False 9 proved fruitful again as Reds hold the Gunners to a creditable draw


Mizgan Ahmed on 14th January, 2016

Joe Allen volleyed home a 90th minute equalizer as Liverpool hold the leaders Arsenal 3-3 in an end to end driving passion game at Anfield.

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Jurgen Klopp again opted for a false 9 system with Firmino on top and a wide 4-4-1-1 or a 4-2-3-1 formation to go with. Lallana was playing just behind Firmino; Milner and Ibe were the wider outlets; Henderson and Can were given the responsibility to hold the midfield together. Sakho and Toure were the center-backs for the game with new signing Caulker featuring on the bench.

Now let’s quickly analyze the system which was in place for Liverpool against the Gunners and how Firmino’s movements caused havoc for opposition back-line :-

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We’ll first take a look at the Brazilian’s movements in and around the back-line of Arsenal, his role is termed as a ‘False 9 floating forward’, he was constantly on the move as his role suggests, he shifted towards the left hand side teeing up with Milner and Moreno which allowed Lallana to run centrally into the box, he dropped off in that number 10 role few times keeping Mertesacker and Koscielny to  decide on whether to mark the onrushing Lallana or remain tight on the Brazilian.

Now comes the turn of midfield, Henderson and Can had a decent game, Henderson’s movements and vision were of top drawer and showed no signs of being rusty because he’s been injured for a while. The skipper’s sideways movements to protect the fullbacks and when given a chance moving in advanced role to support the attack was admirable, work-rate of the highest order from the Englishman. Can in comparison had a 50-50 kinda game, his movements were better but sometimes over-doing things and some sloppy passes made his game look a bit dazed.

Ibe had a disappointing game overall, he was easily dominated by  Monreal, his movements were very predictable and always taking on the left-back was not a wise option, he failed to deliver any decent ball in the box for players to attack, Henderson supported him in that flank a few times but Arsenal were pretty tight on not allowing in any meaningful crosses into the six-yard area.

Lallana was alright as far as work-rate is concerned but again lack of constant involvement in the game raised few eyebrows, he was tidy when on the ball and his defensive cover alright overall.

After trailing for the first time in the game, Klopp brought on Benteke for Milner but the team shape remained the same, only Lallana going to the left hand side, Firmino playing as number 10 behind the Belgian.

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This enabled Reds to be more direct in their play with Benteke’s aerial presence always a worry for the center-backs, but the question mark remained on the big Belgian for his reluctant movements around the penalty area, one instance was Ibe getting on the byline unmarked but no one to target as Benteke was at the edge of the penalty area, he has to feature more in between center-backs area whenever an attack is being ventured. Eventually, he won the header in the box which was turned home by Joe Allen in the 90th minute.

One more Belgian was in the question mark spotlight after the game, Simon Mignolet. He was twice beaten at his near post which was alarming to witness, he was very tentative when balls where put in from set-pieces, he has to command his area more otherwise this problem is getting elevated game by game and should be solved in another way.

All in all  a  classic Liverpool-Arsenal game, Klopp was spot on to start with a false 9 and with midfield and defensive pressing system.

Both teams deserved a point after a game which had everything and players giving it their all. Wenger was a bit frustrated on conceding a late equalizer but in the hindsight he must be delighted the way his team showed resilience and took a point out of a tough visit to Anfield.

The atmosphere at the iconic Anfield was just miraculous and goose-bumping, mild snow in the second half brought another level of spice in the game. Many felt(including me) that it was more of a European night than a regular Premier League game.

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