which wanted an excellent Alisson save to disclaim a shock early objective.

Both Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson got an actual downside by the shortage of help from their midfield as Brighton overloaded their left flank for that assault, with Salah and Sadio Mane staying additional upfield to supply a menace on the break.

Image:
Liverpool's midfield are out of the sport as Trossard makes an early probability for March

Further up the pitch too, there have been indicators of hassle. For one other early probability, Adam Lallana was capable of skip previous token challenges from Keita and Roberto Firmino, evade Henderson and play Trossard by way of onto the Liverpool backline earlier than the hosts recovered possession. Soon after, Jones was caught in possession in his defensive third by Yves Bissouma, who then smacked the submit from 20 yards.

Liverpool didn’t be taught. Both of the Seagulls’ comeback targets have been created by gamers in area out extensive, and runs from deep going untracked.

Look how a lot time each Enock Mwepu and Lallana are given within the video beneath as they go on to punish lapses in focus, and how a lot time there’s to search out them. Mwepu’s objective is out of the blue, however nonetheless comes from a harmful space for Brighton’s first, whereas Jordan Henderson sees – however doesn’t cease – Lallana’s help run for his or her second.

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Liverpool’s draw with Brighton within the Premier League

Even Klopp’s trusted lieutenants have appeared off the tempo and left Liverpool susceptible in current video games. Fabinho, who missed the primary two weeks of the season and one other three video games in October, has not all the time been as much as full health and was caught on his heels for the second objective conceded in opposition to West Ham. The Brazilian, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Robertson collectively fail to cease Jarrod Bowen on the break, with Michail Antonio then taking Virgil van Dijk and Joel Matip’s consideration away from Pablo Fornals, who was slipped by way of to attain.

We’re used to seeing Liverpool being hit by counter-attacks, and Jamie Carragher took goal at Klopp’s choice to carry a excessive line after the sport, saying: “I just think when you’re in those positions, I don’t know what you gain by holding the high line.” But permitting an assault to construct so simply performs its personal half – and not simply when Liverpool are excessive up the pitch.

Klopp has all the time been pleased to make daring calls with Liverpool’s defending, and has spoken concerning the risk-reward technique which has largely paid off throughout his time at Anfield.

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from West Ham’s win over Liverpool within the Premier League

So much depends on his gamers defending their very own field properly, to allow them to afford to place it underneath strain with out conceding targets. It’s one thing they did so properly throughout the title-winning season, with Van Dijk specifically imperious on the again.

Things have gone off the boil defending their 18-yard field too. Of the eight targets conceded within the three video games talked about, three have come from lifeless balls, and now solely Crystal Palace and Everton have conceded the next proportion of their targets from set-pieces.

Brentford scored one of these three in a sensational 3-3 draw – one other comeback – in late September – however Yoane Wissa’s late equaliser, in open play, was extra painful for Klopp to look at. Liverpool had eight shirts inside their very own field, however Brentford’s three-man back-post transfer was nonetheless sufficient to overload Alexander-Arnold and permit the DR Congo ahead to bundle dwelling on the second ball.

Image:
Brentford's three-man assault is sufficient to overpower eight Liverpool shirts within the field

Liverpool’s centre-back pairing couldn’t be blamed for that objective, however none of Ibrahima Konate, Matip or Van Dijk – who you possibly can forgive for taking his time to get totally again to his finest kind from a long-term damage – have been on the high of their recreation in current weeks.

Arsenal will definitely odor a chance, given solely West Ham have picked up extra factors than the Gunners within the final six Premier League video games, however they are going to be underneath no illusions.

Defensive points or not, Liverpool stay one of essentially the most potent attacking forces within the Premier League, who began the season conceding as soon as of their first 5 video games. Just as they’ve come up brief at occasions over the previous six weeks, so too may they return to their punishing finest with and with out the ball on Saturday night.

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