Liverpool

Liverpool Created Perfect Storm to Drown Arsenal's Defence

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 08:  Daniel Sturridge of Liverpool celebrates with his team-mates after scoring the fourth goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Arsenal at Anfield on February 8, 2014 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images
Janusz MichallikFeatured ColumnistFebruary 9, 2014

When Liverpool appointed Brendan Rodgers in the summer of 2012, there were an awful lot of soundbites coming out of the club about how it was a move toward the club's strengths of old: great football, a pass-and-move philosophy and making Anfield a fortress.

Fast forward 19 months and Rodgers is really showing that as well as being able to give the positive talks, the management terms and idealisms we heard in BEING:Liverpool, he's also able to put those plans into practice.

There has been undeniable progress at Liverpool over the past season-and-a-half, where we can now see enjoyable football, an attack-based philosophy and the self-belief in the squad to turn Anfield into their stronghold once more.

Rodgers came into a club which had won just six home games during 2011-12. So far this term, the Reds have won 11 of 13.

What he has done, though, is fashion a team which at times seems the total opposite to his possession-based philosophy; he has not abandoned this but instead regenerated and evolved it. Rodgers has shown the capacity to adapt and get the best out of his top players.

Liverpool now have almost an ideal counter-attacking team, not in that they sit back and hope to merely beat teams on the break but in that they work hard at forcing the mistake from the opposition in midfield to aid their own lightning-fast transitions.

Philippe Coutinho has been central to this in recent weeks.

His evolution from his time at Inter Milan—where at times it seemed he needed a ball for himself and another for the team—to his current playmaking role at Liverpool is incredible. Now, Coutinho can find space in the middle and in one pass releases his attacking team-mates for a chance on goal.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 08:  Coutinho of Liverpool competes with Mesut Ozil of Arsenal during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Arsenal at Anfield on February 8, 2014 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images
Michael Regan/Getty Images

Daniel Sturridge's finish against Arsenal was indicative of this.

However, Rodgers and Liverpool need to be mindful of getting the balance right between attack and defence; as good as their forwards are, they will not put four or five past every team.

Games like that at West Brom, where two points were lost by a single defensive error, will crop up. At those times, do Liverpool have enough to change their approach and consistently take three points?

Great teams, teams who win titles, don't allow these victories to be squandered with any regularity.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 08:  Jack Wilshere of Arsenal looks dejected during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Arsenal at Anfield on February 8, 2014 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images

Liverpool need to win games to achieve their main objective of finishing in the top four and, by virtue of doing that, they will get close to the title fight.

But they are still lacking in a few key areas—notably at full-back—for that to realistically happen this year, making the Champions League a must for next term to attract the better quality of players required for the next step.

Arsenal, meanwhile, saw their weaknesses ruthlessly exploited—but this isn't the type of game they will come up against every week.

I have noted already my admiration for their approach and that doesn't change, but against Liverpool there was no pace or movement in the team, rendering the abilities of Mesut Ozil ineffective.

Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny rely on holding a high line and stopping runners, but they were afforded no protection by the midfield at Anfield. Without meaningful possession in the opposition's half, with no pressure on the ball and with the number of players committed forward it's unfair to expect the two centre-backs to constantly repel the dangers Liverpool posed.

I hold both of these teams in the highest regard. Both will, going into the final stretch of matches, be in with a chance of the title—but both teams are also missing small pieces to deny them the chance of winning.

Should Arsenal have changed philosophy when they were two goals down early on? Should Wenger or the players be responsible for that change?

In either case, they allowed Liverpool to do the same thing every time and this is why doubts remain over Arsenal's capability to end their trophy drought with the league title.

After the game Wenger noted, as per the Telegraph, that his team had questions raised about them and that they had lots of answers to find. 

How much can the Gunners boss learn from this game? Just one week from now the two clubs will meet again in the FA Cup. With big matches either side of that fixture for Arsenal, Wenger will almost certainly change his players, but will the approach be the same?

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