Arsenal

Who shined and who stunk in Liverpool’s win over Arsenal

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Arsenal was soundly beaten at Anfield by the defending Champions League winners in a contest that proved the massive gulf between the two sides.

[ MORE: Match recap | 3 things ]

Liverpool is clearly one of the best teams in the world, while Arsenal still has a long way to go to be a viable contender a top four spot in the Premier League table. The Gunners invested heavily this summer hoping to make a push back into the Champions League, but they did little to address the defensive frailties and it showed.

Here’s a brief overview of who stood out on both ends of the spectrum as Liverpool stays top of the table and Arsenal heads home licking its wounds.

STUDS:

  1. Liverpool’s left flankAndy Robertson and Sadio Mane bossed the game, of that there is little question. Through the first half, the left side of Liverpool’s formation had pressed Arsenal into oblivion. By halftime, Andy Robertson to Sadio Mane was the most prolific pass combination with 17, level with Giorginio Wijnaldum to Robertson. Mane, Robertson, and Wijnaldum combined for eight successful tackles, seven of which were in the attacking half. Mane himself was 5/5 tackling in the first half, a stunning total that kept Arsenal pinned deep in its own half by forcing repeated turnovers.
  2. Roberto Firmino – The Brazilian’s creativity and inventive nature never ceases to impress. He was at it again against Arsenal, producing space and presenting options for teammates with his top-notch off-ball movement, and every time the ball touched his feet he produced something mouth-watering. His lay-off to Mohamed Salah led to the second-half penalty, and was 16/23 passing in the attacking third overall. His ingenuity is what sets Liverpool’s attack apart from the pack.
  3. Mohamed Salah – While the left side of Liverpool’s formation ran the first half, Salah was the star of the second 45. He earned and scored the penalty soon after the break, and scored a stunning solo goal to put the game away.

DUDS:

  1. Unai Emery – A worse performance than anyone on the field, the Arsenal manager has had a mare. By playing no wingers and having all his attackers pinch, he allowed Liverpool to play outside in and deploy essentially a five-man front line with acres of space on the flanks, pinning his full-backs to the end line. Emery never changed shape once throughout the match, instead just stretching out his defensive line to deal with the Liverpool runners out wide and leaving huge patches of empty space across the back. Bafflingly, with a 3-0 deficit and a half-hour to go, he left Alexandre Lacazette on the bench and instead brought on defensive midfielder Lucas Torreira, and didn’t even bother to change the shape, instead simply shifting the midfield diamond around. Granit Xhaka, the defensive midfielder, was all over the pitch as Arsenal was stretched thin by Liverpool’s marauding width. The Gunners only erased the clean sheet when Liverpool sat back and allowed them to come forward, no consolation for the beatdown they suffered. To make matters worse, Henrikh Mkhitaryan was bright after coming on, making Emery look worse for leaving another potentially game-changing player on the bench so long. The Gunners’ will want to take a long look at himself after this match, because this is the kind of performance that gets a manager fired.
  2. David Luiz – The former Chelsea man was downright awful. The penalty early in the second half was blatant, and he failed to even contest Salah on the wing for Liverpool’s third. He wasn’t helped by Emery’s miserable tactical setup, but Luiz’s arrival has done little to alleviate Arsenal’s obvious defensive deficiencies.
  3. Nicolas Pepe – The Frenchman earned his first Premier League start, and he struggled with confidence early on. Pepe fired a long-range effort just wide of the top-left corner on the half-hour mark that seemed to show promise, but he whiffed on a huge opportunity on the counter 34 minutes in with the game still 0-0, putting his one-on-one shot right at Adrian, a moment of serious regret for the Gunners in a game that eventually got away from them. He waited too long to send Aubameyang through on goal early in the second half and was lucky not to have it given offside. Pepe was good in bunches, completing 7 of 10 attempted take-ons which will give Gunners fans hope moving forward, but that miss was a significant moment in the match.
  4. Trent Alexander-Arnold – With Liverpool looking to cross Arsenal to death, Andy Robertson vastly outplayed his counterpart TAA on the opposite flank. Alexander-Arnold’s deliveries into the box were toothless, failing to find an attacker with balls that floated and sailed, and ruining a chance just before the opener with a bad cutback. The 20-year-old is a fantastic player – case in point, we’re criticizing his deliveries in a game where he got an assist off a corner. In fact, that assist was his only connected cross of a whopping nine attempted in the first half. We know he can do even better, and he will going forward, of that there is no doubt.

Liverpool bests wobbly Arsenal at Anfield

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Liverpool cooked poor, wasteful Arsenal to record the best result of their early season with a 3-1 win over the Gunners at Anfield on Saturday.

[ MORE: Three things | Stars and duds ]

Mohamed Salah scored twice after Joel Matip broke Liverpool onto the score sheet, as the Reds will be the lone 3-0 team after three weeks of the young season. They were denied a clean sheet by Lucas Torreira‘s 84th minute goal.

Liverpool is off to Burnley next week, while Arsenal hosts Tottenham in the North London Derby.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ] 


Three key figures

  1. Alexander-Arnold will burn you — If teams like Arsenal are going to let Liverpool produce cross after cross to elite crosses like Trent Alexander-Arnold, well, they are going to get burnt. Never mind for a second that Alexander-Arnold’s assist came from a corner, the young English defender was given a limitless budget for his invitations by Arsenal. If you disagree with this, well, so does one of my co-workers.
  2. Salah still the one — The Egyptian wizard scored twice and was a menace all day. Make no mistake about it: However highly you rate Roberto Firmino or Sadio Mane, this is the fella who makes Liverpool a threat to win any competition on Earth.
  3. Emery gets it wrong — We get that the idea of matching attack with Liverpool is daunting, but it could hardly have gone any worse had Unai Emery opted to start Alexandre Lacazette in addition to Nicolas Pepe and Pierre-Emerick Aubemayang. The way Arsenal allowed Liverpool to send in cross after cross after cross in the early stages, they wouldn’t have lost much by having a third forward. It’s no surprise that one of his subs, Torreira, got on the score sheet.

Man of the Match: Salah.


A lapse in communication between Virgil Van Dijk and Adrian allowed Arsenal a chance to make it 1-0 in the 11th minute. Fortunately for the Reds, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang couldn’t loft the ball into the back of the goal from distance after failing to spot Nicolas Pepe in the 18.

At the other end, a horrible Dani Ceballos clearing attempt set up Liverpool in the 21st but Sadio Mane could only sting a shot that Bernd Leno did well to save.

Jordan Henderson made a terrible error in possession, allowing Pepe to race toward Adrian. The Spaniard bailed out his captain to keep it 0-0 in the 35th.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Matip thumped his header past Leno off an Alexander-Arnold corner kick before halftime.

The next scoring chance will come off a dead ball chance, as David Luiz pulled on Mohamed Salah’s shirt in the box. Salah finished emphatically.

Matip also saved Liverpool in his more traditional office, racing to stop Aubameyang on a breakaway when the Gabon striker took an extra touch.

Salah then skipped past a puzzled David Luiz and dribbled 40 yards too cook Nacho Monreal and Leno.

Aubameyang helped cue up Torreira for a well-taken concession goal with five minutes to play.

Three things learned: Liverpool v. Arsenal

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The CliffsNotes of Liverpool’s 3-1 defeat of Arsenal says one team was much better than the other, who didn’t choose its lineup well and couldn’t take advantage of a defense that doesn’t look ready to match wits with the best in the world.

[ MORE: Match recap | Stars and duds ]

Mohamed Salah was amazing, Unai Emery was uninspiring, and Arsenal’s attack joined Norwich City and Southampton in howling, “What if?” in a fun match that never really threatened to go in any direction other than that of the reigning European champions.

Take your few chances versus Liverpool, or die

Over the last two months, Liverpool may have allowed more dynamite scoring chances than they did over the second half of the 2018-19 season.

If you don’t cash in those chips against them, you might as well call it a day.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang couldn’t convert a difficult angle into the goal after Adrian made a massive first half gaffe, and Nicolas Pepe missed a chance to put the Gunners on the board when Adrian saved his low effort off a Jordan Henderson giveaway

Aubameyang took too long to shoot when another giveaway put him through on goal, and Matip caught up to the Gabon star. Still, a prime chance.

We’ve seen time and again this early season that Liverpool opens up at the back, but Arsenal’s stars did like Danny Ings in Week Two and pretty much all of Norwich City’s attack on Opening Day, and got the same result as their PL peers.

Now, perhaps if Unai Emery had started Alexandre Lacazette, too, well… let’s just say Jurgen Klopp was pretty thankful to not have that problem.

That said, Liverpool still foiled in bid for long-sought clean sheet

Preseason is preseason, but the Reds usually imperious defense had dragged its sloppy form from summer into the Premier League.

Liverpool kept a clean sheet in its preseason opener against Tranmere Rovers, and went on to concede 12 in the next six friendlies. Norwich City and Southampton both managed a goal in the Reds’ first two PL outings, but there were plenty of misses (See Danny Ings’ attempted flick equalizer in Week Two).

Throw in 1-1 and 2-2 score lines in the Community Shield and UEFA Super Cup matches, and Liverpool hadn’t kept a clean sheet in 10 outings.

Now we’ve documented how this was still not a luxurious example of the Reds’ defending prowess but, given Arsenal’s attack, a clean sheet would have still loomed larger than any of their other performances this season. Instead, Torreira’s goal a mild red flag as Liverpool’s failure to hang a ‘0’ on the board for the 11th-straight occasion.

Instead, the questions rightly remain. What will happen when the attack isn’t so prolific?

Mo’ Mo, please

When you’ve got a magnificent team like Liverpool, there’s a temptation to magnify ancillary pieces or second stars over the best attacker on the team.

Please don’t make that mistake, Reds fans.

Mohamed Salah is one of the best players in the world, and he’s a touch above any one on the attacking unit in terms of importance. Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane are splendid players who would be the best on any number of teams, but Salah they are not.

He’s stronger than he looks, and will plant his legs into the pitch to hold position. He’s legs whir like the roadrunner, and he’s so clever both will and without the ball. To boot, Salah hasn’t yet had to embellish to win a penalty yet this season, literally the only knock against him (and also an asset for his team, whether you like it or not).

Now whether Salah or Virgil Van Dijk is more important to the team, well, that’s a great debate for your next time watching with friends.

Premier League Preview: Liverpool v. Arsenal

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  • Top of the table: 1st-place Reds host 2nd-place Gunners
  • Liverpool won 5-1 at Anfield last season
  • Both sides nearing full fitness but a few injuries linger

Thanks to one half of north London, Liverpool enter Matchweek 3 atop the Premier League table. To maintain their two-point lead on two-time defending champions Manchester City, they must knock off the other half of north London, Arsenal, who also double as the PL’s second-place side 180 minutes into the campaign, at Anfield on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

When the margins between champions and runners-up are as fine as one point, every clash with a fellow top-six side could ultimately prove to be the difference maker in the title race. Yes, even in the third week of the season.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live

Neither side was overwhelmingly dominant in picking up a 2-1 victory last weekend — Liverpool away to Southampton; Arsenal at home to Burnley — though the Reds were coming off a midweek trip to Istanbul for the UEFA Super Cup and the Gunners are still in the process of working club-record signing Nicolas Pepe into the team as well as bringing Mesut Ozil and Sead Kolasinac back into the fold.

Dani Ceballos, on the other hand, has hit the ground running and appears set to become a hugely influential figure for Arsenal, even if he only spends one season at the club before returning to Real Madrid. The Spanish midfielder made his first start in the win over Burnley and provided assists on both goals, scored by Alexander Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Injuries/suspensions

Liverpool: OUT – Alisson (calf), Nathaniel Clyne (knee); QUESTIONABLE – Naby Keita (hip)

Arsenal: OUT – Kieran Tierney (groin), Hector Bellerin (knee), Rob Holdin (fitness); QUESTIONABLE – Mesut Ozil (fitness), Grant Xhaka (back)


Projected lineups

Liverpool: Adrian – Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson – Henderson, Fabinho, Wijnaldum – Salah, Firmino, Mane

Arsenal: Leno – Maitland-Niles, Sokratis, Luiz, Kolasinac – Torreira, Guendouzi, Ceballos – Aubameyang, Lacazette, Pepe


What they’re saying

Jurgen Klopp, on the early-season challenge of facing Arsenal: “We have to be brave, have to play your own football, you have to try to keep possession, you have to be direct. There are a lot of things to do and consider, against a very strong opponent. That’s why I’m really looking forward to it. It’s the early part of the season but these games will come up anyway. Now it’s pretty early and we have to show we are ready again.”

Unai Emery, on testing his side against Liverpool: “We really are in a very good position, but we only played two matches in the Premier League. We know it’s only the beginning but we can be positive and optimistic for that match and wishing to show our moment against them, but knowing that it is going to be difficult but it is a very big challenge and a very big opportunity for us to do something.”


Prediction

While Arsenal spent big in the summer, they didn’t actually address their team’s biggest area of need: the defense. Thus far, it hasn’t mattered, against Newcastle United and Burnley. Liverpool are, shall we say, slightly more prolific going forward and will cause the Gunners considerably greater problems — particularly Salah anytime he gets isolated one-on-one with Ainsley Maitland-Niles. A 2-0 victory for Liverpool which is far more comfortable than the final score would suggest.

Arsenal: Mustafi, Elneny can leave

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Arsenal could see more first team veterans leave the club, after Unai Emery has allowed Shkodran Mustafi and Mohamed Elneny the chance to leave before the European transfer deadline closes.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Mustafi started 38 times in all competitions for the Gunners last season, but he’s remembered for many miscues and blunders that cost the Gunners points, even if he did help take Arsenal to the Europa League final. Elneny meanwhile played in just 17 games last season. Both players are not in Emery’s plans.

“They are very big players but for one circumstance or another they are going to have fewer chances to show their capacity or to be happy with us and the minutes they play in matches,” Emery told reporters in London, via the Guardian. “But they know the situation and really I am wishing the best for them. I think now the best for them is to be protagonists in another team and to get another challenge for themselves.”

It’s a huge fall from grace for Mustafi, who just a few years ago was a major signing for the Gunners and was coming off playing three times on Germany’s way to winning the 2014 World Cup. However, that was then, and Mustafi’s form has dropped off enough that he hasn’t been called up by Joachim Low since 2017. It’s hard to realize that Mustafi is only 27, but it appears that he either peaked much earlier, or injuries have kept him from realizing his past form.

Elneny meanwhile came in 2016 as a mid-season, January signing for Arsene Wenger. However, he was always used as a depth piece, and never truly blossomed to become a main player.

For some coaches knowing they’ll be playing a taxing schedule in four competitions, they might have done whatever it took to keep players like Mustafi and Elneny, both comfortable at Arsenal, for at least depth and help in the cup competitions. But to Emery’s credit, his honesty to the players will surely be appreciated, and allow them to look elsewhere for more playing time.

Ultimately, Elneny and Mustafi will play at Arsenal if they don’t leave, but it just won’t be in as many games as they hope, unless there’s some sort of crazy injury crisis.