The good, the bad and Klopp’s great subs – Last word on Arsenal 0-2 Liverpool – Liverpool FC

Jurgen Klopp’s substitutions helped Liverpool secure a priceless 2-0 win away to Arsenal, while the Reds’ defensive players came in for huge praise.

It was a huge night in the Premier League title race on Wednesday, as Liverpool looked to go one point behind Man City.

They did exactly that, producing a dogged performance that became more dominant as the minutes ticked by at the Emirates.

Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino were Liverpool’s goalscorers, and Klopp’s men made it nine league victories in succession.

Here, TIA’s Henry Jackson (@HenryJackson87) is joined by Dave Hendrick (@EPLIndex) and Taintless Red@TaintlessRed) to discuss a massive win and some inspired changes by the manager.

The good…

DAVE: The three points, first and foremost. We’re now one point behind Man City, and if we beat Watford, we will be top before they play again.

The next good thing – very good in fact – was Liverpool’s defense.

Trent Alexander-Arnold did a really good job against Gabriel Martinelli and it was really good to see Klopp mention it afterwards.

Meanwhile, Andy Robertson took Bukayo Saka out of the game completely, just shut him down, while Joel Matip and Virgil van Dijk were very good and gave Arsenal absolutely nothing.

What a performance by Fabinho in front of them, too. He was absolutely magnificent. He had a bit of a slow start in the game but second half, in particular, he was sensational.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Wednesday, March 16, 2022: Liverpool's goalkeeper Alisson Becker clears the ball during the FA Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Liverpool FC at the Emirates Stadium.  (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

You have to mention Alison as well. He had nothing to do for 50 minutes, but when he was called upon he stepped up and made a massive save to show all the deluded Gunners what a truly great goalkeeper looks like.

The way he held his nerve, didn’t commit and made Martin Odegaard try to beat him was top drawer. The best keeper on the planet, without a doubt.

All things considered, a good evening’s work, especially as Arsenal had been getting very, very noisy because they had beaten some bad teams, so it’s nice to put them back in their box.

RED: Nine wins in a row; one point off City; Carabao Cup winners; FA Cup quarter-finalists; Champions League quarter-finalists.

Liverpool are in a good place as we enter the business end of the season.

Arsenal had won nine of their last 11 matches, so this was never going to be straightforward.

Mikel Arteta’s decision not to high press Liverpool’s defence, which has caused them problems in the past when we’ve bypassed that press, led to a more measured first half, with the Reds’ defenders having a lot of the ball and few chances for both sides.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Wednesday, March 16, 2022: Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold celebrates after the FA Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Liverpool FC at the Emirates Stadium.  Liverpool won 2-0.  (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Liverpool upped their game in the second half with some tactical tweaks by Klopp, as he wanted less of our players behind the ball and more attempting to play in pockets and half-spaces.

A moment of top quality undid Arsenal as Thiago’s pass took out most of Arsenal’s defense and Jota’s brilliant drilled shot caught out Ramsdale.

That extra piece of quality is why we bought Thiago.

Van Dijk and Matip were both excellent, with the latter winning a deserved Man of the Match. Fabinho also had a typically Fabinho-esque performance.

While this wasn’t Liverpool at our most exciting, it was Liverpool with their game face on. Professional, resilient focused.

A mature performance from a group of winners who are hungry for more trophies. Results are what matters now and this team knows how to get results in many ways.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Wednesday, March 16, 2022: Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk (L) celebrates with goal-scorer Roberto Firmino (R) after the second goal during the FA Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Liverpool FC at the Emirates Stadium.  (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

HENRY: That was the biggest win of the season so far, in my opinion. Some victories feel particularly huge and that was definitely one of them.

It was the defensive side of things that impressed me most and it would be wrong not to focus on that Alisson moment.

He really is an extraordinary goalkeeper and that is a moment that will be defining if Liverpool win the title, like his save against Napoli in 2018/19.

As the other lads pointed out, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson and Fabiniho were exceptional, too, and while Trent was troubled by Martinelli, he stuck doggedly to his task.

I was also delighted for Firmino, who’s past his very best and whose stock has fallen since Luis Diaz arrived, but he enjoyed a great personal moment when he’s so often all about the team.

The Brazilian was brilliant when he came on, playing a big role in the win.

The bad…

LONDON, ENGLAND - Thursday, January 20, 2022: Liverpool's captain Jordan Henderson (L) challenges Arsenal's Martin Ødegaard during the Football League Cup Semi-Final 2nd Leg match between Arsenal FC and Liverpool FC at the Emirates Stadium.  Liverpool won 2-0, 2-0 on aggregate.  (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

DAVE: The first half wasn’t great. You never felt like they were going to score, but we weren’t really at the races.

They created nothing in the first half. Liverpool had more of the ball, more shots on target and more corners.

So even playing poorly, Liverpool comfortably matched the best Arsenal could offer. That tells you a lot about the gulf between the two sides.

There were some poor individual performances – I think everyone will be aware of who they were as they stood out like a sore thumb overall.

The worst thing was Martin Tyler and Gary Neville on commentary, though.

They couldn’t even pretend to hide the fact that they were desperate for Arsenal to win the game. They tried to hype up absolutely everything they did while ignoring any possession Liverpool had.

Neville tried to push his usual narrative about Trent’s defensive work, all while he was dealing really well with Martinelli.

I genuinely thought one of them might burst into tears when we scored the first and Tyler was ready to jump out of the gantry and end it all after the second.

I get that Neville is ex-Man United, but Arsenal were just as big a rival to them during his career, so it was really weird how excited he was by Arsenal playing hopeful balls for Martinelli to chase.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Wednesday, March 16, 2022: Liverpool's Diogo Jota celebrates after scoring the first goal during the FA Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Liverpool FC at the Emirates Stadium.  (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

RED: When you beat an in-form Arsenal away from home, it’s hard to find too much to be critical of, and neither should we.

Although there were a few individual performances that were a bit off, as a team the players functioned well on and off the ball, so Arsenal only created 0.55xG, which was mostly from Thiago’s backpass being intercepted.

Sadio Mane had an erratic game where his touch, passing and technique let him down, but he was also our most involved attacker in a match where, until Firmino’s introduction, our forwards couldn’t quite get into the game.

Jota, until his goal and withdrawal, was particularly isolated, as dropping deep to build play isn’t his strongest point – that’s part of his game that he will need to continue to develop.

Jordan Henderson also didn’t influence the match when in possession, but as I said, I would not be too critical of any of the players, as this was a tough match and all of them contributed to our clean sheet and a big win.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Wednesday, March 16, 2022: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp during the FA Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Liverpool FC at the Emirates Stadium.  (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

HENRY: I was fuming at half-time, I’ll be honest. In a game that felt so massive, Liverpool just didn’t really look up for it in an attacking sense.

Mane and Jota were the worst, doing almost nothing good and plenty bad, losing the ball continually and not holding it up.

Jota scored and I’m delighted about that, but he has been poor since returning from injury and Firmino’s cameo shows he shouldn’t be a shoo-in to start often in the next few months.

I’ll echo what Dave says about Tyler and Neville as well – the former, in particular. I know fans of all clubs think he is biased against them, but he was a joke.

He used to be a fantastic commentator who has produced great moments – Gerrard vs. Olympiakos, Aguero vs. QPR – but he’s in his mid-70s now and needs to be moved on.

And Klopp’s great subs…

LONDON, ENGLAND - Wednesday, March 16, 2022: Liverpool's goal-scorer Roberto Firmino celebrates with team-mate Andy Robertson after the FA Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Liverpool FC at the Emirates Stadium.  Liverpool won 2-0.  (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

DAVE: I liked how ruthless Klopp was. Five minutes into the second half, things hadn’t changed the way he wanted so he decided to change them himself.

I like that he didn’t waver after the Jota goal – some managers would have changed their mind and told one of those coming on to put their tracksuit back on.

That’s what separates Klopp from people like the Poundland Pep he was up against.

Firmino was really effective when he came on, and while I’m delighted to see him get his goal, it was his pressing and linkup play that really impressed.

Salah had another iffy outing but that’s fine, let him get them out of his system now. It’s April and May that we will need him back to his best.

RED: Klopp arguably has the best squad options he’s ever had as a football manager.

The lone arrival of Diaz in January has helped elevate our threat, not only due to his own quality (despite a quieter game vs. Arsenal) but others know they have to be on their game or they won’t be playing.

To be able to bring on players of the quality of Salah and Firmino is a godsend. If Pep Guardiola had these two on the bench against Crystal Palace he would have hastily brought them on.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Wednesday, March 16, 2022: Liverpool's Diogo Jota celebrates after scoring the first goal during the FA Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Liverpool FC at the Emirates Stadium.  (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

One of the interesting aspects of Klopp’s subs was how early he chose to make the changes. He had them warming up soon after the second half started and brought them on around 55 minutes.

This is partly due to the quality of the two players – if your next-best attacking options are Takumi Minamino and Divock Origi, you probably keep Diaz and Jota on a bit longer.

HENRY: Although Liverpool were actually already (just!) ahead when the changes were made, it was the arrival of Firmino and Salah that changed the game.

In truth, Mo wasn’t great when he came on but Bobby gelled everything together and made the whole team feel more cohesive.

Liverpool suddenly strangled the life out of Arsenal and that’s because they were suddenly keeping the ball better and pressing more effectively from the front.

Klopp hasn’t always been a master at subs over the years, but this was a great night for him in that respect.

What a win!

.

Leave a Comment