The opening match of a new Premier League season is always difficult to predict and as matches go, an away trip to Arsenal couldn’t have been a much tougher assignment. However, the team news which was coming out of the home dressing was encouraging for Liverpool and the Arsenal back four, looked there for the taking.
In the first half, Arsenal were the better team and could easily have gone ahead but for a great save from Simon Mignolet, denying Theo Walcott from the penalty spot. The joy of the penalty save was short lived, as Walcott produced a good finish on 31 minutes, to give Arsenal the lead.
In both incidents, the penalty and the goal, there was one key ingredient and his name is Alberto Moreno. The Spanish left-back made a wild attempt to tackle Walcott inside the penalty area, leading to a penalty for Arsenal. It was a needless challenge and if that wasn’t enough, Moreno then went AWOL, allowing Walcott all the time and space in the world on the right side of the box, to pick his spot in the corner.
Thankfully, the brilliance of Philippe Coutinho, with a free-kick 25 yards from goal, equalised for Liverpool on the stroke of half-time and sent the team in the dressing room in a more positive frame of mind.
Whatever Jurgen Klopp said to the players during those 15 minutes, immediately had the desired effect, as Adam Lallana controlled the ball nicely on his chest before slotting home. This goal saw Liverpool really open up and Nathaniel Clyne made a good run from right-back, before finding Coutinho with a nice cross, who made no mistake from close range. What then followed, was a moment of individual brilliance from Sadio Mane, who glided away from Callum Chambers, cut inside and found the top corner of the net, with a left-foot finish. It was 4-1 and with plenty of time left, alarm bells were ringing for Arsenal, who were being blown away by Liverpool.
However, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain got a goal back for Arsenal, via a deflection and some loose marking from a free-kick, allowed Chambers to head home a third. However, Liverpool held on, to claim maximum points, from a thoroughly entertaining match.
Although the final score suggests a close game, Liverpool enjoy some dominant spells and controlled Arsenal’s build up play well, forcing them into the centre of the pitch, where Liverpool then outnumbered them. In the second half, Liverpool started by pressing Arsenal higher up the field, catching them earlier in their build up play and this allowed the team to get the ball back quickly. In an offensive sense, the performance was very good in the second half.
Defensively, there are still things which need working on. The vulnerability from set-pieces was highlighted by Chambers headed goal and in the centre of midfield, there was not a solid platform on which to build. This could improve with the return of Emre Can but there is still a lack of any real dominance in the middle of the pitch.
Then there is the position of left-back, an area of the team all Liverpool fans were hoping would be strengthened during the summer. Alas, no one has come in and potential targets seem to be disappearing by the week. After Moreno’s performance in the Europa League final last season and this error-strewn game against Arsenal, Klopp surely has to act before the transfer window closes, even though it’s difficult to see who the manager could bring in.
However, Liverpool will be buoyed by the 4-3 victory at the Emirates and with Burnley coming up next, there is every chance the team could have at least 6 points on the board, before playing the first home match of the season.