Liverpool beat Chelsea on Sunday with a tight and some may argue, a defensive performance. They have already beaten Manchester United already with a similar performance, by making it hard for their opponents to play by denying space. The tactical nous of Rafa Benitez is starting to pay off in the Premiership as the Merseysiders now look serious title contenders.
The attack of Liverpool starts in defense; Carragher and Agger clearing up anything that gets through the shield of Xabi Alonso and Mascherano. Kuyt and Riera’s work to get back in the full back positions when they have to defend crucial especially as some will identify the full backs as the weakness.
It may not be pretty but against Athletico Madrid and periods against Chelsea they showed they can play with quick incisive passing and in triangles too. The tactic of having two defensive midfielders was used at Valencia by Benitez; the duo crucial as they brake down play and also start attacks.
Rafa Benitez: Over-Cautious or Tactical Genius?
Chelsea played in a 4-3-3 as did Manchester United when they faced Liverpool. The Reds a 4-5-1 but in the different areas of the pitch ended up having essentially the same number of players canceling each other out. (i.e. flanks- full back and winger, central midfield- three midfielders, and one up front). The game is usually won by a bit of class, on the counter or good fortune. There is almost an air of predictability before and during the game; however takes advantage of the situation wins.
Liverpool have the edge so far this season and are no way favourites yet but Rafa has sussed out how to beat the big guys but against so called ‘smaller’ clubs seem more likely to drop points as they revert to a 4-4-2. Which leads me to the question: Are Arsenal better suited than the other ‘big four’ to beat Liverpool?
Against Arsenal they are faced with a different prospect. A team that plays 4-4-2, focusing on passing and movement. What happens is in effect a more open game.
“When Arsenal play Chelsea could be more significant,” Ferguson said. “There have been quite a few Chelsea and Liverpool 0-0s over the past few years. Sunday’s game will be very tight, not many goals in it. But Arsenal could win there because they’ve got the quality to win.” Sir Alex before the Liverpool-Chelsea game
Concentration and discipline will be key from both sides, but in particular Liverpool as they need to watch the movement of the Gunners. Arsenal tore Liverpool up in last years Champions League Quarter Final, for the first goal Diaby ending up on the other side of the picth to score (left to right). It happened in the first league game of last season and chances are it could happen again this season. Can Kuyt and Riera be able to maintain concentration and follow if something similar happens again? Regarding the full back weakness Walcott has improved immensely and could be an altogether different proposition for Aurelio and Dossena.
The main factor is whether Arsenal can shoulder the creativity from just Fabregas and whether the defense is shielded enough on the counter. The Gunners let in four in the mentioned European game but should have scored more.
This article is not conceding Liverpool are ‘super-favourites’, just the fact that the Reds have already beaten the top two using the same style they have been using since Benitez’s arival at the club.