LONDON — Liverpool beat Arsenal 4-3 at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday as Jurgen Klopp‘s side rode a second half glut of goals to down the Gunners in a classic Premier League encounter.
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Theo Walcott put Arsenal ahead but Liverpool raced into a 4-1 lead with two goals from Philippe Coutinho and a goal each from Adam Lallana and Sadio Mane putting them out of reach. So we thought. A goal from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Calum Chambers brought it back to 4-3 but Arsenal couldn’t find an equalizer.
Here’s what we learned from a gripping, mesmeric game in the opening weekend of the season.
KLOPP’S OFFENSIVE MACHINE PURRING
As Lallana wheeled away in delight after putting Liverpool ahead, Jurgen Klopp hung in the air for probably a millisecond but it felt like a minute. As he sprung out of his technical area in delight, he lost his glasses as he punched the air with a leaping, forward lunge. The sense of satisfaction must have been sublime for the German coach, especially when summer signing Mane cut inside and rifled a beauty into the top corner to make it 4-1. Mane’s piggy-back ride on Klopp’s back underlined their togetherness.
Over the summer Klopp has masterminded a huge overhaul, selling 11 players and bringing in six. There are plans to add more but for now this pacey Liverpool is humming along nicely. Going forward they didn’t miss the injured Daniel Sturridge much with Lallana, Roberto Firmino, Coutinho and Mane ripping Arsenal apart.
At the back Klopp has plenty of work to do but this is the way his Liverpool team will be. Last season we saw it with a 5-4 win at Norwich and countless high-scoring defeats. This rebuild is taking time and who knows how much of a success it will be, but one thing we can guarantee is that Liverpool will be fun to watch this season.
DEFENSIVE CONCERNS CONTINUE IN CLASSIC
Sometimes you can put 4-3 games like this down to it just being “one of those days” where the passion overtakes players and goals pour in.
This wasn’t one of those days. Ahead of the season, when you look at both of these teams you put an asterisk against their name when it came to predicting title winners for one reason and one reason only: is their defense good enough?
On Sunday, they weren’t. Going into this game all the talk was about Arsenal’s two young center backs and if they could cope with Liverpool’s pacey playmakers. They couldn’t.
Rob Holding — making his PL debut at 20 — fared better than Callum Chambers. The latter gave the ball to Arsenal’s midfielders in dangerous positions and proved he isn’t ready to be called upon on a weekly basis. Laurent Koscielny will be rushed back after his extended break this summer and boy do Arsenal need him. With Per Mertesacker and Gabriel out injured, Wenger’s failure to buy a new center back this summer is looking even more glaring than usual. Arsenal have needed a new central defender for quite some time and perhaps this inept defensive display will force the board into action to spend big before the summer transfer window is over.
As for Liverpool, despite his penalty save goalkeeper Simon Mignolet doesn’t inspire confidence and the left back situation remains a huge headache for Klopp.
In the first half Alberto Moreno had a two-minute spell which could finally spell the end of his Liverpool career. The Spanish left back first had a rush of blood to the head as he lunged in and took Walcott down in the penalty box ot give away a PK. Walcott missed it but 69 seconds later Moreno then left a huge gap for Walcott to control the ball and smash home to put Arsenal 1-0 up. In the end his calamitous few minutes didn’t matter as Liverpool surged ahead but if Klopp has aspirations to at least make the top four, he, like Wenger, must strengthen his defense before the end of the transfer window.
WENGER’S FUTURE INCREASINGLY UNCERTAIN
On the first day of his 21st consecutive season in charge of Arsenal, Arsene Wenger has one year left on his contract. He may not last any longer than that. One of the greatest managers of any generation still has the support of most Arsenal fans but with a third home defeat on the opening day in the past four seasons, this campaign is not starting off on the right foot for the Gunners once again.
Alexis Sanchez played as Arsenal’s lone center forward and their forward issues are clear for everyone to see. With Olivier Giroud still not fully fit after an extended break this summer due to his involvement at EURO 2016, plus Danny Welbeck out injured, Wenger’s lack of options centrally were clear for all to see. The fact that he hasn’t be able to sign a new striker — as well as a center back — this summer is worrying.
Why has Arsenal’s board not sanctioned a move for Alexandre Lacazette? He’s a proven penalty box predator who would be perfect in the PL but the Gunners don’t want to pay over $50 million for him. With Mesut Ozil to return, Arsenal will create plenty of chances as they proved once again on Sunday, scoring three times at home in defeat. Of course there are concerns defensively too, but should we read into Wenger not being handed money to spend?
After all, Ivan Gazidis, Arsenal’s chief executive, said this summer that Arsenal would not try to outspend their rivals. On this showing you can see Wenger’s men are falling further behind the pack of clubs clambering to try and win the PL. Even though they finished second last season, it was a disappointment with so many perennial giants in transition. If they fall any further behind this season, it will be the end for Wenger.