Monday’s soccer news starts with resisting the urge to overplay what happened to Chelsea a man down at home to West Brom. Setting that 5-2 loss aside shifts the focus to Liverpool shutting out Arsenal 3-0 at the Emirates Stadium. Specifically, Liverpool pouring on the goals late. Diogo Jota opened the scoring in the 64th with Mohahmed Salah doubling the lead in the 68th. Jota scored again in the 82nd.
“But the result is the result of the performance, and the performance tonight was obviously good enough that we rather would win the game in the second-half than we would lose it,” Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said. “That’s why it was necessary that we did the same stuff again and the boys did. We made changes, which helped obviously as well.”
Klopp was referring to the counterpress, helping to suffocate Arsenal’s attack. With 35% of the possession, Arsenal finished with two shots on goal from three taken. Liverpool’s goals came from seven shots on target from 16 taken. Their 1-0 win at Wolverhampton before the March international break means a lengthy back-to-back win streak. It’s the first time that’s happened since late January, with Liverpool chasing that with a four-game losing streak. They’re now in 6th-place tied on points with 5th-place Spurs and two points behind 4th-place Chelsea.
Arsenal in 10th-place raises more of the familiar questions that have plagued the club this season. An undefeated run from Boxing Day through January 30 suggested they had figured things out following a seven-game winless streak where they took a grand total of two points. Instead, they finished February with three losses and two wins. The loss to Liverpool ended a four-game undefeated run where they won twice.
“First of all, I apologize to our supporters for the display and the show that we saw today that I am very, very disappointed about,” Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta said. “When you don’t do the basics right against a team like Liverpool, you don’t have any chance even to complete in the game, which is exactly what happened. It’s unacceptable. At that level it’s unacceptable. To not be at 100% is unacceptable to our people and for a lot of work that we put in so what happened today is nowhere near what we want to do. It gives you a really bad gut feeling. It’s a big shock to the system that one.”
It’s getting too easy to lean on the pandemic influenced parity we’re seeing this season. That doesn’t take away from what can range from entertaining to infuriating depending on where your loyalties are up and down the Premier League. For any club not piling on points at the top of the table or stranded at the bottom, the temptation may be to treat 2020-21 as a write-off of a campaign.
Doing just enough to stay out of trouble may count as more of a win than it should, but that’s playing to circumstances.This is a league where every manager talks about control. The squad only becomes theirs when they’ve had enough transfer windows to build it out. Then it’s rebuilding most summers. For a year, they’re all in a situation where ceding that control has become part of the game.
Moving to the soccer news, The Athletic’s Raphael Honigstein works through Borussia Dortmund’s issues. Football London’s Alasdair Gold asks about what Spurs is really doing under manager Jose Mourinho. RTE’s Charlie Rowan makes the case for old stadiums in the League of Ireland. The NY Times’ Rory Smith works through what FIFA is doing with club soccer in Africa. ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle reports on Sacramento and MLS expansion.
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