Wenger painted it as a tale of two halves; that Arsenal dominated the first and dropped off physically in the second and the stats show that actually it was a much closer game in the first 45.
Arsenal edged passing: 240-229
Arsenal were out tackled: 14-19
Arsenal lost possession more: 15-9
Arsenal were forced to clear the ball a lot less: 3-12
Arsenal intercepted the ball a lot more: 12-3
Arsenal took fewer shots: 6-7
Arsenal created the only big chance of the first 45 (penalty)
BUT, Liverpool created three dangerous shots with Klavan, Mane and Firmino
Both keepers made 2 saves, Mignolet making the better of the two.
Where Arsenal lost the match was in the 20 minutes between the 45th and 65th minutes.
Liverpool dominated passing: 154-84
Liverpool dominated Arsenal in shooting: 7-1
Liverpool dominated Arsenal in goals: 3-1
All of the other stats in that period were fairly even and actually unusually low. For example, in that 20 minute period both teams combined for just 4 tackles. Just to show how weird that number is, over the 90 minutes both teams attempted 63 tackles combined. In any 20 minute period we should see an average combined of 14 tackles. The same with interceptions, Arsenal made 20 interceptions in the match but only 2 (about half of what we would expect) in that crucial 20 minutes.
In that 20 minutes, Liverpool utterly dominated Arsenal.
So, what happened?
The key stat is that Alexis couldn’t get into the game. He took one shot, a pot shot from distance that was blocked. He was also just 1/8 on aerial duels, made just 1 key pass, and had just 1 dribble. In the end he only even touched the ball 28 times. Walcott, who is normally ball-shy, got on the ball 40 times.
That was entirely because Arsenal’s midfield couldn’t retain possession. Coquelin only completed 76% of his passes. Holding only completed 74% of his passes. Chambers completed 81% of his passes. Not only that but the entire back four dominated Arsenal in touches: Monreal led all of Arsenal with 109 touches, Chambers 99 touches, Holding 70 touches, and Bellerin 52.
The big problem is that Arsenal’s players didn’t have anyone to pass to and were often caught in possession without a teammate around to help bail them out. Ramsey made just 26 passes in the 60 minutes he played before pulling his hamstring. Elneny made just 36 passes in the 66 minutes before he was oddly taken off. Coquelin made just 37 passes in all 90 minutes. Xhaka had 25 passes in the 24 minutes he played and he completed them at a team high 96%. That was toward the end of the match when Liverpool shut up shop.
I wouldn’t blame any one player in Arsenal’s three man midfield, rather I’d say that the unit didn’t work. There were too many times where there was too much space between Chambers-Holding and Coquelin-Elneny. They were often even out of my picture, as in this screen grab (courtesy @njm1211)
This should just not happen and yet it was a common theme for Arsenal’s defenders for most of the match and a major reason why Chambers-Monreal, Monreal-Chambers, Chambers-Holding, and Holding-Chambers were the top four pass combinations for Arsenal.
So, I don’t think I would agree that it was a tale of two halves or that it was entirely down to fitness. On offense, Arsenal were unable to move the ball up the field and on defense, for that crucial 20 minute period where Arsenal were left chasing shadows by Liverpool’s superior passing — they simply couldn’t catch up, Arsenal were exposed for space time and again. Rather than fitness or simply a bad half the bigger problem is that the team didn’t play well as a unit. The midfield was choked off and the forwards were starved of service on offense and the team looked like a team that hasn’t played together much on defense.
At least that’s what the stats show me.