Arsenal hosted the champions, Liverpool, on Wednesday afternoon looking to avenge their North London Derby defeat. Here are five things we learned from the 2-1 win.
After dropping out of the European race in the Premier League, Arsenal hosted the Premier League champions, Liverpool, anticipating the worst. And based, on what happened on the pitch, that is precisely what happened. They were played off the park. But thanks to some gritty defending and Liverpool mistakes, the Gunners came away with an unlikely 2-1 victory.
Here are five things we learned.
5. Granit Xhaka continues to hide
In the first half, Arsenal’s issues were quite plain to see: Liverpool’s well-structured press positioned Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah in between the Arsenal defence and central midfield. That prevented obvious balls into the midfield, meaning Arsenal either had to play to the wing-back, who could easily be pressed because of their proximity to the sideline, or go long, which often leads to a high number of turnovers.
While the system did not help Arsenal’s play in this area due to having only two central midfielders — Mikel Arteta did attempt to remedy this by dropping the centre-forward into central midfield at times and playing them in between the two wingers in a 3-5-2 shape — Granit Xhaka, the man who is tasked with dictating play from the base of the midfield as a metronomic dictator was entirely absent.
Xhaka has a tendency to hide. It is not as if he does not want the ball, but unlike Matteo Guendouzi or Fabinho or Rodri, he does not command the ball from the defence. He is happy for play to bypass him, never taking responsibility to progress the play. The reason is quite simple: he isn’t good enough, and he knows he isn’t and thereby does not have the confidence to request the ball. It led to Liverpool’s building offensive pressure, especially in the first half. It is a serious problem.