Drilling down on: at Montreal 2, Columbus 1

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Man of the Match: Zarek Valentin’s first MLS goal was a timely one. Having just seen his team go down 1-0 near the hour mark, Valentin took advantage of a wide open right flank, charged into the Columbus area and beat Andy Gruenebaum in the 78th minute, starting the Impact’s comeback. The fourth overall pick in the 2011 draft, Valentin was making his 37th career MLS appearance.

Packaged for takeaway:

  • For 60 minutes, this was a terrible match played out by two teams more intent on avoiding mistakes than creating chances. The players cruised through the first 58 minutes without putting a shot on target, playing as if the teams had agreed to the type of mutually beneficial draw you see at the end of group stages or during the final rounds of an Italian Serie A campaign.
  • For Columbus, the approach was neither new nor entirely inappropriate. They’ve had relative success playing conservative, opportunistic soccer, and at Stade Saputo, there was only reason Robert Warzycha might change: Montreal’s terrible defensive record (having allowed a league high 35 goals). Given Columbus’s lack of attacking options (with Jairo Arrieta unable to travel into Canada), Warzycha may have made the right choice.
  • Montreal, however, were shockingly content with an uneventful game. Considering Columbus may develop into one of their rivals for an Eastern Conference playoff spot, it was a naive lack of urgency. Against a team giving up only one goal per game, the chances were unlikely to create themselves.
  • So when Columbus converted a 64th minute corner kick through Milovan Mirosevic, Montreal seemed to have brought their deficit upon themselves. Not only had they failed to mark Mirosevic (and could have gotten a much better effort from Donovan Ricketts), they’d allowed themselves to become complacent against a Crew team that was playing possum.
  • But what Columbus took, they gave back with two instances of terrible defending.
    • First, the equalizer, when play built down Montreal’s left quickly moved through the middle and out right. Columbus’s left-siders (Nemanja Vukovic and Eddie Gavin) were far too narrow, allowing Valentin a relatively easy goal.
    • Second, the play that set up the eventual winner: Montreal was able to get Justin Mapp matched up against Chris Birchall in the left of the area. Mapp is among the quickest players in the league. Birchall is a guy who’s barely in the league (and really wasn’t up to the job today). Eight yards from touch, Mapp tapped a ball back toward the middle as Birchall ran through him, taking him down, making no adjustments to (or attempts to play) the ball. Easy call, easy conversion for Patrice Bernier.
  • Montreal played about 15 good minutes and took three points. In fairness, that was 14 more minutes than Columbus.
  • Montreal’s stars: Marco Di Viao played 90 wasteful minutes, the emblem of his team’s tepid performance. Alessandro Nesta did not make an appearance.
  • For Columbus, they leave Montreal with three points having slipped through their fingers; however, these kinds of results are part of their approach. For every win they steal in Seattle, they have to accept they might have one stolen from them in Montreal.
  • And for the Impact: Whew. It’s a game they should have expected a win from before kick off. They got it, even if their performance was mostly terrible. Coach Marsch should respond harshly to any sign from his players that they accomplished something on Sunday. It’s not like they stole a game from Sporting or D.C.

Animated Klopp rejects Keane’s ‘sloppy’ adjective, rips handball rule

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Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp heard an adjective he did not like from analyst Roy Keane after the Reds’ 3-1 win over Arsenal on Monday.

The word was ‘sloppy’ as Keane mentioned some mistakes from the Reds, which certainly happened.

Klopp was not amused.

[ MORE: Match recap | JPW’s 3 things ]

“Did Mr. Keane say we had a sloppy performance tonight? Maybe he was watching another game? Cannot be this game,” Klopp said. “Sorry. It was absolutely exceptional, from the first second dominant against a team in-form and (we were) careful as hell that we did not get caught on the counter-attack.”

A mishit Andy Robertson clearance allowed Arsenal to take a 1-0 lead but the Premier League champions had it level within a couple of minutes, led at halftime, and shutdown Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang en route to a 3-1 win.

[ MORE: Player ratings from Liverpool-Arsenal ]

“Alisson had to make one save, they had two chances in behind but apart from that the football we played was exceptional tonight,” Klopp said. “This game tonight there is nothing bad to say, it was the opposite of sloppy. … We had so many big moments. We played a super game but were 1-nil down. Completely deserved. Could we have scored more goals? Yes. Could they have scored more? Yes.”

Klopp was also asked about the handball rule which has brought ire from around the football world including teams that have lost and won points off its implementation.

“Eric Dier could do absolutely nothing wrong and it is a penalty. You cannot control your body in that way, you have to move somehow. The only other thing you can do is cut arms off. I’m also really not happy with how long we have to wait (for offsides). … Obviously some rule changes or other things we changed didn’t help but in the moment we have to accept it.”

We’ll all be keeping our arms, as will the players. Never change, Jurgen, although perhaps a few deep breaths might give you a bit longer run on earth!

Player ratings: Liverpool v. Arsenal

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Liverpool – Arsenal player ratings: This was a real story of defense against attack as the Gunners sat back and Liverpool’s attacking stars had plenty of the ball.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

Alexandre Lacazette’s opener saw Liverpool behind briefly, but quickfire goals from Sadio Mane and Andy Robertson put them ahead and Diogo Jota scored a late clincher in the 3-1 win.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]    

Here’s a look at Liverpool – Arsenal player ratings, as we give the players a mark out of 10.


Liverpool player ratings

Alisson: 7 – Made a good save to deny Lacazette in the second half and had little else to do. Kicking a little shaky on occasions.

Trent Alexander-Arnold: 8 – Superb cross for Mane early on and had a vicious shot deflected onto the bar.

Joe Gomez: 6 – Didn’t have much to do but a few gaps appeared between him and Van Dijk in the second half.

Virgil van Dijk: 7 – Shot well-saved by Leno and a cool customer, as always, throughout.

Andrew Robertson: 8 – A menace down the left and gave Bellerin a torrid time.

Fabinho: 7 – Sat in and soaked up the play in midfield, and won the ball back time and time again.

Georginio Wijnaldum: 6 – Solid, steady and reliable. Does he ever have a bad game!?

Naby Keita: 6 – Wasn’t able to make his runs forward from midfield. Tidy enough.

Mohamed Salah: 7 – Lovely run and shot to set up the first goal and bullied Tierney. Greedy in the second half and took a chance of Jota.

Roberto Firmino: 7 – Good movement and occupied Luiz and Holding to allow Mane and Salah to cut inside.

Sadio Mane: 8 – Could have been sent off early on for an elbow on Tierney and hit a shot straight at Leno. Took his goal well. A constant threat.

Substitutions
James Milner (80′ on for Keita): 6 – Helped Liverpool see out the game by clogging up midfield.
Diogo Jota (80′ on for Mane): 7 – A debut PL goal for Liverpool and had some good runs, a cross and two other shots were both off target. Very lively on his Anfield debut.
Takumi Minamino (90′ on for Firmino): N/A


Arsenal player ratings

Bernd Leno: 6 – A decent stop from Mane but his distribution was sloppy.

Rob Holding: 6 – Did okay defensively but never looks that comfortable in possession.

David Luiz: 6 – Sloppy on the ball at times, and struggled to cope with Liverpool’s pressing. Hung in there.

Kieran Tierney: 5 – Caught out on Liverpool’s first goal but caught by Mane’s elbow early on. Didn’t receive much help.

Hector Bellerin: 5 – Caught napping on both of Liverpool’s firs half goals. Didn’t add anything from an attacking perspective.

Mohamed Elneny: 6 – Worked hard, as always, and tried to string a few passes together.

Granit Xhaka: 5 – Overrun in midfield and couldn’t get on the ball. Subbed off.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles: 5 – Should have done better to control a ball over the top and pinned back.

Willian: 4 – Switched off to allow Robertson to finish for Liverpool’s second. Offered little in attack.

Alexandre Lacazette: 6 – Scored his goal as he was in the right place at the right time. Worked hard but missed a great chance for a second.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang: 5 – Hardly involved and when he was he failed to run at Liverpool or provide quality.

Substitutes
Dani Ceballos (60′ on for Granit Xhaka): 6 – Made a real difference when he came on as he got on the ball.
Nicolas Pepe (68′ on for Willian): 5 – Barely involved.
Eddie Nketiah (74′ on for Lacazette): N/A

3 things we learned: Liverpool v. Arsenal

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Liverpool – Arsenal was an interesting tactical battle, as Liverpool pressed high and Arsenal stuck to their defensive shape but the extra quality of Liverpool’s attack shone through in a 3-1 win.

[ MORE: Player ratings out of 10 ]

Alexandre Lacazette’s opener saw Liverpool behind briefly, but quickfire goals from Sadio Mane and Andy Robertson put them ahead and Diogo Jota scored a late clincher.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]    

Here’s a look at what we learned from Liverpool – Arsenal at Anfield.


Jota the perfect understudy to Mane

Sadio Mane wasn’t happy to be subbed off but Jurgen Klopp was perhaps keeping him away from a red card he probably should have got early on. Mane was lucky to stay on the pitch after an early elbow on Kieran Tierney. Was it intentional? No. Was it reckless? Yes. Mane chased down Tierney but raised his elbow and caught Tierney in the face. VAR didn’t determine he should have been sent off as Mane was only booked and stayed on the pitch to duly score the equalizer and was a constant thorn in Arsenal’s side. Liverpool’s star winger wasn’t happy about being replaced by Jota with 10 minutes to go as Klopp had a quiet word.

In that 10 minutes the Portuguese winger scored his first Liverpool goal, hit the side-netting, set up a chance and should have had another but Salah nicked the ball off his foot. Life after Mane, Firmino and Salah is not something Liverpool fans will have to (or want to) think about for a while but Jota, still just 23 years old, is a fine signing from Wolves and will be the perfect understudy to Mane as his pace, finishing and movement is very similar. It’s almost like Liverpool and Klopp have a plan…


Resilient Arsenal showed a little too much respect

Arsenal had two touches in opposition box in first half. Two. It was their lowest total in a single 45 minutes since Opta started recording the stat and it showed how much respect they gave Liverpool. Like they have done against the top teams since Arteta arrived, Arsenal sat back deep and tried to keep the ball at the back to draw Liverpool up the pitch. It didn’t work but they stayed in the game. Arsenal couldn’t string enough passes together to launch dangerous counters but Lacazette did have a big chance to make it 2-2 but he hit his shot straight at Alisson. Arsenal were more resilient than they have been against Liverpool in the past and Arteta’s project has just started. They have taken strides forward, we shouldn’t forget that. Arteta has made them gritty but they still have a long, long way to go.


Sloppy Liverpool caused own problems

They gave Arsenal the opening goal after Andy Robertson couldn’t control the ball in the box, then were cut open in the second half on the break but Lacazette couldn’t make the most of it. It wasn’t a case of Arsenal creating lots of chances, but instead Liverpool giving them the few they did have.

If Liverpool are going to win the Premier League, and other trophies, this season then they must tighten up at the back. They conceded three against Leeds on the opening weekend and have now given Chelsea and Arsenal plenty of chances to score. Klopp worked so hard to eradicate the silly defensive mistakes which riddled his first few years as Liverpool boss but now they’re creeping back in.

Liverpool too much for Arsenal after early scare

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Liverpool – Arsenal: Sadio Mane, Andy Robertson, and Diogo Jota all scored as Liverpool quickly overcame an early error to beat Arsenal 3-1 at Anfield on Monday.

[ MORE: JPW’s 3 things | Player ratings ]

Alexandre Lacazette scored early off a Robertson error but Mane answered within two minutes and the reigning champions were up 2-1 by halftime.

Liverpool joins Everton and Leicester City as the lone 3-0 teams in the Premier League, with Aston Villa sitting at 2-0 after a Monday win and holding status as the Reds’ next PL opponent.

[ MORE: Klopp’s animated post-match reaction ]

Arsenal loses after winning its first two matches. The two sides meet again at the same venue in League Cup fourth round action on Thursday.

Arsenal’s next PL match is home to Sheffield United on Sunday.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  


Analysis, notes, and stats from Liverpool – Arsenal

1. Mixed results for Arsenal litmus test: A 34 percent possession number and 21-4 deficit in shot attempts show the Gunners have a long way to go to catch Liverpool despite the dreams inspired by the club’s Project Restart win at the Emirates Stadium. Jurgen Klopp’s Reds could’ve scored a bunch more than three and while Alisson did well to twice deny Lacazette after his opener, the chances mostly belonged to the champs.

2. Aubameyang’s off day: He wanted a card for a Fabinho drag down in the 69th minute, which was one of the few times he was in focus. With 20 minutes to play, Aubameyang had 23 total touches and had completed just 7-of-16 passes. Would he find a moment to make the difference? He managed one more touch before a stoppage time rush with the match out of hand.

3. Alexander-Arnold’s arrows: Liverpool’s assist man completed three key passes on an 88-touch day on the right side.

Man of the Match

Fabinho and Alisson get knowing nods for fine days and Alexander-Arnold was influential as usual, but Mohamed Salah’s incisive passing should’ve easily provided a goal for at least one of his teammates. Really good-looking stuff that will not find any highlight reels.


Liverpool – Arsenal recap

Sadio Mane saw an early yellow card for a forearm to the face of Kieran Tierney in a move that has sometimes seen the referee brandish a red.

Naby Keita slipped Andy Robertson into the box for an 11th-minute chance that was blocked for a corner by Rob Holding.

David Luiz cleared a Virgil van Dijk header off the line after Trent Alexander-Arnold spotted the center back at the back post.

Leno stopped a bullet Mane shot in the 16th as Liverpool asked all the questions. Alexander-Arnold had a shot deflect off the cross bar five minutes later.

Arsenal scored with its first chance of the game, French striker Lacazette crossing himself at his good fortune at both Andy Robertson whiffing a clearance onto his path but also a mishit ball finding its way past Alisson Becker. 1-0, 26′.

Liverpool made it 1-1 in the 28th, a deserved goal that came when Leno saved Mohamed Salah but Mane deposited the rebound.

Robertson made amends for his mistake when he found himself behind the Gunners’ back line to deposit a Hector Bellerin-altered Alexander-Arnold cross.

VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Alisson stopped Lacazette’s chip in the 59th, though the flag was up, as Arsenal had a rare chance. He was onside when Alisson stopped his similar effort in the 63rd.

Diogo Jota’s Liverpool debut could’ve easily included a goal or two off the bench but he sliced one shot wide of the far post and saw a near-post effort go off the outside of the side netting.

He got his goal in the 88th minute, a nice finish inside the near post of Leno.