Tag Archives: Liverpool

Unai Emery’s rope -a-dope tactics nearly pay off

1974, Rumble in the Jungle, Ali v Foreman.

George Foreman was considered by many to be the favorite to win the fight due to his superior punching power.

Instead of coming out to fight fire with fire, Muhammad Ali went on the back foot, encouraging Foreman to come at him.

By lying against the ropes, much of the Foreman’s punch’s energy was absorbed by the ropes’ elasticity rather than Ali’s body.

Despite seemingly taking a pummelling, Ali won the fight when Foreman became tired from the beating he was delivering and rope-a-dope was born.

Against Liverpool, Unai Emery attempted to reenact one of the greatest fights of all time on the football field.

Liverpool are the European champions. They finished 2nd last year with a points tally that would have won the league in almost any other season. They lost just one game and finished the season with the two of the three league’s top scorers. They are better than Arsenal. They are stronger than Arsenal.

Emery knew that his Arsenal side could not match Liverpool man for man. Especially with Mesut Ozil, Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney all out. He had to come up with a tactic that would see Arsenal sacrifice going toe to toe with Liverpool and take advantage when the opportunity arose.

And it so nearly worked. Emery was let down by his players who, when the opportunity arose, failed to take advantage.

For the opening 10 minutes Liverpool were getting in behind Arsenal and peppering balls into the box. The Gunners were under the cosh.

Out of nowhere, Arsenal had the chance to take the lead!

Adrián came racing out of his area to clear a forward pass, he slide in and succeeded only in deflecting the ball into Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s path and the Arsenal striker went for the lob but it landed just wide.

8 minutes later Arsenal had another great chance.

A strong break by Dani Ceballos lead the charge up the pitch. On the edge of the box he found Nicolas Pépé, who could only shoot straight at Adrian. Clearest chance of the match.

Despite being under the cosh for the first 20 minutes, Arsenal should really had been leading but failing to take 2 great chances.

Emery’s tactics were becoming clear. Sit back, defend, absorb Liverpool’s attack and look to counter punch when the opportunity arises.

It was working, but then 4 minutes before half time Arsenal concedes from a corner.

Arsenal has been doing so well to hold out, so to concede from a corner would have frustrated all.

2 minutes into the second half, a moment of madness from David Luiz as he pulled Mo Salah’s shirt in the penalty area giving away a penalty.

In the space of 7 on-field minutes, Emery’s best laid plans had been ripped up as Arsenal found themselves 2-0 down.

You can not adopt rope-a-dope tactics if you are behind and the game eventually finished 3-1.

Emery got a lot of criticism from many fans after the game for being tactically naive. But he got his tactics spot on. What he could not count on was Aubameyang and Pepe not taking their chances; and David Luiz giving away a silly penalty straight after half time.

When the goals Arsenal conceded are reviewed, there is little Emery could have done about them.

The 1st was a from a corner where Matteo Guendouzi was fouled, the second a penalty, the 3rd a fabulous finish by Salah. The game was not littered with the defensive errors caused the demise of Arsenal’s recent trips to Anfield.

Sport will always be a game of what ifs.

What if one of Frazer’s booming punches knocked out Ali? he would have been criticised for his rope-a-dope tactics.

What if Aubameyang or Pepe scored their chances within the first 18 minutes? We might have been sitting here this morning talking about an Unai Emery masterclass.

The reality is Arsenal lost 3-1 and another defeat at Anfield.

Still 2nd in the league though.


Liverpool game will show Arsenal fans what to expect this season

After two relatively straight forward wins over Burnley and Newcastle, Arsenal face their first big test of the season when they travel to Liverpool on Saturday.

Victories over Burnley and Newcastle saw the club win its opening 2 games of the season for the first time since 2009/10.

Despite gaining 6 points from the first 2 games, Arsenal have not exactly been putting in exceptional performances.

Victory over Newcastle was a game of one chance, whilst Burnley was a hard fought win.

Liverpool meanwhile trounced Norwich 4-1 on the opening day and looked comfortable against Southampton – although the last minute howler from Adrian made the score line a lot closer than the game was.

Against Liverpool, Arsenal should match fire with fire.

Go with a front 3 of Nicolas Pepe, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette. Power and pace.

Behind them the hard working Dani Ceballos deserves his chance following a good home debut against Burnley. His energy will enable Arsenal to press high.

Arsenal then need to go a little more defensive in the midfield to offset the attacking power of the front 3. Granit Xhaka (if fit) and Lucas Torreira need to start.

Then it is the same back 4 as against Burnley – Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Sokratis, David Luiz & Nacho Monreal.

The game against Liverpool will show exactly where Arsenal are at the moment. Could we be title challengers? Or are we committing to be “best of the rest” behind Manchester City and Liverpool.

It is going to be an open game…


The Top 6: Who is still left from 2012/13?

With the transfer window slamming shut, Arsenal’s activity has left them with just 2 members of the squad who have been with the club since the 2012/13 season. Nacho Monreal and Damián Martinez.

This summer we have seen Carl Jenkinson and Laurent Koscileny both leave. They were the only two remaining players from the 2012/13 squad picture, with Monreal joined us in the January transfer window.

It feels like a huge squad turnover, that out of the 35 players to have pulled on an Arsenal shirt during that season, just 2 remains.

How does this compare with the rest of the top 6?

Liverpool – 1

Just Jordan Henderson remains from Liverpool’s 2012/13 squad. They have the highest turnover over all of the top 6. Not a surprise considering they finished 7th that season.

Chelsea – 1

following David Luiz joining Arsenak, just 1 member of the Chelsea squad of 2012/13 remain. Club captain César Azpilicueta.

Arsenal – 2

The aforementioned Nacho Monreal is still at the club having signed a 1 year extension a month or so ago. Damián Martinez played twice in the League Cup that year.

Manchester City – 2

David Silva and Sergio Aguero are the only 2 players left from a Manchester City team that finished the 2012/13 season behind their big rivals Manchester United

Manchester United – 4

The 2012/13 league champions have kept hold of Phil Jones, Ashley Young, Chris Smalling and David de Gea. Although many Manchester United fans will question how the 1st 3 are still at the club, and David de Gea probably wonders how he has not yet secured a move away.

Tottenham – 4

Harry Kane played just 4 minutes in the 2012/13 season. Jan Vertonghen, Hugo Lloris and Danny Rose are also still with the club.


Just 20 left – never to be repeated