Buoyant Liverpool hammered a lacklustre Arsenal 4-0 on Sunday – but what were the key talking points from the contest?
Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, Mo Salah and Daniel Sturridge were the goalscorers for the hosts, and their strikes mean Liverpool have seven points from their first three Premier League games of the season. Arsenal, though, have now lost back-to-back fixtures and have questions to answer.
Here, we look at some of the key talking points from the clash…
“It was quite simply unacceptable for the size of the club we are and for the team we have. You can come and lose 4-0. It can happen in a bad day. But not like it happened today. We were not fighting, we were not running enough, we were not winning any individual battles and as a team we completely failed to respond to their way of playing.”
Petr Cech’s honest assessment of Arsenal’s defeat at Liverpool was brutal. But it perfectly underlined the issues Arsene Wenger must somehow address during the international break. While no Arsenal player produced the classy cutting edge or moment of craft their talented attackers – including the returning Alexis Sanchez – have shown they can, damningly they were out-run and out-fought at Anfield.
Yes, Arsenal failed to fire a shot on target for the first time since October 2014. But they covered 4km less ground than Liverpool. They won 19 fewer duels. That’s the real worry for Wenger. Where was the fight and desire?
“It’s a well-told story that I’m not a Liverpool fan but this Arsenal side deserves a battering,” said Sky Sports’ Gary Neville during his commentary. “Arsenal have players who don’t think they should run back when the ball goes past them. It’s disgraceful. Players are walking, not showing any urgency. It’s not good enough.”
Inevitably the performance drew some familiar chants of “Wenger out” from the travelling support and there is a feeling little has changed for the Gunners since last season, despite the manager’s contract extension in the summer. “Everything you see, it reminds me of what’s been happening for the past 10 years,” said Thierry Henry.
The season is just three games old. But Arsenal – who lost their other away game this season to Stoke – travel to Chelsea after a home clash with Bournemouth. And they can already ill-afford another breakdown on the road.
Liverpool the real deal?
For all of Arsenal’s failings on Sunday, Liverpool’s brilliance should not be forgotten. The Reds were at their thrilling best, with pace and power in abundance. Their style was perhaps best summed up by the rapid counter-attack for Salah’s breakaway goal, which was scored just 12 seconds after an Arsenal corner. But Liverpool’s players worked just as hard going backwards as they did in possession – to the delight of boss Jurgen Klopp.
“We were very good,” said the manager. “There was pressure on the boys and we wanted to show our desire to do something special and the boys did very well. We closed the spaces and were brave where Arsenal wanted to play in short spaces. It’s very important the clean sheet, with all the discussions about the defence. The result is the result of the performance.”
Of course, Liverpool have produced these kind of performances previously. Their 4-3 win over Arsenal last August was just as scintillating. The key question is whether they can sustain this level – on top of their Champions League commitments – for the entirety of the Premier League campaign.
Klopp continues to deliver in big games
Liverpool’s win over Arsenal extended a quite remarkable record for Jurgen Klopp over the rest of the Premier League’s top six. When it comes to the big games, the German manager has repeatedly got the better of his rivals.
Klopp’s Liverpool v top six Played Won Drawn Lost Points 19 9 9 1 36
The Reds have played 19 such games under Klopp – and lost just once. They’ve won nine and drawn nine, and that gives them a real edge over their fellow title challengers. Now they just need to back those results up against the lesser sides.
“Liverpool’s record against the top sides is fantastic under Klopp,” said Jamie Carragher. “The big thing is the defensive record in the big games is very good. That’s because there’s more concentration and they have to defend more. The problem comes when they have the ball so much [against weaker sides] and people run all over the place and the concentration goes at the back. They can defend – but that has to be there throughout the season.”
Klopp praised “11 outstanding individual performances” in his post-match interview with Sky Sports but it is worth singling out Mane for yet another sensational display. The attacker is in irresistible form right now, having scored in each of his three Premier League fixtures so far this season.
His tally of 27 Premier League goals since August 2015 puts him up among the top forwards in the country, in terms of goals-per-minute. But it is his style which is so important.
His pace and willingness to run beyond Roberto Firmino gives Liverpool a whole different dimension. While Philippe Coutinho remains on the sidelines, Mane has been at the heart of their encouraging start to the campaign.
While Coutinho was yet again an expected absence, Simon Mignolet was a more surprising omission from the entire Liverpool matchday squad. The Belgian – who Klopp had named as his No 1 keeper on the eve of the season – found himself in the stands, while Loris Karius was handed his first appearance of 2017/18 and Danny Ward took to the bench.
Klopp told Sky Sports before kick-off that Mignolet had been “rested” after an “intense time” and Sky sources confirmed Mignolet is neither ill, injured nor the subject of disciplinary proceedings. So while Mignolet rested – less than a month into the season – focus turned to Karius, whose erratic form last year saw him go in and out of the side.
He was given a reasonably easy afternoon by Arsenal, who didn’t manage a shot on target – although Karius did manage to cause some problems of his own. By dwelling on the ball in his own box on three separate occasions as opposition attackers attempted to close him down, Karius created tension.
“For the last three or four years there’s been a nervousness in the ground considering goalkeepers,” said Carragher. “In the last three or four months it went, there was confidence coming back with Mignolet. But that went away today. The nervousness has completely come back because of Karius’ performance.” Perhaps a rested Mignolet will return after the international break.