Five (5) Things We Learned As Arsenal And Liverpool Draw
Unai Emery’s Arsenal side continued their record of being significantly better in the second half but left it late for Alexandre Lacazette to level the score after James Milner gave Liverpool a deserved lead.
Milner pounced on Bernd Leno’s clearance to the edge of the box and fired Liverpool into the lead shortly after half-time. It was no less than the visitors deserved after they had a dubious goal ruled out for offside in the first half and twice hit the post.
Emery shuffled his pack and introduced Alex Iwobi and Aaron Ramsey to change the game and the former did just that. His incisive pass allowed Lacazette to round the goalkeeper, take a touch and curl in a late equaliser into the one part of the goal that Alisson or a Liverpool defender was not covering.
Jugen Klopp may feel like it is two points dropped given the late nature of Lacazette’s 82nd minute strike, but Liverpool rode their luck and were reliant on Virgil Van Dijk’s defending to keep Arsenal at arm’s reach.
Here’s five things we learned from The Emirates Stadium
1. Emery’s bold approach almost punished
This was the first time that Emery started Mesut Ozil, Pierrer-Emerick Aubameyang, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Alexandre Lacazette in the same team, a line-up with a top-heavy focus on attacking as he prepared to fight fire with fire against Liverpool.
As it turned out, particularly in the first half, Liverpool had plenty of chances to score and establish an early dominance over their opponents.
There was also a feeling that the forward areas were a little crowded. Ozil, who rarely got a mention, and Mkhitaryan did nothing particularly emphatic except from a few neat touches to string together nice moves. This kind of emphasis on attacking works against the smaller sides, Emery’s ruthless winning run points to that, but in the games that matter most against tougher opposition, you sense that the new Arsenal manager has much to learn.
2. Fabinho still has work to do
For one reason or another it is yet to work out for Fabinho at Liverpool. The Brazilian midfielder arrived with a hefty price tag and an even larger weight of expectation to produce some of the fine performances he showed at Monaco that caught the attention of clubs around Europe.
After a tricky start to life at Liverpool where first team opportunities were few and far between, Fabinho attracted praise for his display against Red Star Belgrade and Cardiff, but against Arsenal it became clear there is much more work to do. Out of possession he was influential in winning the ball back and getting Liverpool on the ball, but when it came for him to move on the play or pick a decisive pass, he fell flat.
There were periods when Liverpool possession completely passed him by, as if he was out of his depth. Klopp gave him an earful early on when he tried an ill-advised first-time cross when there was little to aim at and it went straight out of play. His pass success percentage was amongst the worst in the Liverpool side, and that is not something you usually associate with a holding midfielder, whose job is often to keep things ticking over.
Perhaps it’s a systematic conundrum that Klopp must solve to get the best out of the Brazilian. Right now it seems that the German’s current philosophy is not getting the best out of him at all.
3. Did Leno justifies Emery’s faith?
In a fast start to the match, Liverpool needed the post, the linesman and finally their goalkeeper to prevent them from going behind.
With Petr Cech back to full fitness, Emery had a decision to make over who to pick in goal and kept faith in Leno, who initially had to wait for a league start while getting a turn in the Europa League matches.
The German made a string of good saves in the first half and was a useful option for the defenders when they were playing out from the back. That said, he may be disappointed with himself for parrying a cross into Milner’s path on the edge of the box and setting up the midfielder to score.
4. Arsenal find effective midfield partnership
Whether it was a decision prompted by injures or something that Emery planned, Arsenal have found themselves a really good partnership in midfield in Granit Xhaka and Lucas Torreira.
The Uruguayan recently said that his partnership with Xhaka is good and something that can only get better with time, which will be a worry for Arsenal’s opponents and other holding midfielders. Between them they managed to keep Roberto Firmino quiet when he dropped deep as well as prevent the advances of any Liverpool midfielder that tried to advance into space in front of the back four.
Even Mohamed Salah was unable to find a way beyond them when he weaved his way towards the middle from the right.
5. James Milner continues scoring record
James Milner has never lost a Premier League match that he has scored in. It’s some record and it’s a testament to the professionalism for one of English football’s longest serving and hardest working players.
Against Arsenal he proved he still had it, in case anyone was wondering. The 32-year-old was everywhere, not patch of grass at The Emirates was left untouched by the tireless midfielder as he charged about his business.
When Leno’s parry was cleared to Milner’s path on the edge of the box, there was one thing on his mind and his finish was one that most players would be proud of. He kept his cool, got over the ball and riffled a shot into the back of the net to cap off a fine display.