One Change Alters Arsenal's Defensive Structure Against Liverpool
December 24, 2023
Arsenal were better structured to contain Liverpool last season, and their willingness to allow Zinchenko to mark Salah 1v1 cost them a goal. The threat of Szoboszlai in the right half-space may be the cause for this change.
This movement back from Trent Alexander-Arnold is nothing new. He did this last season against Arsenal and has frequently done this this season.
Last season in April, Arsenal had a different game-plan to stop Salah. They used Gabriel exclusively to mark him. Whenever Salah received the ball, Gabriel was right there close behind him. That worked.
Liverpool were forced to focus more on the left-wing because Arsenal effectively halted any attack on the right-wing.
Salah was the out ball. There was no threat in the half-space from Jordan Henderson, so they could double team Salah without having to worry about runs behind once he received the ball.
This season, Liverpool signed Dominik Szoboszlai. Kai Havertz was tasked with marking Szoboszlai. Szoboszlai poses more of a threat in the half-space than Jordan Henderson, so now Gabriel has to stay back.
This forced Arsenal into using Zinchenko to mark Salah one-v-one. That is a massive mismatch.
With one change in the midfield, Liverpool:
- Remove Kai Havertz, Arsenal’s best threat in the counter-press. He is forced to track Szoboszlai forward into unused space.
- They create a mismatch, exposing Zinchenko to Liverpool’s greatest attacking threat, Salah.
- Take Gabriel out of the equation. He is rendered useless marking no one, waiting for a run from Szoboszlai that never comes.
And they kept taking advantage of the space behind Zinchenko, dragging Havertz forward with Szoboszlai. Creating large amounts of space between Arsenal’s back-line and second-line.
Match: Liverpool 1-1 Arsenal, December 23, 2023