Going into the game at Anfield, Arsenal were on a pretty good run! 10 games unbeaten in all competitions and a pretty stellar defensive record that was also punctuated with wins over Tottenham Hotspur and Leicester City, Arsenal had plenty to be thankful for.
Anfield has never been a particularly happy hunting ground for Arsenal, especially since the appointment of Jürgen Klopp, so heading into Saturday evening’s fixture felt like the real test for a nevertheless impressive young Arsenal side.
Arsenal started well. In fact, they started very well. Liverpool were the better team throughout, but they kept hitting dead ends wherever Arsenal were concerned.
The defence seemed to be a tight cohesive unit and on the off-chance that Liverpool did get through, the always superb Aaron Ramsdale was there to keep them at bay.
Arsenal did have the ball in the net, but the flag was raised for an offside in the build-up.
The build-up was something of a controversial method on social media. Clearly, the idea was to draw Liverpool in as far as possible and, using the packing method, take as many players out of the game as possible, something Arsenal have done well under Mikel Arteta. These results were mixed, resulting in excellent passages of play being created, but no real chances.
Then, the fuse was lit.
After yet another mistimed tackle from Liverpool’s Senegalese winger Sadio Mané, Mikel Arteta began furiously remonstrating with the referee, which led Jürgen Klopp to spring into action and the two managers began a furious diatribe at each other. The ever-animated Klopp against the usually stoic Arteta resulted in a yellow card apiece and also revved up the Anfield crowd.
That proved to be the spark that Liverpool needed and they soon found themselves a goal to the good, when Trent Alexander-Arnold’s inch-perfect cross was headed in at the far post by Mané.
Half-time came and went and it was a totally different Arsenal.
Arsenal looked deflated by the first-half’s issues and they soon found themselves making silly mistakes.
Nuno Tavares, who has been excellent in recent weeks, expertly shifted around Mohamed Salah, before then deciding to play a back pass, which fell straight into the path of Diogo Jota, who rounded Ramsdale and slotted home Liverpool’s second.
Things didn’t improve from there. Sadio Mané skipped round the always backing off Ben White and crossed the ball for Salah at the back-post to make it three, before Alexander-Arnold’s cross went in four minutes later for substitute Takumi Minamino to round the scoring off.
Arsenal looked dejected at full-time, but the scoreline wasn’t a necessarily fair one.
You don’t tend to concede 4 goals and not deserve it, but Arsenal had not played badly enough to be on the end of a drubbing. Perhaps 2-0 was a fairer result, but when you lose concentration against a ruthless team like Liverpool, you’ll always struggle.
It was a notably poor performance from Nuno Tavares, who will likely have just handed Mikel Arteta and his team substantial proof why Kieran Tierney should be first-choice more often. Tavares’ backpass is obviously the result of youthful ignorance, rather than genuine sabotage, but the thought-process is one that Tierney doesn’t have and who would have likely row z’d the ball, rather than trying anything complicated.
Albert Sambi Lokonga seemed to struggle too. The Belgian midfielder has found it difficult to find his feet in recent weeks, but he was particularly poor at Anfield, which was exemplified by his withdrawal, just 8 minutes into the second-half, which will likely see Ainsley Maitland-Niles drop into midfield with Thomas Partey for the next game.
Arsenal can be unhappy with the manner of the defeat, but the end result isn’t one to argue with. Arsenal deserved to lose, just not so comprehensively.
All Arsenal can do now is pick themselves up and prepare themselves for the arrival of Eddie Howe’s Newcastle United on Saturday lunchtime.
32.) Aaron Ramsdale
18.) Takehiro Tomiyasu
4.) Ben White
6.) Gabriel Magalhães
20.) Nuno Tavares
5.) Thomas Partey (Elneny 84’)
23.) Albert Sambi Lokonga (Maitland-Niles 53’)
7.) Bukayo Saka
9.) Alexandre Lacazette (Ødegaard 67’)
10.) Emile Smith Rowe
14.) Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (c)
1.) Bernd Leno
16.) Rob Holding
17.) Cédric Soares
3.) Kieran Tierney
15.) Ainsley Maitland-Niles
25.) Mohamed Elneny
8.) Martin Ødegaard
19.) Nicolas Pépé
35.) Gabriel Martinelli
66.) Trent Alexander-Arnold
32.) Joël Matip
4.) Virgil van Dijk (c)
21.) Konstantinos Tsimikas
6.) Thiago Alcántara (Morton 84’)
15.) Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Henderson 76’)
11.) Mohamed Salah
10.) Sadio Mané
20.) Diogo Jota (Minamino 76’)
62.) Caoimhín Kelleher
84.) Conor Bradley
5.) Ibrahima Konaté
47.) Nathaniel Phillips
63.) Owen Beck
14.) Jordan Henderson
80.) Tyler Morton
18.) Takumi Minamino
49.) Kaide Gordon