Football Features

“It’s a sprint to the finish line” – Player ratings as Liverpool beat Arsenal to set up titanic title race with Man City

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 22:35, 16 March 2022


In a dramatic night of football, Liverpool beat Arsenal 0-2 to go within one point of top spot in the Premier League.

The Reds overcame a sluggish first-half to blow Arsenal away in the second-period.

Here’s how the players rated at the Emirates:



Arsenal

Aaron Ramsdale – 4 – Nice save from Van Dijk header in the first-half but made a costly blunder by exposing too much of his near-post to Diogo Jota and then didn’t come with enough authority to stop Firmino’s goal. Not the best night for Ramsdale.

Cedric – 6 – Dug in and fought well but it’s probably not a coincidence that both Liverpool goals came from attacking his flank.

Ben White – 5 – Solid in the first-half but then crumbled in the second. Slow to react and cover on Liverpool’s first goal and then also didn’t step out to confront Robertson on the second. Neither are mistakes, but they’re not good defending either.

Gabriel – 7 – Really good for most of the match and was obviously helpless on the opener but even as a he blocked a shot off the line in the lead-up to the second goal he also made a weak clearance.

Kieran Tierney – 6 – Decent at the back and decent in attack.

Granit Xhaka – 6 – Played some nice passes but otherwise didn’t stamp his authority on the game. He never even attempted a tackle!

Thomas Partey – 7 – A superb display at the heart of the Arsenal midfield. Completed 4/4 take-ons, won 3/3 tackles and chipped in with 2 interceptions plus some delicious through-balls.

Bukayo Saka – 5 – The star boy had his lights dimmed this evening, first by Liverpool’s blanket defending but then by the Reds press, which forced him into a turnover that led directly to the second Liverpool strike.

Martin Odegaard – 6 – A terrier-like performance from the Norwegian. Not much of an impact in attack but got stuck in defensively.

Gabriel Martinelli – 7 – “Pires-like” performance from the young Brazilian, including one delirious run down the left where he stitched up Alexander-Arnold twice and nutmegged Jordan Henderson all within 20 seconds. Never stopped running at Liverpool and looked like the Gunners’ best route to goal.

Alexandre Lacazette – 6 – Worked hard to lead the line but could get no joy out of the Liverpool defenders. Wasted his only great chance by taking a touch when a snapshot was needed.


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Arsenal Substitutes:

Emile Smith Rowe (for Odegaard 67′) – 5 – Didn’t really add the drive Mikel Arteta would have wanted.

Nicolas Pepe (for Saka 74′) – 5 – Did little.

Eddie Nketiah (for Lacazette 80′) – n/a – Came on late.


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Liverpool

Alisson – 8 – Massive save from Odegaard (to go with the good goalkeeping to force Lacazette back seconds earlier). It’s impossible to state how big that save was because with the listless nature of the game, going 1-0 down could have been bad news for the Reds but Alisson stood tall when he had to and the whole game swung on his save. “Fortunately we had an amazing goalkeeper,” said Thiago after the game.

Trent Alexander-Arnold – 5 – Completely wrecked by Martinelli almost every time he had to do anything. The Brazilian’s instincts nullified him as an offensive force as well.

Joel Matip – 7 – Another big display full of clearances and composure.

Virgil van Dijk – 7 – Solid early defending. Good header. Stupendous holding of an offside line and even an outrageous pass through to Luis Diaz that, with a better touch for the Colombian, could have been an assist.

Andrew Robertson – 8 – A solid defensive performance until a phenomenal bit of pressing and vision led straight to Liverpool’s second. “It’s never easy against Saka so I was happy to keep him quiet this time,” said Robertson humbly after the match, and sure enough with 4 tackles, 3 interceptions and 4 clearances he definitely did a job defensively.

When asked about Liverpool’s title chances against Manchester City, Robertson said: “look they’re a point better off, they’re a fantastic team, one of the best in the world. It’s a sprint to the finish line. We’re in the race, a lot of people maybe didn’t think we would be come January time we just need to focus on what we’re doing and picking up as many points as possible.”

Fabinho – 7 – Not quite Thomas, but solid all the same.

Jordan Henderson – 6 – Lost in the shuffle a bit but the way he was barking orders at his players as they celebrated their opening goal it’s clear that while he may be an average footballer his mental presence is colossal.

Thiago – 8 – Almost gave away a goal with a sloppy pass back but made up for that by playing a delicious through-ball into space for the Liverpool goal. On the whole he dominated the game both with his passing (3 chances created, a game-high) but also his defending (5 tackles, 4 interceptions). Is fast becoming the titan Liverpool hoped he would be.

Sadi Mané – 5 – Some nice movement but mostly looked off it.

Diogo Jota – 7 – Kept fairly quiet for the most part, but the one time he was able to escape the Arsenal defenders he punished some sloppy goalkeeping with a a really sharp finish at the near-post.

Luis Diaz – 6 – Made some great runs but his touch was sloppy.

Substitutes:

Roberto Firmino (for Jota 56′) – 7 – Came on and killed Arsenal, as he always does. Pressed ferociously, passed serenly, finished confidently. Can he play them every week?

Mohamed Salah (for Diaz 56′) – 6 – Didn’t do anything, per se, but his presence definitely struck fear into Arsenal.

Curtis Jones (for Thiago 90′) – n/a – Came on late.

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