http://www.digitaljournal.com/sports/arsenal-liverpool-show-character-in-counter-pressing-goal-fest/article/454727

Arsenal & Liverpool show character in counter-pressing goal fest

Posted Jan 13, 2016 by Tyrrell Meertins
Jurgen Klopp’s beloved romance with gegenpressing suggested the German would carry over what he believes is the best play-maker in the world to the Premier League, but it equally backfired in a thrilling 3-3 draw against Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal.
Arsenal's French striker Olivier Giroud kisses his shirt as he celebrates scoring a goal during...
Arsenal's French striker Olivier Giroud kisses his shirt as he celebrates scoring a goal during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and West Ham United at the Emirates Stadium in London on April 15, 2014
Glyn Kirk, AFP
“The best moment to win the ball is immediately after your team just lost it,” Klopp has said in the past.
“The opponent is still looking for orientation where to pass the ball. He will have taken his eyes off the game to make his tackle or interception and he will have expended energy. Both make him vulnerable.”
One of Liverpool’s best performance this season witnessed a goal-less draw at the Emirates. On the night, Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool pressed superbly in midfield — Emre Can and James Milner prevented the Arsenal double-pivot from passing forward and Lucas Leiva stuck tight on Mesut Ozil — before charging into the channels on the counter.
Klopp, however, kept Lucas on the bench, and Liverpool dominated possession in the early stages of the match, but encountered difficulties bypassing Arsenal’s narrow shape. Liverpool also lacked natural width in attacking zones due to the caution both full-backs showcased due to Joel Campbell and Theo Walcott’s threat on the counter.
With neither side fielding creative ball-playing midfielders in deeper zones, there was fear that the attacking players would be starved for service. Mesut Ozil retained his no.10 role behind Olivier Giroud, whereas Klopp opted for a 4-4-1-1 with Adam Lallana behind Roberto Firmino.
This meant three dynamic box-to-box midfielders operated in the four available roles, and though this allowed Firmino and Ozil acres of space between the lines, the frenetic end-to-end tempo was set by the likes of Aaron Ramsey, Jordan Henderson and Emre Can. Can motored forward to ignite breaks from deep that were halted by poor touches in the final third, while Henderson and Ramsey contributed offensively in distinctive ways.
Firmino scored two quality goals in the opening 18 minutes, courtesy of diligent counter-pressing in Arsenal’s half. Walcott conceded possession in the build up to Firmino’s opener when he was engaged by four Liverpool players. Then, Henderson intercepted clearance attempts from Mathieu Flamini and Per Mertesacker before Milner assisted the Brazilian’s second goal.
Apart from Campbell’s incisive passing around the box, Arsenal struggled to gain control of the match, yet their attentive persistence to regain possession encouraged swift comebacks. Ramsey stepped ahead of Can to win Kolo Toure’s tame headed clearance, and subsequently ran across the Ivorian to fire Campbell’s pass past Simon Mignolet. Giroud’s equalizer stemmed from a Ramsey corner, but it was Ozil that latched onto a Can clearance, which essentially resulted in a fine move that concluded with Mamadou Sakho nodding the Welshman’s effort over the net.
The general pattern of the match was fairly open following the opening 25 minutes, as neither side were keen on improving their shape out of possession. Both sets of attacking players combined around the oppositions box due to the lack of natural ball-winners, with Giroud and Firmino missing quality chances.
Walcott and Ozil further exploited Liverpool’s feeble midfield, but Giroud’s second goal of the night altered Arsenal’s approach. Now the Gunners dropped deeper into their half in two banks of four — similar to how they started the match, but there was an improved display of resilience. Campbell negated Jordan Ibe’s attempt to break down the right, while Mertesacker made two vital blocks halt legitimate goal-scoring opportunities.
Klopp turned to Christian Benteke upfront for James Milner with 25 minutes remaining, Liverpool were guilty of taking audacious shots from distance rather than playing to Benteke’s strengths. Wenger replaced his wide-men with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Kieran Gibbs — what’s slowly become his preferred options to secure leads — and summoned Mikel Arteta for additional control as the Gunners were comfortably passing their way to victory.
But Arsenal’s intent to push forward to kill the match proved costly, as Klopp’s substitutes combined for a late equalizer. Joe Allen surged into the box to direct Benteke’s nod down past Petr Cech — it was the first time the Reds successfully located the Belgian from a direct move.
"I feel that at 3-2 we are guilty of two or three bad decisions in the final third where we try to play not together enough, and in the end we got caught on the long ball," Wenger told BT Sport.
"Of course it's always frustrating when it's 89 minutes and you get caught on such a simple ball. That's where we have to look at ourselves, that should not happen."
Though Wenger’s men displayed signs of maturity to come from behind twice, they were unable to locate their renowned passing rhythm from open play, whilst failing to offer a counter-attacking threat once Liverpool pushed for an equalizer. Liverpool equally struggled going forward: the attacking midfielders’ nifty combinations and Firmino’s movement placed the Reds in good positions, but they rarely threatened Petr Cech.
Ultimately, a defensive minded player capable of breaking up play would’ve suited either side, but, here, direct play and quick counter-pressing served as the noteworthy attacking ploy.