Arsenal Vs Liverpool: What does Arsene Wenger actually do?

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 22: Arsene Wenger, Manager of Arsenal reacts during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Liverpool at Emirates Stadium on December 22, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 22: Arsene Wenger, Manager of Arsenal reacts during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Liverpool at Emirates Stadium on December 22, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images) /
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For large periods of Friday night’s 3-3 draw with Liverpool, Arsenal had neither tact nor tactics. Their performance begs the question: What does Arsene Wenger actually do?

If you were to look at the average positions of the Arsenal players from Friday night’s thrillingly breathless 3-3 draw with Liverpool, you would see a fairly well-defined 4-2-3-1 shape, with Alex Iwobi, Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, from right to left, playing behind Alexandre Lacazette. But if you were to watch the game, you would not have been left with the same sense of structure or purpose.

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Arsenal ostensibly lacked any semblance of preparation or instruction. Especially in the first half, their positioning was loose and disconnected, they vacated key spaces of the pitch in which Liverpool exploited them, and they played without any purpose in possession, unsure of their intentions with the ball, leading to a high turnover rate.

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Their problems were highlighted most painfully in their defending. Given Liverpool’s primary threat comes through their pace in wide areas thanks to Mohamed Salah and Saido Mane, Arsenal were utterly unguarded to the most obvious danger. Against the counter-attack especially, Liverpool were able to break on their hosts with real pace and precision. The Gunners, meanwhile, opened themselves up when they had the ball, only to lose the ball, before meandering back towards the goal as Liverpool seared forward.

Arsene Wenger is a manager whose tactics, or lack thereof, have been questioned in the past. Some who know his methods well suggest that he is a better man-manager, coach, player developer, and talent evaluator than he is a tactician. It is games like this that tend to support such statements.

It is extremely difficult to know what he is doing on the training pitch. Take Mauricio Pochettino, as a contrasting example.

Throughout his time at Spurs, he has implemented a variety of different styles. They have played possession football: Slow and thoughtful passing through the phases, gradually breaking the opposition down. They have played at a high intensity, pressing the opposition into submission. They often switch between a three-at-the-back and four-at-the-back system, and against Manchester City, although it did not work, he was brave enough to play two strikers and ask his players to go man-to-man against the best team in the country.

This is a manager who knows how to adapt to his opponent. And his players, more importantly, know the instruction that they are given and are clear in the task that they are being asked to do. Now, sometimes the execution of the plan is not quite as desired, as against City. Or sometimes the plan itself is not the right one for the right opponent in the right match. But at least there is a clear strategy in place.

Next: Arsenal Vs Liverpool: 5 things we learned

There is a stark difference to the goings-on at Arsenal. They may be able to blister through teams in scintillating five-minute bursts. But they also lack preparation and guidance. Most of the time, they look like they don’t know what they are doing. And that is on Wenger.