Van Dijk and Becker’s Heroics Salvage Arsenal’s Season

We frequently strive to uncover the tactical nugget, extraordinary performance from a player, or interpret the 3D artwork that most high-level soccer games usually are in order to comprehend why one team emerged victorious or defeated and why this team ranks higher in the table than the other. However, sometimes, even with two of the world’s best teams, it’s just the two of them throwing themselves at each other as if trapped in a particle accelerator and one of the leftover neutrons goes rogue. Arsenal v. Liverpool | PREMIER LEAGUE HIGHLIGHTS | 2/4/2024 | NBC SportsIt doesn’t take an archaeologist to understand that. That doesn’t mean the match between these two title contenders wasn’t intriguing. For the third time in three matches between them, Arsenal had Liverpool bewildered at the start of the game. With Kai Havertz switching to a false-nine position, Arsenal ended up outnumbering Liverpool’s midfield three with four players, with Havertz dropping off the front line to form a square. This strategy offered Alexis Mac Allister a choice of marking Havertz or Martin Odegaard on the other side. The opening goal came from this set-up. In the build-up to Saka’s opener, Mac Allister tracked Havertz, who had dropped into the midfield. Liverpool’s two No. 8s, Curtis Jones and Ryan Gravenberch, were matched up against Arsenal’s deep midfielders. No one was around to mark Odegaard, so van Dijk stepped out to him. But without a regular No. 9 to anchor everything, Liverpool could not deploy their usual high-line/offside trap. Liverpool struggled with this dominance for the entire first half. But as in the other two matches, Arsenal did not fully exploit their advantage and even wasted it. In the second half, Liverpool adjusted by dropping Curtis Jones alongside Mac Allister and the match was fairly even until the 65th minute. However, you can’t anticipate such mistakes from two players who define Liverpool. Arsenal are now very much in the race, with an upcoming schedule that seems favorable. It feels like a worrying time for Liverpool, with Manchester City trailing close behind them. Nonetheless, when considering their injury-ridden January, their recent performances aren’t all that bad. Overall, Villa are doing well in the league this season, and it would be a shame to lose Luiz amidst financial difficulties. Aston Villa will hope to secure a Champions League finish. 3. Chelsea’s recent setbacks have been severe, with morale among fans at an all-time low. 2. Everton managed to hold Tottenham to a draw and this might prove to be a valuable point. Everton has a challenging schedule ahead but need to ensure they remain on equal footing with Luton. 1. The performances of USMNT defenders in the Premier League were disappointing, which is a cause for concern.