Result: Arsenal 0-3 Liverpool
Competition: Premier League
Date: 3 April 2021
Venue: Emirates Stadium
Arsenal: Leno, Chambers, Holding, Gabriel, Tierney, Partey, Ceballos, Pepe, Odegaard, Aubameyang, Lacazette
Subs: Ryan, Bellerin, Cedric, Mari, Elneny, Nelson, Willian, Martinelli, Nketiah
Diogo Jota came off the bench to grab a brace as Liverpool ran out 3-0 winners at the Emirates against a lacklustre Arsenal.
The Portuguese striker pounced twice in the second half, either side of Mo Salah’s strike, to secure the points on a night when Mikel Arteta’s side produced a comically bad performance in the absence of key players.
Unable to call on David Luiz (knee), Bukayo Saka (hamstring), Emile Smith Rowe (hip) and Granit Xhaka (ill), Mikel Arteta was forced into a series of post-Interlull changes. Interestingly, Calum Chambers did retain his place after impressing against West Ham meaning Cedric and Hector sat on the bench. At centre-back, Rob Holding earned a recall to partner Gabriel with Kieran Tierney, fresh from a hat-trick of assists for Scotland, at left-back. Dani Ceballos was given the responsibility of anchoring the midfield alongside Thomas Partey, while Nicholas Pepe and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang provided width in attack with Odegaard sitting behind Lacazette.
This was not a good half of football from Arsenal. Liverpool were busy, pressed high up the pitch and were generally tidy in possession. In response, whenever a man in red got hold of the ball, he’d look up, assess his options, decide none of them were viable and then just hoof the ball long.
It’s not often supporters pine after Luiz and Xhaka but their absence on this occasion was sorely felt. Holding’s safety-first mentality highlighted his limitations as a player while Ceballos’ dawdling gave everybody the heebie-jeebies.
It was hard to tell if Arteta had commanded his players to sit deep and try playing on the break but if that was the case, it did not work. All we did was surrender possession and then invite wave after wave of tepid Liverpool attacks. Klopp’s men are not what they were, so despite having us on the back foot, they basically just faffed about.
Mane failed to find Firmino after rolling Holding, Milner and Fabinho hit wide and some other stuff happened that was so forgettable that I can’t even be bothered to write about it. At the other end, the moustachioed Alisson picked his nose and claimed a header from Pepe.
The game was so terrible that Tierney decided he wasn’t going to partake any longer. The Scot went down after a clash of knees with Milner and was replaced by Cedric.
If the Arsenal players received a rocket at half time, it certainly wasn’t one that had much upward thrust. We continued to look limp, passive and completely devoid of any creativity.
The visitors, a Salah prod at goal, weren’t much better. Unsurprisingly, both managers decided changes were needed. Ceballos was replaced by Elneny and Jota took over from Robertson.
The Portuguese striker didn’t need long to make his mark. Picked out by Alexander-Arnold, he squeezed between Holding and Chambers to head past Leno from close range. Given how pathetic we’d been, it was hard to argue with the scoreline. (1-0)
It didn’t take long for Liverpool to double their lead. Fabinho lofted a ball into the channel for Salah to chase, he wriggled past Gabriel, who should have cleared when he went to ground, and then slotted through Leno’s legs. Game over. (2-0)
Just to make sure, Jota finished the job with nine minutes remaining, slotting home from close range after Gabriel had lost the ball playing out from defence. It was a night to forget for the Brazilian who looked very uncomfortable next to Holding. (3-0)
There’s not much to say about Arsenal’s efforts aside from they were completely below the required standards.
If we played with one eye on Thursday’s Europa League encounter with Slavia Prague, all we’ve done is hand encouragement to our opponents.