Arsenal 3-4 Liverpool: The three best and worst performers
A great deal of pessimism surrounded Arsenal going into this season, largely because the health of football clubs is now measured by their ‘performance’ in the transfer window. Arsene Wenger was right to insist that football is a ‘performance competition’, and some hoped Arsenal could produce a performance on the pitch against Liverpool to reverse the negative vibes around the club.
For the first 45 minutes they looked set to do this, but the match swung following Philippe Coutinho’s equaliser on the stroke of half-time. Arsenal were too easily cowed after the break, and Liverpool took the game away from them with a devastating 15 minutes of football with Adam Lallana, Coutinho and Sadio Mane on the score-sheet.
Liverpool’s 4-3 win is the ideal start to the season for them; three points and a difficult away fixture ticked off the schedule. Arsenal have time to recover, only a masochistic supporter would write the season off after one game, but are immediately on the defensive. We looked at the three best and worst performers from yesterday’s thriller at the Emirates.
Many baulked when Liverpool paid £36 million pounds to secure Mane’s signature, but the former Southampton winger was a thorn in Arsenal’s side throughout his league debut. His pace is well known, but he showed a real calmness in his decision making, rarely wasting a pass. Mane completed 93% of his passes, which for a streaky dribbler operating in the final third is outstanding.
Jurgen Klopp will be encouraged by the in-to-out runs he makes without the ball; he has a real desire to get into goalscoring positions, and frequently probed between left back and left centre back yesterday. With Mane making runs inside, this left space for Nathaniel Clyne to bomb forward. Even in an underwhelming first half Liverpool performance, they caused Arsenal a lot of problems down this flank. Of course, he capped of his fine performance with a stunning goal, Liverpool’s fourth, cutting inside from the right and finding top corner with his weaker left foot.
The visitors put on a dazzling display of attacking football at the start of the second half, with Coutinho, Georgino Wijnaldum and Adam Lallana all excelling. But Klavan, another player making his debut, had a steady game that will encourage Liverpool’s supporters. As the left sided centre back, Klavan didn’t have an easy task to cover for Alberto Moreno (more on him shortly). However, especially in the second half as Arsenal went more direct, he swept up comfortably and showed a good turn of pace deny Alexis Sanchez a clear route on goal. Liverpool’s defence remains a concern, but Klavan showed enough yesterday to persuade Klopp he can be a steadying influence. Others may have had more eye-catching moments, but this was a quietly impressive debut.
Arsenal’s performance was not entirely hopeless yesterday, and in the first half they did a good job of pressing Liverpool in midfield and forcing them to play long. Their energy and work rate was impressive, but as soon as this dropped slightly Arsenal’s distances became too large and Liverpool took charge. However, Elneny was one of Arsenal’s better performers covering the ground to harry opponents and passing the ball cleanly. The Egyptian completed 89% of his passes and won 69% of his duels, and can consider himself unfortunate to be substituted in the second half with Arsenal chasing an equaliser. At £5 million, Elneny looks a shrewd purchase and he promises to be an important midfield option for Arsenal this season.