Liverpool had been battered for the opening 45 minutes at the Emirates on Sunday afternoon, yet it was they who entered the tunnel at half-time with a bundle of momentum.
Jurgen Klopp is not used to seeing his side succumb as they did in north London. The Reds, albeit one without a few notable faces, looked overwhelmed by a Gunners outfit that was intent on delivering on the pre-match promise.
Mikel Arteta's side masterfully switched between zonal and man-to-man pressing systems to flummox the weary but confident visitors, who headed into the bout having lost just one domestic bout all season - also in north London.
For 46 minutes, Arsenal were pretty much perfect, but a woeful defensive sequence in which William Saliba, David Raya, and Gabriel all failed to cover themselves in glory allowed Liverpool to sneak into the break all-square. The scoreline set up a make-or-break second period, with Arsenal, at risk of collapse after the restart, needed cool heads.
How Arsenal's superb midfield laid foundations for statement Liverpool win
West London exports have rarely succeeded in the north, especially in recent times, but Jorginho is proving to be an anomaly. Signed as somewhat of a winter emergency after Arsenal failed to sign Moises Caicedo last winter, the Italian has shown to have been an astute addition.
Jorginho has hardly been prominent, but rarely has he put a foot wrong in Arsenal colours, undoubtedly benefitting from the security Arteta's system provides. His strike at Villa Park remains his standout highlight at the club, but stellar big-game performances at St. James' Park and against Manchester City last season are also included on his Arsenal CV. Sunday was perhaps his finest performance since Euro 2020.
"We went to the changing room and we said what we needed to say and we didn’t drop the energy of the team," the veteran commented post-match in regards to Arsenal's half-time reset.
Jorginho, who performed well in last month's FA Cup defeat to the same opposition, resumed his role alongside Declan Rice in the midfield pivot. Emboldened by Rice's typical brilliance, the Italian dazzled in possession while playing a critical role without the ball. While Rice delivered the standout defensive sequences, it was Jorginho who made the Gunners tick in the middle of the park without having to be metronomic. In tandem, they worked quite wonderfully.
The pair combined for 11 tackles and interceptions, 101 passes, and 11 progressive passes (ten of which were produced by the sultry Italian). In the wave of a revered Liverpool counter-press, Jorginho was masterful, with the subtle disguise on his penetrative passes occasionally even too clever for his teammates to grasp.
“He’s been in a lot of pain because he’s had an issue he’s been carrying for months,” Arteta said on the former Chelsea star. “He didn’t want to stop, he’s been playing with that. He’s a really intelligent player, his biggest quality is that he makes the people around him better. He connects everybody.”
Arsenal's collective mastery meant it was hard to praise individuals, but it was the harmonious work of the midfield pivot that steadied the ship during the hosts' only rocky period after half-time. Alisson and Virgil van Dijk's own defensive mishap gifted the Gunners their second lead; one they never looked like ceding as Arteta's defence came to the fore with the aid of savvy midfield screening, the tireless efforts of the wingers, and box dominance of the two centre-backs.
While there was so much to laud, Arteta, given his struggles to establish midfield balance in the wake of Granit Xhaka's exit, must've been most pleased with Jorginho and Rice's dynamic. There will be times when alternate solutions may be required in terms of a midfield configuration, but it appears as if the Spaniard has stumbled upon a superb formula for the big occasion.