Arsenal earned a smash and grab win over Premier League champions Liverpool on Wednesday night, coming from behind at the Emirates Stadium.
Liverpool dominated the early exchanges of the match, and made their pressure tell with the lively Sadio Mane slotting home and Andy Robertson cutback. For 10 minutes, it seemed like it was only going to get worse as the away side ramped the intensity up.
Part of Mikel Arteta’s gameplan was clearly to press Liverpool high up the pitch and pounce on defensive mistakes, however, and that’s exactly what they did.
Reiss Nelson got tight to Virgil van Dijk and forced a bad pass from the centre-back, with Alexandre Lacazette rounding the goalkeeper to score. 12 minutes later, the roles reversed as Lacazette made an interception from Alisson and squared for Nelson to take the lead.
With a full half still to play, the game was far from over. Arsenal really had to dig deep after the break, facing an onslaught from the Liverpool attack. This was a full-strength title-winning team after all, and they dominated the chances for the rest of the match.
But Arsenal limited their opponents to low-percentage shots, and Emi Martinez stopped anything that did end up on target. In the end, the team managed to dig out what could be a vital three points for European qualification.
Let’s have a look at our Arsenal player ratings for the match.
- Emi Martinez 8.5 – Only seems to be getting better the more games he plays. Emi made one of the saves of the season from a late deflected effort on goal, and he kept eight shots out overall. The only reason I’m not rating him even higher was his lapse in concentration early on that saw Firmino hit the post. Otherwise, a fantastic performance between the posts.
- Rob Holding 8 – Barring one run out of defence where he lost the ball, Holding did an excellent job all night. He was particularly combative with Sadio Mane, without ever doing enough to get a yellow card, which is ideal. In fact, on another day he might have got Mane sent off for his kick-out.
- David Luiz 7 – There’s no doubt Luiz had a lot of good moments, making six clearances, blocking a couple of shots, and leading the back three in pass accuracy. But he also played Robertson onside before failing to stop the cutback for the goal, and Salah out-manoeuvred him a little too easily for another chance.
- Kieran Tierney 8.5 – Near faultless display defensively, shielding the ball out intelligently on multiple occasions but also knowing when to step in or clear the ball out. His best moment was probably putting off Minamino from close range without conceding the trademark penalty against Arsenal.
Midfield and Wing-Backs
- Cedric Soares 6.5 – Caught out contesting a ball too high up the field for the first goal, and Liverpool had a bit too much luck down his side of the pitch. There were some good challenges too, and he definitely committed to the cause, but it certainly wasn’t his best display so far.
- Lucas Torreira 7.5 – Did a very good job disrupting Liverpool’s attacks, even if he did give away more fouls than he made tackles. Along with Xhaka and Lacazette, he was a rare starter to complete over 80% of his passes too (all three managed 83%).
- Granit Xhaka 8 – Does this man ever rest? Since his two-week ankle injury which kept him out for about seven days, he’s played every minute of football in seven consecutive games. His performance level definitely didn’t suffer against Liverpool either. He shielded the defence excellently and made crucial blocks and interceptions. An underrated performance.
- Bukayo Saka 7 – Back out on the left, Saka did a good job getting back and filling in defensively. He should have drawn a red card for Alexander-Arnold if VAR had any interest in assessing Liverpool challenges. Struggled a little getting forward with Pepe however, which left the latter isolated.
- Reiss Nelson 8 – Nelson played just under an hour and wasn’t always at the heart of Arsenal’s play, but he played a crucial part in both goals. First, he pressured van Dijk and put him off to set up Lacazette’s goal, then he slotted away his own chance nicely. Can’t ask for much more from a forward than taking their only chance of the game.
- Alexandre Lacazette 8.5 – Like Nelson, Lacazette pounced on his rare opportunities to come away with a goal and an assist. He fought hard in the duels and made a few defensive contributions as well. It was everything you wanted from him on the night.
- Nicolas Pepe 6.5 – Almost always on his own trying to beat the entire Liverpool defence, Pepe had a hugely tough time of it. He won a couple of good free-kicks from some nice dribbles, but barely got into the game otherwise. His best moment was actually off the ball, as he made a near-post run to push Joe Gomez back, before dropping into the space he’d made for Reiss Nelson to square to him for an open goal. Instead, Nelson scored himself, which also works.
- Joe Willock 7 – Missed a good chance late on, but it was his trademark late run into the box leading to the chance in the first place. In the last few games, he’s done a good job guarding the near post on corners, which goes unnoticed. Helped Arsenal see the game out with his pressing and physicality.
- Dani Ceballos 6.5 – Didn’t really make a big impact this time. Didn’t have the chance to, with Arsenal pinned back. Made a couple of tackles but also got dribbled a couple of times.
- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang 7.5 – Deserves praise for the way he came on and won a six of his eight aerial duels. Not something he’s known for, but gave Arsenal some mild relief booting the ball upfield from Martinez to the forwards.
- Ainsley Maitland-Niles N/A – Had one big moment with Mane initially getting in behind him on goal, but like Tierney earlier in the game, Maitland-Niles did just enough to put him off without conceding the penalty.
- Sead Kolasinac N/A – Played the final 10 minutes, giving Saka a little rest. Completed all of his three passes, not much else to say.