Arsenal drew with Liverpool 1-1 in a crucial English Premier League (EPL) match at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday.
James Milner put Liverpool ahead in the 61st minute with a strike from outside the Arsenal penalty box, after goalkeeper Bernd Leno had come out of goal to parry a cross.
Arsenal equalised via a brilliant Alexandre Lacazette strike in the 82nd minute of the match.
Liverpool now has 27 points from 11 matches, while Arsenal has 23 from the same number of matches.
Here are four takeaways from a breathtaking encounter:
Virgil van Dijk is a solid centre back
Van Dijk had a wonderful match, and was the man of the match, in the opinion of yours truly. He has great anticipation, positional sense, and is a clean tackler.
Therefore, he does not usually have to go into a rough challenge to win the ball, and it negates the possibility of a penalty for the opposition.
He had the likes of Henrik Mkhitaryan and Lacazette under constant surveillance, and although Gomez, Liverpool’s other centre back, was given a tough time by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the first half, Van Dijk remained solid throughout the match.
This is only his 2nd season with Liverpool, and Van Dijk has already become a very important player in their set-up.
He also has a very good header on him and was Liverpool’s most potent attacking threat from set pieces. With a little luck, he would have scored with a header, but it hit the Arsenal post.
Arsenal’s defensive midfielders were very impressive
Arsenal played a double pivot, and both their defensive midfielders were very impressive. Xhaka played as a deep-lying playmaker at times and was very good with distribution.
He also held his position very well and played as a de-facto 3rd centre back intermittently. Xhaka also started going into the attack in the second half, as Liverpool became defensive after scoring the goal.
Torreira, on the other hand, has very good dribbling skills, and his dribbling in small spaces was particularly impressive.
He gave Fabinho a torrid time and dictated terms in the midfield. He seems to be a very good signing for The Gunners and should have a great career ahead of him.
Also, their work rate made sure that the attacking midfielders of Arsenal did not have to fall back and defend frequently. Arsenal’s double-pivot seems to be working fine, and Emery should be happy with their work.
Liverpool’s midfielders aside Milner weren’t impressive
James Milner continued his good work in a Liverpool shirt with his customary box-to-box runs and was rewarded with a goal. He now has 75 goals in club football, from 661 matches.
But Fabinho and Wijnaldaum, the other 2 midfielders of Liverpool were pedestrian with their efforts and should have been replaced by Jurgen Klopp.
Fabinho struggled to win balls and was given a tough time by Torreira. Wijnaldum was marginally better, as he gave cover to the overlapping fullbacks, and made some interceptions inside his own penalty box, but could not provide any impetus to Liverpool’s attacks.
As a result, Liverpool was over-dependent on long balls to their forwards, in spite of playing a 4-3-3, and hardly a move originated from their central midfield.
A creative player like Adam Lallana would have come in handy, and Jordan Henderson could have been useful with his distribution as well.
Arsenal’s slick passing was good to see
Arsenal played about 600 passes in the match, with a passing accuracy of more than 80 per cent.
A lot of them were one-touch passes which caught the Liverpool defence off-guard. Mesut Ozil, Mkhitaryan, Aubameyang, and Lacazette showed very good coordination, and their quick build-ups were a treat to watch.
Lacazette is emerging as one of the most impressive players in the EPL this season, and his excellent goal was proof of his agility and shooting accuracy. It was his 5th goal in the EPL this season.
The Frenchman has now become an intrinsic part of Arsenal’s attack. Mkhitaryan also impressed in phases, and if Ozil were a bit more direct in his approach, Arsenal might actually have won the match.
Still, Emery has done some good work with the team, and they should finish in the top 4.