How do Liverpool avoid another Arsenal masterclass?

Liverpool were well beaten in the first meeting between the two sides in November.

In this season’s reverse fixture, Arsenal completely overran Liverpool in the middle of the park. Though Liverpool were playing a system that is different to the one they’re likely to play at the weekend, a couple of issues remain.

Liverpool didn’t have any real control of the ball in Arsenal’s 2-0 win at the Emirates Stadium in November and were completely overrun by the confident trio of Tomas Rosicky, Aaron Ramsey and Santi Cazorla in what proved to be a comfortable evening for the Gunners.

The question is, how can Liverpool wrestle control from a confident Arsenal side that is playing some terrific football, and in leading the Premier League table?

Some will point to their midfield performance against Everton as a good template. The Reds faced two in form midfielders in the middle of the park that night in Gareth Barry and James McCarthy, where Liverpool seemed to win the ball high up the field, and used the ball effectively having only had 39% of the possession that night.

NameTeamPosPoss Lost AllAppsMins
Philippe Coutinho Liverpool MF 17 1 79
Raheem Sterling Liverpool MF 15 1 90
Steven Gerrard Liverpool MF 10 1 90
Victor Moses Liverpool MF 5 1 18
Jordan Henderson Liverpool MF 4 1 90

Above are the statistics with the amount of times Liverpool lost possession from their midfielders in the Merseyside derby. It's interesting to see that Jordan Henderson, who played the 90 minutes in a slightly deeper role than usual looked after possession a lot better than Steven Gerrard. But the two players who lost the ball most were those who were trying to be the most effective in the final third in Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling.

Below are those from the meeting between the two sides at the Emirates Stadium from earlier on in the season where worryingly for Liverpool, both Gerrard and Lucas were losing the ball frequently and they played in deeper positions. Philippe Coutinho was introduced in the second half in order to try and turn the tide. He saw a lot of the ball so it isn't surprising that he lost the ball a lot. Jordan Henderson played further forward that night, and yet again the amount of times he lost possession is lower than the rest of his counterparts that started.

NameTeamPosPoss Lost AllAppsMins
Steven Gerrard Liverpool MF 19 1 90
Philippe Coutinho Liverpool MF 15 1 45
Lucas Leiva Liverpool MF 12 1 90
Jordan Henderson Liverpool MF 6 1 90
Victor Moses Liverpool MF 1 1 22

As usual in a big encounter the midfield battle is always going to be a big battle. What Arsenal did in the first game to good effect was press Liverpool in the middle of the park - hence the difficulties Gerrard and Lucas faced, but the reason Everton didn't have such success was the fact Liverpool remained compact broke effectively. Their chances of success against Arsenal tomorrow will depend a lot on this factor, how they keep hold of possession and maintain their shape. 


image: © froderamone

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