- By Stephen Warnock
- Former Liverpool defender
When Liverpool lost 2-0 to Arsenal on Sunday it was as if they were thinking ‘well, might as well give it a try – we’ve got nothing to lose’.
I think that’s the attitude the Reds need for the rest of the season, in terms of trying different tactics and showing their fighting spirit.
For example, using Trent Alexander-Arnold as an inverted full-back who moved into central midfield was not a resounding success for Liverpool against the Gunners, but the Reds’ situation means they might as well keep playing him. in this way.
As uplifting as the Reds’ response was to draw the Premier League leaders, it didn’t really change much of what has been a hugely disappointing campaign – Jurgen Klopp’s side are still eighth. , she still can’t win a trophy and make it into the top four. securing Champions League football remains a distant dream.
They always seem to me to be a team that needs rest, both physically and mentally, but they have always been able to take on the best teams. With the exception of last week’s 4-1 defeat at Manchester City, they have risen for the big occasions and have performed well in those matches.
It was the same against Arsenal. We saw a lack of confidence from Liverpool to start which was understandable after what happened at the Etihad Stadium, but that all changed when Granit Xhaka clashed with Alexander-Arnold and really got the crowd moving.
Mohamed Salah’s goal quickly put them back in the game and the way they played in the second half they should have gone on to win.
Giving time to Alexander-Arnold in reverse role
Alexander-Arnold found his reverse role very difficult in the first half as Arsenal dominated play.
I would like to know the context of the decision to play him this way and whether it was something we worked on before the draw with Chelsea on Tuesday – when Trent was sent off – or if it just became a part of the team’s brainstorming process over the past two days.
Either way, it was far from ideal for him.
First, if you are going to use a player in a different position, then he needs to be comfortable and know where he needs to go.
It can be quite difficult anyway, even for someone as smart and versatile as Trent. He played as a midfielder in the youth team, but being able to do that at Premier League level is completely different.
On top of that, he was asked to do it against a team that already plays that way. Arsenal didn’t need to figure out how to stop him because they already know what other teams do to them when they use Oleksandr Zinchenko like that.
Alexander-Arnold improved in his role in the second half when Liverpool saw more of the ball but, for starters, he continued to be dragged into full-back as part of his defensive duties, and he wasn’t doing this side of things particularly well.
However, Liverpool’s problems weren’t all their fault, because to play effectively this way you also need the rest of the squad set up correctly.
Your centre-backs are always going to be spread wide to cover you, leaving more space between them and making it easier for opposing runners to get through.
This is where you need legs in midfield to keep up with them, or centre-backs who are very suspicious of what might happen and a left-back who always covers, but getting it straight away always has was a big ask.
I don’t think they should just abandon this system, though. Most Liverpool fans have wanted to see Alexander-Arnold play in central midfield and see what he is capable of, but it was interesting that his assist for Liverpool’s equalizer came from what would have been an overlap in his usual position.
I still feel like his best work will be done from that kind of position, holding the ball in the box from wide areas, but his passing range was good from more central areas against Arsenal and he will be interesting to see how Klopp uses it. the next time.
If he’s in a reverse role, he’ll still be judged on his defensive work – only questions will be whether he has the intensity to shut people down in midfield or follow the runners.
Diaz can make a difference up front
Liverpool were much better in the second half, but I really felt like they were going to score a second goal once Roberto Firmino came on, 12 minutes from time.
Mohamed Salah looks nervous at the moment and isn’t at his best, while Darwin Nunez and Cody Gakpo continue to grow in English football.
Nunez, who joined last summer, has had a very eventful season. He scored a lot of goals and created a lot of chances, but I think he looks a bit lost right now, and we saw that with his poor finishing when he was put on. through in the second half.
The whole Liverpool squad is a bit lacking in conviction at the moment, and I think that comes from the fact that they lack the kind of player that Sadio Mane was for them in so many games in the years before he left. last summer.
Mane would often score his first goal himself but, even if he didn’t, he was the one signing the players and trying to create something for someone else.
I don’t see Gakpo doing that in one-on-one situations, although he is linking play very well. It’s the same with Nunez – he’s a threat with his anticipation in front of goal, but not in kicks. departure.
For me, that was the big difference between the two teams on Sunday, because in Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli, Arsenal had players who could isolate defenders and then work their magic.
When Salah is fit he can obviously do the same, but I’m looking forward to Luis Diaz’s return from injury as he has the individual sparkle that Liverpool lack at the moment.
Diaz brings a different dimension to their offense as he has the ability to beat his man. We know he’s back in training but from Liverpool’s perspective the sooner he’s back in the squad the better.
Stephen Warnock was talking to BBC Sport’s Chris Bevan.
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