Unlike most of the matches in the last couple weeks before this one, I was feeling pretty comfortable.
It isn’t just that I thought Arsenal would lose, I did expect that but I was also excited to see how Arsenal matched up against what I think might be the best team in the world right now (the exact ranking is up for debate but at lowest 3rd). The thing I miss most about being in the Champions League is going up against the best teams in the world, yeah it sucked at times to get knocked out by Bayern and Barcelona but it was fun to go head to head with the best in the world playing the “Arsenal Way,” this match felt like a throwback to that.
The match did not go exactly as I predicted. I expected Arsenal to come out amped up but instead, they played a very controlled style, working to cut out what Liverpool wanted and then starting to gain a foothold. Ultimately this felt like teams that were close (with maybe an edge to Liverpool) and came down to the team that was able to capitalize on mistakes.
Arsenal 0-2 Liverpool: By The Graphics
Arsenal 0-2 Liverpool: By The Numbers
17 – Touches in the box for Liverpool, this is tied for the lowest total that Liverpool have had this season.
9 – Shots for Liverpool, this is the second-fewest that Liverpool have had this season.
22 – Touches within 25 yards of goal for Liverpool, this is the second-fewest that Liverpool have had this season.
1.3 – Expected goals (xG) for Liverpool, this is the third-fewest that Liverpool have had this season.
One of the things that I was impressed with in this match was Arsenal’s ability to limit the things that Liverpool wanted to do. It didn’t quite match what I expected but I was quite happy with the results, I think in this match Arsenal did a very good job of denying Liverpool access to the areas of the pitch where they can create danger from.
Arsenal’s attack wasn’t any spectacular in this match.
It was a bit better than the average performance against Liverpool but still well below what Arsenal have done over the last few months.
9 – Shots for Arsenal, the 6th fewest shots Arsenal have had this season.
0.7 – Expected goals for Arsenal, the fifth fewest for Arsenal this season
150 – Touches in the attacking third for Arsenal, the 18th most for Arsenal this season. That is more than double the 74 they managed in the reverse fixture of this match. This is also the second most Liverpool have allowed this season.
The attacking stats for Arsenal show the areas for improvement are still there to go the next level. Arsenal did well to get the ball into Liverpool’s final third.
Where they struggled was finding the final ball to cut open Liverpool. Part of that is that Liverpool have very good defenders and they may be known for more front footed defending but they are still a team that will play a very tough mid block. In this match they did a lot more defending in the middle third of the pitch than is typical for them, they had 85 middle third pressure in this match.
I think they needed every single one of those and that is a big part of why the pass map of trying to get the ball into high value zones is filled with red for Arsenal.
Thomas Partey excels in a 3 v 1
46 – Pass Completed, 4th among Arsenal players
5 – F3rd Entry Passes, 3rd among Arsenal player
3 – Progressive Passes, 3rd among Arsenal players
5 – Long Passes – Comp, 3rd among Arsenal players
2 – Shots, 1st among Arsenal players
0.05 – xG, 3rd among Arsenal players
2 – Fouled, 1st among Arsenal players
3 – Tackles, 3rd among Arsenal players
0 – Dribbled Past, 4th among Arsenal players
2 – Interceptions, 1st among Arsenal players
2 – Blocked Passes, 1st among Arsenal players
10 – Ball Recoveries, 1st among Arsenal players
Saying this was 3 on 1 is maybe a little hard on Granit Xhaka but at times it really did seem like it was Thomas Partey vs all of Liverpool in this match. I think that this is really just a continuation of the performances that have corresponded with Partey becoming the hub of Arsenal’s midfield. He has certainly not been 4 out of 10.
It is a fast turnaround for Arsenal, with another cup final against Aston Villa (this one will have major implications on the top 4 race, unlike this match). Hopefully Arsenal can continue with performances like this one, because it feels like if they do this against any of the other teams in the League outside City and Liverpool they come away with three points.
Sources: Opta via WhoScored, StatsZone, My own database. StatsBomb via FBRef.