I’ll start with this: sitting down to watch this game, I fully expected a drubbing from the Gunners. My anticipated outcome was 4-0 to them, and so in a way, I was pleasantly surprised by the final scoreline, even though it’s still a loss. We may not like it, but Arsenal is definitely worth their place at the top of the league thus far, and I for one am glad that at least someone, anyone, is giving City a run for their money.
With that said, let’s turn to the game itself.
Many fans will blame Trent again, but the problem is much larger than him at this point. The entire team is lacking confidence, and it shows. This version of Liverpool thrives on winning the 50-50 challenges more often than not, and is fully dependent on that as part of the famous press. The problem is that when the players are even the slightest bit hesitant, afraid of what might happen should they fail, the equation no longer works. They leave gaps, too, and it leads to dangerous transition counters with a high chance of success. For a variation on the theme, take that silly goal right before half time; a confident player takes a yellow for the team to stop that attack, whereas a hesitant one just misses the challenge altogether. In this case, there were two who that opportunity; Trent and (I think) Henderson.
Yes, Joe Gomez did well on the right after he got in, and perhaps it is best to let Trent rest for a bit and clear his head; that’s why Klopp gets paid as much as he does and I’m just here prattling on. But where, for example, was Salah? What happened to Jota, who I believe has net zero goal contributions this season so far? Why does Thiago suddenly lose so many balls in transition? Where is Hendo on the cover? And what, in the name of the football gods, is going on with Van Dijk?
At least Nunez got a goal, and a clever one at that. We can only hope that it unlocks him for the Reds, although until the language barrier is resolved, it’s going to be hard for him to fully mesh. Bobby is having a scorcher of an opening to the season, pretty much replacing all of Salah’s expected contributions; his goal was very well taken, and he seems to be enjoying himself. Still, Bobby really needs the support for that high press to work so he can pickpocket the opposition up top, and right now he looks mighty lonely. As a result, Liverpool is far from being the league leader in top-third ball retrievals, and in my uneducated opinion, if you want the biggest reason for why the team gets hit time and again on those counters, it is this one.
Maybe one positive thing is that in this game, the 50-50 refereeing decisions went to the home side every single time. It sure looked a handball in the first half and the Reds should have been given a penalty. It sure didn’t look like anything actually happened to justify the penalty call at the other end, but it was awarded anyway. There were a few others, and ultimately, when you don’t play well and all the decisions go against you playing a surging quality team like Arsenal on their turf, losing 3-2 is not that bad.
Oh, and Martinelli was the man-of-the-match. Duh.
Shifting my expectation of a 4-0 drubbing to next weekend. But who knows? At some point things have to click again. It would be rather lovely for it to happen then.