Analysis of why Arsenal couldn’t get going against Liverpool

Why Arsenal couldn’t get going against Liverpool by Leke Osmani


That Liverpool game is still driving us mad. Is Arteta the right man? Does the team not have the ability to even play football right for 90 minutes? These are not the questions we want to be asking ourselves as fans but we are.


We can look back at the Liverpool game and look at our stats to give us an idea about what went wrong. These are our passing statistics from the game. We’re trying to figure out who our playmakers were. Leno, the goalkeeper will be disregarded as he would take goal kicks. As can be seen below, Partey, Gabriel and Holding were the main players trying to get us to progress up the pitch. Our Fullbacks in Tierney, Chambers and Soares also attempted to get us to move up the pitch. Our midfield of Ceballos, Pepe, Odegaard, Elneny and Martinelli all were very bad at getting the ball moving forward. Our striker Lacazette was the worst player in making forward passes. Our only attacking player attempting to make any substantial forward passes was Aubameyang.

Player Passes Attempted Passes Completed Total Pass Distance (in Yards) Total Progressive Pass Distance (in Yards) Minutes Played Total Progressive Passes per Minutes Played (in Yards)
Leno 30 17 578 350 90 3.89
Chambers 49 34 605 101 90 1.12
Holding 43 35 734 211 90 2.34
Gabriel 47 31 763 268 90 2.98
Tierney 18 14 345 86 44 1.95
Partey 43 35 712 231 90 2.57
Ceballos 31 25 447 51 57 0.89
Odegaard 31 28 489 81 90 0.90
Pepe 23 18 302 31 90 0.34
Aubameyang 28 20 243 97 76 1.28
Lacazette 17 12 198 9 90 0.10
Soares 28 23 345 86 46 1.87
Elneny 13 11 224 13 33 0.39
Martinelli 4 3 36 0 14 0.00


Now you can see from this that our most positive passes came from the back. Our defence making that first pass to break the Liverpool press. Once the ball got to Partey he again was good at breaking the press. Once the ball went any further up the pitch we had to go backwards or sideways. We couldn’t get any good number of forward passes from Lacazette to an onrushing midfielder and we couldn’t get any overlaps going on. This meant that we just couldn’t break through Liverpool’s press the higher up the pitch the ball got for us.

The fact that we missed Xhaka and David Luiz, which are our main players in terms of playmaking roles to get our rhythm and passing movement going was evident to see. Let’s now look at the Tottenham Hotspur game where we had both players present.

Player Passes Attempted Passes Completed Total Pass Distance (in Yards) Total Progressive Pass Distance (in Yards) Minutes Played Total Progressive Passes per Minutes Played (in Yards)
Leno 27 20 455 263 90 2.92
Soares 55 41 625 183 90 2.03
Luiz 58 50 1123 467 90 5.19
Gabriel 57 52 1187 337 90 3.74
Tierney 55 41 810 250 90 2.78
Partey 63 49 906 213 90 2.37
Xhaka 68 65 1287 343 90 3.81
Odegaard 59 52 889 168 90 1.87
Saka 16 13 131 10 45 0.22
Smith-Rowe 42 37 537 89 76 1.17
Lacazette 20 15 200 41 90 0.46
Pepe 24 15 232 54 45 1.20
Willian 6 5 81 13 14 0.93
Elneny 2 2 22 3 3 1.00


Looking at the Tottenham game, you can see that our defence and our center midfield partnership all were excellent at moving the ball up the pitch. David Luiz and Xhaka were the best at the amount of progressive pass yards per minute with 5.19 and 3.81 respectively. We dominated the match because we got passes linking up from our defence and our midfield and towards our attack. Our progressive passes per minute up front are obviously lower but they are good down the wings and through the center. Even Lacazette is making more passes forward from his advanced position.


Now for argument’s sake let’s compare our defence and center midfield partnership between the Tottenham game and the Liverpool game.

Position Tottenham Game Total Progressive Passes per Minutes Played (in Yards) Liverpool Game

Total Progressive Passes per Minutes Played (in Yards)

Difference in Total Progressive Passes per Minutes Played (in Yards) between the two games
LB 2.78 3.82 1.04
LCB 3.74 2.98 -0.76
RCB 5.19 2.34 -2.85
RB 2.03 1.12 -0.91
LCM 3.81 0.89 -2.92
RCM 2.37 2.57 0.20


We declined majorly in our progressive passes when comparing the two games. The positions we most declined in were RCB and LCM. The personnel changes in these two positions were Holding for Luiz and Ceballos for Xhaka. This shows that we missed these two players the most when it came to our build up play. We couldn’t keep the ball or break the press because we don’t have the playmaking prowess to do so. Let’s hope we get Xhaka back for Thursday and that Luiz plays again before the season ends!



  1. Off topic because I try as much as I can to forget the liverpool game… I just saw that Luiz underwent a surgery and will be out for weeks, probably he might not play again this season hopefully that will not be the case. Then I asked who do we have in the right sided cb, we are suddenly left with holding and maybe chambers, things are looking more interesting now when we watch our loan players…

  2. Spurs and Liverpool are at very different level of quality despite Liverpool’s recent dip. Naturally we’d likely have worse stats against the one especially considering one team presses much more than the other.

    Therefore you can’t conclude much from these stats

    As someone who works in statistical analysis daily it’s frightening to see how many people on here draw conclusions from a set of stats when there are 100s of other variables to take into account.

    More often than not stats should only be used Ceteris paribus

    1. The team was very poor against Liverpool and the presence of Luis and Xhaka may not have made much difference.The manager is still a rookie and we must accept this reality , in his press conference he accepted responsibility for the poor show. Arteta will be a very good manager, however, Arsenal will in the meantime have to bear with the shortcomings arising from his lack of experience.

      1. If Arsenal board wants Arsenal to be like City and Arteta to be like without spending money then they are deluded.

        It is an open secret that quality players will always make the difference regardless of the tactics of any manager.
        If you want a manager that can create something out of nothing, then Arteta is not your man. He learnt from Pep, so he will likely be a chequebook manager too.
        If you want him to succeed, then you have to spend good money especially as he is a rookie.

        I shamelessly blame Wenger at times because if he had gone earlier, we would have had either Klopp or Pep oversee our transition and we would not wasted all these funds on players that failed to improve us.

        1. I some what agree with what you have said
          With regaeds to AW
          Why did the board award another 2 years and then get rid off him after 1 season
          The boards decision making has been poor since the old board sold us out and silent stan took over it has become increasingly worse.
          we have all of a sudden about IG who ran the club and was a major culprit in running the club so badly
          In hind sight we should have moved AW upstairs. Retained his knowledge and if we aee too bring in a young coach such as MA then he would have some experience to turn too. MA IS WORK ON PROGRESS. Learning his trade and being led by clueless executives in the game

          1. The board gave Wenger two more years because apart from Usmanov, they all lacked the ambition to go beyond top 4, they don’t have that interest and passion for glory, which has now led to a rotten mentality/culture at the club which Arteta is trying to correct without money.

        2. Goonerboy and Alan, the issue with Arsene Wenger getting a two year extension, was that was the critical time at which a succession plan was fundamental to future success. Wenger was at an age and length tenure 16 years as manager, that it was then obvious he was not going to be at Arsenal forever. They had two years to work out and implement their succession plan, yet Wenger departed with nothing in place. Total corporate incompetence.

          1. Was him to put a plan in place.or the club it self
            The haggled on 2 years at the death and binned after 1
            Knee jerk reaction
            Appointed a good se ond tier manager and then expect miracles
            People bang on about UE stats compared to MA and people forget great start poor finish and even worse start to the 2nd season. Hence the tictac
            Freddie in between and now gone
            Poor planning and if I had my way the board would be gone

        3. No need to fell shame for this Goonerboy…there’s no doubt that our club’s inability to act in a responsible fashion, when it came to the issue of ending Wenger’s tenure, has led us to where we are today…sadly, the hiring of Arteta is starting to look like a “poor man’s” extension the latter Wenger years

  3. I don’t know how one will compare the stats from the liverpool game with the stats from the Tottenham game.. liverpool played better and are very good at pressing the ball
    Tottenham just handed us possession of the ball and never pressured us from the front.
    I am certain that even with the same squad that played against Tottenham we will never have the same stats as in the game against liverpool….
    Honestly I don’t see sense in this article as to why we performed so badly..
    To me we lacked fight, tactically poor, no reaction from either the manager or players
    We just showed up because we had to show up for the match we were never in the game to win or compete.
    I watched the training sessions and apart from Luiz I don’t think all the changes were completely because the players were injured to the extent they couldn’t make the match it looked like Arteta is trying to protect those he see’s as his most important players for the Europa league.

  4. I just think we have too many senior players who clearly have talent, but coast too much through games. Not necessarily a bad or even an uncommon thing to see. Their talent will often bail them out, but the problem is when you have too many of these types on pitch at the same time, then you have issues with work-rate, and mentality.

    Take the likes of ESR, Saka, Tierney, Luiz, Martinelli, Partey out of the team, and we’re in big trouble!

    Pretty damning how we’re so reliant on a lot of youngsters.

    1. ThirdMan,

      I agree. In my opinion, the only SERIOUS senior player we have is Lacazette but unfortunately, he is always the fall guy for all the managers since he has been here.

      In the list you have above, I would include Holding. I don’t know why he is not rated by Arsenal fans. He has been a major reason why we have the few clean sheets we have had this season and when we had the third best defense, he was a mainstay.

      In the absence of Luiz, Holding and Mari is undoubtedly our best pairing, alongside Cedric and Tierney, this should be our starting backline imo.

      I like Gabriel because he is a useful threat in set pieces but defensively I am so afraid he might not be good enough, I really really hope I am wrong.

  5. Nice article mate!

    In very simple terms, we could not get going because Liverpool’s press was really aggressive and our midfield could not just cope with it. We were pegged back as we can’t play through the press- we tried going long for much of the game but we could not hold it up at the front as two of the front three lacks ball retention qualities.

    In the first half, Partey was really impressive as he was able to evade the press and play some forward passes but the offensive line lacked quality- it become too much for him as the game went on because we were under constant pressure.

    Ceballos moved deeper in the second half so he could receive passes from our defenders but he simply lacked that quality, I was wishing we had another Partey or Cazorla on the bench, bringing on Elneny was a desperate attempt to change something.

    If we had Xhaka, we would still have lost but we would have a bit more control in midfield.

    I was watching the Champions league yesterday and I just don’t think we have the players to even be in that competition. Take away Partey and Xhaka from our midfield and we have Elneny and Ceballos.

    Xhaka is the player that should be coming off the bench while Elneny should not even be allowed at the training ground. We have a long way to go!

    1. Well I don’t want to sound like I’m been overly critical but I has always been thinking about the way we handled some certain players and situations.
      Our midfield could do with guendouzi even torriera to an extent who do we have apart from few Madrid Loanee’s
      Luiz injured and we are left with Holden who has been shocking as of late as our only recognized right side cb after sending out saliba without even seeing him play
      We have enough talent within our disposal but decisions that has been made keep leaving us exposed making us look worse than we actually are… check our full squad overall and tell me there is no decent eleven within our ranks to make us more balanced and competitive

      1. Pepe,

        Guendouzi has the passion and the courage but he lacks positional and behavioral discipline and I don’t think he would have made any difference as far as this match is concerned-he may have been useful throughout the course of the season but we will see next season.

        On Torreira, I disagree out rightly! His mind is not even here to begin with, he hates London and therefore homesick. He is easily bullied off the ball and in my opinion, a squad player at best, like a player you bring in to defend a lead you know.

        Partey and Xhaka are the ONLY midfielders that can be paired with any other partner and we can still manage to dictate play.
        Imagine having Guendouzi/Torreira pivot, Elneny/Ceballos, Torreira/Elneny to mention a few. But you can pair Xhaka or Partey with any of them and still win some games. What does that tell you? I really hope you understand my point.

        We just have all these players but they are not good enough. Like what Ancelloti did at Everton we need a revamp in that engine room.

        I have already talked about Holding above, But how is he shocking? Because Sterling outjumped him?

        1. Fans making positive comments about Xhaka. I thought that was banned. The military say that everyone has a good battle plan until the first bullet is fired. Mike Tyson said something similar ” everybody has a good plan until you get a punch in the mouth”. On Saturday once the ref blew the whistle our plan disapeared under the Liverpool press and the players were not good enough to respond. Arteta had done well getting a response from players in recent games where we have fallen behind but not this time. Hopefully our players will become better over the next few years at weathering the storms and managing games.

  6. Spot on Goonerboy.We need two midfielders who can combine skill with pace and energy to support Partey next season.Bissouma and Sakaria are two examples who appeal to me.With regard to the stats issue ,you are bang on PJ.SA .As a retired Banker the odd Latin phrase came in handy and ” other things being equal” was one of them.

    1. Declan is pissed right now man! Take it easy, it is just a game, this would surely pass, I am sure. 😊

      1. “Pick your battles big enough to matter small enough to win”.
        Arsenal is focusing on the EL so the Liverpool game was just a bothersome impediment.
        I will judge Arsenal on Thursday night
        I think you will see a totally different Arsenal V Slavia. I see a team totally focused unified and energized and see us blowing Slavia off the park.

  7. God give me strength, the reason we were rubbish against Liverpool was the useless tactics and our failure to press them at all. Why oh why do people try to make out that the useless xhaka is or was missed, What about the last 5 years when he has been playing and ruining our play? Please if you understand football you dont talk of xhaka being the key to our play. He is the main reason our midfield has been crap for five years.

  8. Arteta parked the bus and decided to defend for 90 minutes and counter attack.

    Even Arteta’s sub bringing on Elneny was defeatist. Very Pullis-like tactics from Arteta with typical Pullis-like results.

  9. Sorry Leke, but this is an outrageous take…never once, while actually watching this match, did I ever say to myself, if only we had Luiz and Xhaka we could have achieved a different result…the fact is that the only reasons why you would have these two individuals playing in a “transitional” squad is to eliminate needless mistakes and to set an example for the younger players, which simply doesn’t fit our narrative as these two individuals are far-and-away our two most error-prone players…not to mention, the appalling way in which Xhaka’s reign with the armband came to an end

  10. As soon as we forget to press, we get beaten. It was the same under Emery, and I remember watching his first game in charge and thought, “wow, we are competing all over the pitch and trying to win the ball back as soon as we lose it”, but that eventually tailed off and we became an absolute shambles. Against Liverpool we badly missed Saka and Smith-Rowe, and it seems if we lose their creativity, we create nothing going forward and have to play on the counter. I think though, there is a discernible improvement, even if it’s 2 steps forward and 1 step back. One thing I cannot understand is Arteta’s reluctance to start with Martinelli, who is never going to get up to speed just coming on as a late sub.

Comments are closed

Top Blog Sponsors
JustArsenal Top Ten UK Blogs