Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

How Liverpool can control Arsenal

Liverpool need to do four things to replicate the control they had in the 2nd half against Arsenal in the FA Cup: Overload the left-wing, use Joe Gomez against Saka, keep Trent Alexander-Arnold central, and look for the overlap on the counter.

Figure 1.1 - Arsenal pushed deep out of possession.

You are winning the battle if Arsenal look like this. If their initial press fails, they will sit back and allow you to circulate the ball.

Figure 2.1 - Liverpool 5v3 overload on the left-wing
Figure 2.2 - Trent Alexander-Arnold coming over to help overload the left-wing.

The position of Bukayo Saka and Ben White is important. The deeper they are, Arsenal will be forced to be more defensive due to the center-forward pinning William Saliba back. The higher they are, the more threatening Arsenal will be because Saka is a constant threat in-behind and the safest player to pass out to.

Figure 3.1 - Joe Gomez and Bukayo Saka chasing down a ball over the top of Liverpool's defense.
Figure 3.2 - Joe Gomez blocking Bukayo Saka's shot.

Joe Gomez did a great job throughout limiting the effectiveness of Bukayo Saka. Not many would be able to both keep up with Saka in a 45-yard foot-race and then perfectly block off the shot in the box without placing a foot wrong.

When Liverpool overload the left-wing, it forces both Saka and White to defend deep, helping Liverpool avoid situations with Saka breaking in behind the back-line. Saka breaks in behind the back-line, and then the cross across the ground right to left to Gabriel Jesus or Martinelli is on.

You’d rather have Saka 20 yards away from his own goal when Arsenal win back the ball, not on halfway line. Gabriel Jesus and Martinelli will be the outlet but they should be isolated and easy to close down.

Figure 4.1 - Proposed Liverpool shape with depth.

I’m not convinced Darwin Nunez will play. Jurgen Klopp in the pre-match press conference on Friday:

I don’t know if Darwin is available or not.

Darwin had, after 20 minutes, somebody stepped on his foot. It was very painful after the game. He only took the boot off after the game, because he didn’t want to see it before.

He knew there was something. He left the stadium in a [protective] boot - and it was not a football boot. Nothing broke, x-ray clear but swollen - we have to see if he can get this foot back into a boot or not. We all know that takes time. I didn’t see him this morning, so we have to wait a little bit.

Cody Gakpo will have to slot in at left-wing if Nunez doesn’t start, and I think that’s a positive. A little more control, both dribbling and passing, won’t hurt up against Ben White.

Diogo Jota came off with an ice pack on his thigh after taking several nasty hits throughout the Chelsea match. He has to play central.

Luis Diaz should play on the right-wing to attack Zinchenko and Gabriel. He performed well attacking the space behind Kiwior in the FA Cup match.

Alexis Mac Allister had a painful-looking knee-to-knee in the match against Chelsea on Sunday but no news in the press conference. Gravenberch or Jones comes in for him.

Figure 5.1 - Trent Alexander-Arnold coming over to help Ibrahima Konate and Conor Bradley to mark Gabriel Martinelli.

I don’t think you can drop Conor Bradley right now. He’s too good defensively, crossing, a threat on the overlap. We saw that against Norwich and against Chelsea.

I love the idea of Dominik Szoboszlai, Ibrahima Konate, and Conor Bradley triple-teaming Gabriel Martinelli. Szoboszlai can track the man in the left half-space. Joe Gomez, Alexis Mac Allister, and Virgil Van Dijk can handle Bukayo Saka’s side. Mac Allister can man-mark Martin Ødegaard. Trent Alexander-Arnold can help either side, but mostly the right side.

Most importantly, Bradley will allow Trent Alexander-Arnold to roam around the pitch. Roam to the left to overload with the left-wing, spray passes from the middle of the pitch. Control the pace and direction of play. Bypass lines of defense.

Bradley can both track Gabriel Martinelli and attack the right-wing with Szoboszlai and Diaz, putting crosses in to Nunez, Gakpo, and Jota.

Figure 6.1 - Trent Alexander-Arnold switching play to Darwin Nunez.
Figure 6.2 - Darwin Nunez 1v1 with Ben White.
Figure 6.3 - Joe Gomez overlapping Darwin Nunez.
Figure 6.4 - Liverpool on the counter, Harvey Elliott overlaps Luis Diaz.

To score, Liverpool should be looking for this overlap when they have Arsenal retreating. Arsenal has a tendency to get too attracted to the ball carrier, leaving space for the man on the overlap.

The pass was there but it was ignored twice. Pass and then shoot or cross across goal to the far post. Would also like to see the man on the back post make a run to the far post.

If you’d like to know my thoughts on how Arsenal could control the game, like they did in the first half, and score, read this post and this post. The same applies for this match because they have yet to execute what I mentioned in both posts against Liverpool.

Match: Arsenal vs Liverpool, 4 February 2024

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