Storming into a two-goal lead and holding on to eventually take all three points, Liverpool returned to the top four with a big win over Arsenal at Anfield on Saturday evening’s Premier League clash.
Here are five things we learned from Liverpool 3-1 Arsenal.
No Alexis, No Party
Since signing the Chilean from Barcelona in July 2014, this game marked just the 16th time Arsenal had played a Premier League fixture without Alexis Sanchez. The 15 previous occasions had seen the Gunners win just eight times, also registering three draws and four losses in his absence.
As kickoff approached, whispers indicated that there was no injury concern here for Sanchez and that he was either dropped or “rested” depending on who the person passing on the news happened to support.
— afcstuff (@afcstuff) March 4, 2017
Whichever it was, leaving out a man who had already contributed 17 goals and eight assists this term was bound to hurt, particularly with Mesut Özil also out due to illness. As their two star men looked on – one from home and one from the bench – Arsenal failed to pose any real threat for large parts of the game.
The fact Sanchez was brought on at half-time (and quickly created yet another goal) showed that whatever idea led to Arsene Wenger omitting him from the starting XI was at best ill-advised, and they undoubtedly looked sharper with him on the pitch.
Sadio Mane Is For Real
Saying we “learned” that Sadio Mane is good from this game is a reach, but there is no doubt that his performance against Arsenal reinforced the belief that the 24-year-old is in incredible form.
Part of the Liverpool attacking quartet that repeatedly interchanges roles with one another, he was unplayable for 90 minutes here, repeatedly causing panic in the Arsenal defence. He speed, strength and technical ability made him a constant threat, setting up the opening goal for Roberto Firmino before netting the second himself.
An Incredible Petr Cech Stat
Saying that Arsenal are not as good defensively as the Chelsea team that Petr Cech was part of would be a massive and unnecessary understatement, but as Liverpool took a 2-0 lead in this game, an incredible statistic began to circulate.
20% of the PL goals Petr Cech has ever let in have come in his Arsenal career. Which began last season.
— Duncan Alexander (@oilysailor) March 4, 2017
Read that tweet a few times, we’ll wait as you digest the figures and remember that Cech spent 11 years with Chelsea, making 333 appearances before joining Arsenal in June 2015. Twenty. Per. Cent.
Liverpool Frailties Remain
While Liverpool eventually saw off Arsenal thanks to Georginio Wijnaldum’s late goal, there was a long spell in the second half where Liverpool still look fragile. Indeed, just before the Dutch international finished off a swift counter-attack, Alexis Sanchez saw a good opportunity to equalise snuffed out by the opposition defence.
The thought that they could snatch defeat (or at least a draw) from the jaws of victory certainly affected the crowd, Anfield growing increasingly tense after Danny Welbeck’s second half goal. Liverpool’s defeat to Leicester City on Monday was their sixth in all competitions since the turn of the year, a loss of form after only losing twice in the first half of the season.
Of course they won and it is a game that will rightly give Jürgen Klopp’s men a huge confidence boost, but the second 45 minutes showed that they are far from the finished article.
Wenger’s Woe Continues
Once again, Arsene Wenger was out-coached and out-thought, his team outclassed in every facet of the game. The decision to drop/rest Sanchez was baffling enough, and at full-time the Frenchman was left looking perplexed and had no real answers when quizzed about his starting lineup.
The one comment he did make about the first half was that his side “had failed to dominate in midfield,” yet at the break Wenger had still opted to withdraw Francis Coquelin in order to bring on Sanchez.