Anfield Defeat Provides Honest Assessment Of Arsenal’s Progress

Anfield Defeat Provides Honest Assessment Of Arsenal’s Progress

Anfield Defeat Provides Honest Assessment Of Arsenal’s Progress

Liverpool 3 Arsenal 1
Premier League
Monday September 28, 8pm

Arsenal had defeated Liverpool at home in July and beaten them on a penalty shoot-out at Wembley in August.

It would have been truly remarkable to have won at Anfield at the fag end of September, although were Alex Lacazette a more clinical striker, a (frankly undeserved) point might have made for a very satisfactory outcome.

However, the gulf between the two sides was apparent in Monday night’s fixture.

In fairness, Liverpool’s domination was not dissimilar to the previous two matches, only this time their chances were easier, Arsenal’s defending less solid. The long league run of failure to win away at the top teams continues, although two more opportunities follow in October.

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Anyway, Mikel Arteta picked the same defence and midfield as had started the Community Shield against Klopp’s team.

Changes to that eleven were Bernd Leno for the now departed Emi Martinez, whilst up front Willian and Lacazette began instead of Saka and Nketiah.

Liverpool hit the bar early on with a deflection, but Arsenal were the ones that enjoyed a slice of fortune when they took the lead courtesy of a botched attempt to clear by Andrew Robertson. Lacazette scuffed his shot, almost in sympathy, but it foxed Allison in the Liverpool goal.

I thought about ditching emotions, and getting a bet on Liverpool to win at semi-decent odds, but there was hardly enough time before the equalizer came – Tierney done by Salah and Leno pushing his save to the waiting Mane. It wasn’t great defending, but the quality of Liverpool’s attack is beyond dispute. Fulham and West Ham both had chances in their matches, but not the strikers to capitalize more than once. Different story last night. And the truth is Liverpool could have scored a couple more, especially on the counter attack in the second half.

Liverpool went ahead before the interval, with good play by Alexander-Arnold to find Robertson. Not such great defending by the visitors. Willian failed to track his man as Bellerin was drawn too far into the centre.

There is work to do, for sure, but we must put this into perspective and look at the points gap last season.

Most of the players involved are the same. Arsenal aspire to reach Liverpool’s heights, and Jurgen Klopp needed time to get the balance right – as well as judicious use of the funds for the sale of players that departed.

Arsenal performed better in the second half, especially when Ceballos and Nketiah got onto the pitch.

The pressing was more meaningful. Lacazette broke through to shoot at the keeper, but was offside anyway.

No so with his second attempt – beating the offside trap and having just Allison between him and the goal.

It was the kind of chance a forward that costs what Lacazette did should have for breakfast. And the reason he is outscored by a player who works from wide.

Arteta’s team created some danger, but nothing as clear cut and things were resolved with a third Liverpool goal from substitute Djota.

I feared worse after the second goal had gone in, but the second half performance gave room for encouragement. Heads did not drop as they would have done under latter-day Wenger and Emery.

What we saw last night were two pressing sides, one of which had better players in most positions. Arteta will need time to improve his, and intelligent use of the transfer market with limited funds.

But it was a wake up call. Results have been good and it was important to beat Fulham and West Ham.

The League Cup win at Leicester (which I did not have time to write about – but the great thing about having your own blog is that you write when you can) was a little fortuitous and owed plenty to the Foxes’ poor defending, but it gives Arteta the opportunity to give runouts to some of the squad when he returns to Anfield on Thursday.

Arsenal’s challenge this season is to have enough about them to win the matches against the sides they aspire to finish above.

Anything they can get from the trips to Manchester City and Old Trafford will be welcomed, but the bread and butter games at home to Sheffield United, Leicester and Villa need to be won.

The club cannot fall behind as dramatically as they did last season.

On paper, away to the champions is generally the toughest fixture in the calendar. Arsenal were put in their place, sure, but it did not feel like they were humiliated as on some previous visits.

So disappointing, yes, especially in the light of Lacazette’s missed chance. But surprising – certainly not.

The work in progress continues, lessons need to be learned, but let’s not ignore the fact that Arsenal were away to one of the top teams in Europe.

The most important thing now is how they respond… and whether or not anything can be done in the transfer market to improve things in terms of quality (not least in the midfield)

To be notified when there is fresh content on my blog (generally that will be the day after matches) follow me on Twitter - https://twitter.com/KevinWhitcher01.

As for the blog itself – that can be found here - https://kevinwhitchersarsenalblog.blogspot.com. The first handful of pieces will be posted here for the awareness, but long term, the blog will be where to find my pieces in the event that you have any wish to read my own take on events at Arsenal

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comments

  1. Paulward

    Sep 30, 2020, 9:59 #117131

    I think that’s a fair enough assessment Kevin, although like Brady I felt the referee might easily have sent Mane off in the current climate. I’d like to see Tierney play as a left wing back personally and my initial thoughts on William are... why have we signed a 34 year old to keep Bukayo Sako out of the team. And we really should try and cut our losses on Pepe who is hopeless.

  2. Bradywasking

    Sep 30, 2020, 8:08 #117130

    Fair summing up of the game and the reality check Arsenal received on Monday night. Two factors you dont touch on however are the manager's selection and the obvious mistakes by the referee and the inaction of VAR in those mistakes. How Arteta thought it was ok ,for whatever reason, to drop Gabriel for the game was beyond my comprehension. Two things to note on Gabriel's performances against Fulham and West Ham are that he can defend on the ground but his timing on headers is a bit suspect. Apart from dead ball situations how often to Liverpool play high crosses? Not very often I think is the answer Luiz was played it seems because of his ability to play 60 yard passes. But to who.Up the centre to Van Dijk or to the left wing to the captain who sadly was in strolling mood. Arsenal la led a midfield presence until Ceballos came on , it proves how anonymous Xhaka has become that Elneny actually improved when Ceballos came on , or more to the point Xhaka went off. If the referee or VAR had done their respective jobs before three minutes had been played Liverpool would have been down to ten men. Mane deserved a red card for the assault on Tierney. A week ago a Brighton player was sent off at Newcastle after intervention from VAR.The Brighton player was reckless, Mane was deliberate. How would that have changed the game? Media darling Alexander Arnold or "Trent" as he is known to commentator and pundit alike could also have received the ultimate sanction for his follow through on Tierney. He had time to pull out of that after Tierney had cleared. The referee had a shocking game, missed the deliberate foul on Aubameyang in front of the dugout as for one of the few times in the game he looked purposeful .Worse was to follow when Arsenal had a decent break on the right he stopped play to give them a free in their own area Finally on the officiating Jota's goal shouldn't have stood. After a week of controversy over handball, on the intervention of VAR , how was that not picked up.Still photographic evidence proved the ball came off his arm.The same evidence that gave penalties to three different teams over the weekend. It seems that the jibes of LiVARpool are not unfounded. Back to Arsenal, what frustrated me most wasn't losing or the officiating. It was the limp nature of the defeat.Even in defeat you can have a positive. The second half was largely better but there was a sense of get an undeserved equaliser or hold out for a 2-1 defeat. That was hair tearing out territory for Arsenal fans. Yes Liverpool are better than us, but don't go into a game beaten.The latter end of the reigns of our previous two managers were littered with those performances. Stand up and be counted. Run yourself into the ground Where was the fight and the organisation? Keep a shape and cover every angle.You may be playing better players but you can contain them and hurt them on the break. Arsenal capitulated, it was almost like we equalised before they scored. Their first goal was inevitable. That is where you need a captain on the pitch and we didn't have one.It was deja vue at Anfield. We were frightened to lead the game, so we didn't lead for long. We desperately need an on field captain. Aubameyang for all his talent isn't it when you are playing poorly. There isn't one there except maybe Tierney We were spoiled by captains at the Arsenal. We will go again,but players need to have fire in them, and the manager needs to have better days.I have a lot of faith in Arteta.