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How Arsenal slipped into crisis – and why it could yet get worse

8:15 PM MYT 28/08/2017
Alexis Sanchez Arsenal v Liverpool
Liverpool's dynamic approach against the Gunners allowed them to record a thumping success at Anfield

Any early-season optimism at the Emirates Stadium has now utterly disappeared. Although the Gunners saw off Leicester 4-3 on the opening night of the campaign, they suffered a 1-0 defeat to Stoke a week later and were then humiliated 4-0 by Liverpool at Anfield.

Martin Keown, a club legend, said in the aftermath of the game that they had slipped into “crisis” and given their performance on Merseyside it is difficult to find evidence to disagree.

Over the course of the match, Arsene Wenger’s side failed to muster a single effort on target. All of their six attempts missed Loris Karius's goal, and even those from relatively close range missed by such a margin that the keeper was never seriously worried. 

Given that Arsenal had 51 per cent of the ball and completed more passes than their opponents (538 to 508), that was a desperately poor return.

Much of the visitors’ possession was in the centre of the pitch. Indeed, nearly 60 per cent of the time they had the ball was spent in the middle third and only 19% was in the attacking sector. 

Their opponents’ approach was a good deal more direct. Liverpool did not even spend 50% of their time in possession in the middle sector, offering a far more forthright style and enjoying 25% of the ball near the Arsenal goal.

Jurgen Klopp’s men exploited this statistic by getting away 15 shots in total. Their accuracy when shooting was also excellent, with 10 of these resulting either in a goal or in drawing a save from Petr Cech. 

Liverpool also offered a more balanced approach in terms of the direction of their play, although there was a bias away from the right side of the park, with Klopp’s men preferring to go through the middle or down the left, where Sadio Mane carried their menace.

On the flip side, Arsenal leaned far more heavily on the left wing. An incredible 42% of their attacks were channelled down Alexis Sanchez’s flank, with the Chile international’s importance to the cause immediately made clear by this figure.

However, with only a year left on his contract there is no guarantee that he will still be present when the transfer window closes – and with Wenger’s side apparently in such trouble it would be little shock if he agitated for a move before August 31.

After a performance the manager branded “disastrous”, he cannot afford to lose his best player.

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