There are some matches in which the weaknesses of both sides are more apparent than their strengths. The fixture between Liverpool and Arsenal on Saturday was one of them. Liverpool won 3-1 and so, it is only natural that we speak about Arsenal first.
Arsenal’s weakness seems to be that they just simply got it tactically wrong. Arsene Wenger stated in the post-match press conference that they had decided to go for a more direct approach which is the reason why someone strong in the air, like Olivier Giroud was selected ahead of Alexis Sanchez. When Sadio Mane ran into space to make that wonderful pass to Roberto Firmino to set up the first goal, he must have been wondering whether the presence of Sanchez waiting to get the ball back and spring up a counterattack would have allowed Liverpool to go forward so freely. That pretty much was the case in the second half. Mane had the extra work of keeping a check on Sanchez and wasn’t as readily available for counter as he was in the first.
In the second half, Liverpool’s defensive frailties were there for all to see. They were unable to get back in time whenever Arsenal countered and ended up conceding a goal. It was the 34th goal that they had conceded in the season, the most among the top six in the Premier League. It is important to note, though, at this juncture that Liverpool have also scored the most goals by any team in the Premier League which only underlines their inconsistency. In the second half, Liverpool looked like a side lacking confidence while defending. In fact, Arsenal did look like they had a chance to get at least a point until Giorgino Wijnaldum scored the third goal four minutes into stoppage time.
Arsenal stay fifth at 50 points while Liverpool were third momentarily. Manchester City’s win on Sunday, against Sunderland, made sure that they went back to fourth. City’s outing at the Stadium of Light was a comfortable one as Sergio Aguero and Leroy Sane fed off the brilliance of David Silva.
City’s neighbours, though, couldn’t say that about themselves. Manchester United, coming off their League Cup triumph on Sunday only managed a draw against Bournemouth. It could have been worse for United as Zlatan Ibrahimovic escaped a sending off for elbowing Tyron Mings. This was after Mings had stepped on Ibrahimovic’s head. Even then, Ibrahimovic’s status hangs on what the FA decides on the incident.
Leicester City picked up from where they left off against Liverpool when they beat Hull City 3-1. Tottenham Hotspur strengthened their hold on second place when they beat Everton 3-2. Crystal Palace won their second match on the trot when they beat West Brom 2-0 while Southampton beat Watford 3-4 in a thriller of a mid-table encounter. Middlesbrough remain in the relegation zone after losing 2-0 to Stoke City. Their relegation rivals Swansea City and Burnley played out a nervy match at the end of which the former won 3-2.
Chelsea have a seven point lead at the top of the table at the moment and that could increase to 10 if they beat West Ham United on Monday.