Deconstructing Santi Cazorla's Opener v. Liverpool

Laurence Griffiths

There was plenty of finger-pointing after Arsenal took a 1-0 lead over Liverpool yesterday, and a closer look reveals that there's plenty of blame to go around.

There was a frailty to Liverpool yesterday that we'd hoped had been mostly exorcised; the physical errors and shortcomings are going to happen regardless of how conditioned or seasoned a squad is, but the emotional vulnerability isn't quite as inevitable. Unless you're Liverpool over the past few seasons, then it's just called Saturday. Arsenal left Liverpool exposed in most phases of the match and emerged deserved winners, while Liverpool were left wanting throughout, especially as they found themselves down 1-0 in the 19th minute after a Santi Cazorla strike.

liverpool blog fc sbn

Part One: The Break

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Things sort of go to pot straightaway--both Aly Cissokho and Mamadou Sakho were caught further forward in the moments preceding Arsenal's break, and with the midfield in a near-perfect 1-2 in the central part of the park (that's Jordan Henderson just crossing the halfway line on the left, level with Steven Gerrard), there's nobody to cover Bacary Sagna's surging run forward. Mikel Arteta, who was excellent throughout, rolls it past both Sakho and Cissokho to spring Sagna into a terrifying amount of space.

Part Two: The Setup

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Cissokho was already headed toward Liverpool's goal but still couldn't catch up, while Sakho took just under 38 seconds to turn around and pick up steam. Santi Cazorla had been breaking past Steven Gerrard in the previous frame, and he pulls away here to exploit the space that will eventually be created. Martin Srktel has his eyes on the ball and can't see Cazorla, while Toure is trying to make up ground on Olivier Giroud, who at first glance is the primary threat.

Part Three: The Cross

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Rather than floating it closer to goal toward Giroud, Sagna smartly (or luckily) cuts it back across his body for Cazorla, who's now moving into the space vacated by Skrtel and Toure--who successfully closed on Giroud--and created by Lucas' failure to continue to track back.

Part Four: The Header

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Cazorla meets the cross after a bounce and curls a header off the post on the near side. Lucas is back, but not in time, and Martin Skrtel will collapse further toward Giroud and Toure once Cazorla meets the cross with his head. And while he'd have no way of knowing at this point, Sakho's jog back toward goal proves critical, as the rebound will fall in the very space he'd have occupied.

Part Five: The Goal

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All is lost at this point. There's no way for anyone to have predicted that the header would have beaten Simon Mignolet and bounced perfectly back into the path of Cazorla's follow-through run, but everything leading up to it--both Sakho and Cissokho getting caught forward, Gerrard's failure to stay with (or at least try to make up ground on) Cazorla, Lucas' discontinued run, and Mignolet's failed attempts at seduction--meant that all Cazorla had to do was control the rebound and dispatch it cooly, which he did with aplomb.

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Video by arsenalist

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