1) Long balls
Carl Jenkinson’s error 25 minutes into the first half gifted the Blues their opener but it was in fact caused by a tricky and probably accidental long ball over the top from Samuel Eto’o clearing from an Arsenal corner that caught the 21-year-old right back off-guard, leaving Cesar Azpilicueta to capitalise.
Against teams that play high defensive lines and push up as many players as possible the way Arsenal do, they leave themselves vulnerable to long balls over the top, especially when on the break – it forces errors and causes confusion and panic at the back. Liverpool have the forwards to capitalise on that in Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez and this should be something Rodgers looks to exploit.
2) Let them have possession
At home as they were on Tuesday, Arsenal expect to take the majority share of possession but, crucially, it’s what they do with it (or not) that counts ultimately. Rodgers likes to set his team up to retain possession too but Liverpool, like Chelsea, should be quite content to let the Gunners have the ball – as long as they are not threatening to breech the penalty area with it.
Having a keeping possession lures Arsenal into a false sense of security and brings them out of their half where they’re vulnerable when they lose possession. They passed it around and around on Tuesday night but only once or twice did they look genuinely dangerous.
3) Let them have shots
Apart from one effort from Nacho Monreal that sneaked through and almost sneaked inside Mark Schwarzer’s far post, Arsenal were resigned to long shots mostly. Aaron Ramsey, Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky, Olivier Giroud and even Ryo Miyaichi had at pop at Schwarzer’s goal from range.
The score line will tell you they were unsuccessful attempts and even though a couple rattled the cross-bar, they were often times a last resort as Chelsea denied them the space to get any closer to goal. Arsene Wenger’s philosophy of walking it into the net wasn’t working because the Blues gave them no room for maneuver and didn’t allow them to penetrate the six-yard box so they resorted to what you might call speculative efforts from distance, which never looked too troubling for the keeper and only served to lose Arsenal possession.
4) Attack is the best form of defence
Chelsea looked most vulnerable when they sat back deep in their own half absorbing the Gunners’ pressure – when they pushed further up and out, not only did they afford themselves some leg room and breathing space but they also pushed Arsenal back which relieved the pressure on the Blues.
Teams with inferior quality to Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea tend to park the bus and buckle up, preparing to defend for long periods, chase shadows and hope to catch them on the counter – much as they do against Liverpool and Chelsea. But, playing negatively actually serves to bring pressure on yourself – if Rodgers instructs his team to do what they normally do and attack, they’ll avoid a situation where they’re on the back foot stuck in their own half.
5) Press them high up the pitch
The best way to attack Arsenal is to attack the ball when you haven’t got it – pressing them high up the pitch forces them into errors, or forces them to go long and play more direct rather than play it out from the back, it forces them to speed up their play and forces them to switch the play from side to side in order to find space and time.
If Liverpool deny them that from the kick-off and challenge every player every time they receive the ball, as is Rodgers’ way, they’ll win back possession quicker, break up the Gunners’ play and, subsequently, find themselves with far more opportunity to create their own chances.
image: © Bernard Chan