Arsenal vs Liverpool: Five things we learned as Reds win to close gap to top four

Arsenal 0-3 Liverpool: Jota netted a brace off the bench with Salah notching in between

Karl Matchett
Saturday 03 April 2021 21:53

Liverpool beat Arsenal 3-0 in the Premier League on Saturday night to move within two points of the top four.

The away side settled quicker and Fabinho drilled an early shot from range just wide before Mane had a deflected header easily saved, though clear chances were hard to come by at either end. A fine piece of skill from Roberto Firmino saw the Brazilian move into space and send a rasping shot wide just on the half-hour mark, but the best chance of the half saw James Milner steer an effort off-target from the edge of the box.

After the break, the Gunners initially tried to up the ante with a little more tempo about their play, but a Liverpool sub on the hour mark - Diogo Jota for Andy Robertson - and a tactical switch swung the game irrevocably in their favour.

Jota powered in a header from a cross from the right just minutes after his entrance, before Mohamed Salah beat Gabriel Magalhaes and finished between Bernd Leno’s legs for a quickfire double for the Reds. Jota then wrapped up matters with a close-range finish in the final 10 minutes.

Here are five things we learned from the game at the Emirates Stadium.

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Away days

As crazy as it sounds - given we’re now in April and they recently went close to four years without a home league defeat - Liverpool haven’t won in the Premier League at Anfield in 2021. Mid-December was the last happy home occasion, but on the road they have maintained a regular ticking-over of points.

Coming into this game it was five wins from the last six away from home, four in the league and one in Europe, with only a defeat at third-place Leicester breaking that sequence.

In truth, Arsenal never came close to emulating the Foxes; they were on the back foot from kick-off and never troubled Alisson Becker unduly, while once the Reds were ahead they only looked for more.

The home form issue is still to be addressed, but away from home the problems for Jurgen Klopp’s side have been nowhere near as apparent.

Salah’s consistency in front of goal

The cool, collected finish from Liverpool’s No. 11 in the second half made it 93 in 150 Premier League games - the fifth-best tally after that many games in the league’s history.

If his consistency and finishing prowess is still somewhat underrated, it certainly shouldn’t be by supporters of Liverpool’s hosts any longer: this strike put him ahead of Thierry Henry in that particular regard, which highlights how exceptional the Egyptian is.

On a more short-term basis, Salah now has 18 for the season, one clear of Harry Kane as the top scorer in the Golden Boot race.

Arsenal despair

For the first 45 minutes of the match, it was an extremely directionless performance from the Gunners.

There were half-hearted attempts to press from one or two players in attack, but little in terms of combination play, counter-attacks with intent or real structure in their build-up play which could lead to shooting chances.

A few minutes of more direct, fast-paced movement of the ball after half-time was a very, very minor positive - it soon reverted to Liverpool dominance and the Gunners stuck in a rut inside their own half, unable to break forward and very poor trying to play out.

Two goals could be argued as having been gifted through their own shortcomings, with Gabriel involved in both.

Another Tierney injury

Right before half time, perhaps the biggest disappointment - even with this dismal performance - occurred for the Gunners: Kieran Tierney going off injured once more.

The left-back is a vital part of the team, often as effective an outlet as any of their true attackers yet without relinquishing any defensive responsibilities.

However, he has struggled to string together long spells in the team and they have constantly had to see players fill in for him - here, it was the first time he had started nine Arsenal games in a row and he looks set for another spell on the sidelines.

A challenge with James Milner ended in the Scot tweaking either knee or ankle, with a quick medical assessment on the pitch ending in an immediate substitution. Without him, the Gunners lose balance, leadership and a key part of the identity they are trying to build, as well as plenty of talent in the final ball.

Champions League chase

With both Chelsea and Leicester, fourth and third, having lost ahead of this match, the emphasis was very much on Liverpool putting in a performance which would enable them to close the gap to the top four.

Their first-half performance certainly suggested that intent, without having a finishing touch to yield the rewards they required.

But once the Reds took the lead, they had the scent of Arsenal’s weaknesses and the realisation that their own strengths remained, with an inevitable three points the result.

Two points is now the gap between themselves and Chelsea, with both teams still involved in European competition and a big race to run in the closing stages of the season.

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