Game of the Week
Arsenal 3–4 Liverpool; Emirates Stadium, August 14th 2016.
Arsenal v. Liverpool is a game which over the course of Premier League history is known for its ability to surprise and shock. Whether we’re talking about Arshavin’s 4 goal haul in 2009, to prevent Liverpool from challenging for the title, or the dramatic 1–1 draw in 2011 where Robin van Persie and Dirk Kuyt knicked a late penalty each to share the spoils. This game almost always lives up to the billing.
This weekend was no different. Arsenal headed into the fixture with serious fitness and injury concerns. Arsene Wenger was well aware that Mesut Ozil, Olivier Giroud and Laurent Koscielny would all have to watch from the stands. Whilst, Jurgen Klopp’s team were almost at full strength, with only Daniel Sturridge unfit (surprise, surprise). A lack of transfer activity meant that Wenger had to field a young CB partnership of Calum Chambers and new signing, Rob Holding. There was already a feeling amongst Arsenal fans that this would be a long afternoon. Liverpool, on the other hand, fielded a strong team; Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Philippe Coutinho all started in attack for the away side.
Yet, it was Arsenal who started the brighter. Alberto Moreno, not for the first time, found himself chasing shadows and brought down Theo Walcott for an Arsenal penalty, only for Simon Mignolet to bail the Spaniard out of trouble by saving a tame effort from the English forward. Walcott made amends only a few minutes later, when he drilled a brilliant finish past the Liverpool goalkeeper, after yet another Moreno mistake following the LBs poor positioning. Arsenal continued to look dangerous for the rest of the first half, before Coutinho produced a moment of magic by firing an audacious free kick beyond Petr Cech just before half time. What followed in the second half was absolutely sensational. Arsenal capitulated for the opening 20 minutes, falling 4–1 down as Lallana, Coutinho and Mane all added Liverpool goals. Mane’s effort, in particular, was a brilliant piece of individual skill, as the £37m man beat several Arsenal defenders before riffling into the far top left corner. Arsenal were shocked and the fans began to turn. Yet, Alex Oxlade Chamberlain’s quick response and Chambers late header allowed for a tense finale to a game which really marked the return of the Premier League. Klopp’s men managed to see it out and earn the crucial three points, but it was an edgy affair in the closing minutes.
What does this all mean? For Arsenal, its a 3rd opening day defeat in the last four seasons. In a year where the race for the top 4 might be at its most competitive, there’s a feeling that this defeat might have resounding implications. There were few positives for the Gunners as Aaron Ramsey and Alex Iwobi both succumbed to injuries during the 90. The team were booed off as the fans desperation for new signings became more and more vocal. Wenger appears reluctant to comply though, as reports of a breakdown in talks for Valencia CB Mustafi emerge from Spain. Further, a lack of follow up bid for Lyon striker Lacazette has many Gunners supporters worrying. Wenger might need to change his traditional approach to the transfer market and accept that times are truly a changing, and spend on some quality additions to the Arsenal team, or he faces losing ground.
Liverpool, on the other hand, will be absolutely delighted with their opening day performance. Certainly, the Liverpool attack was sensational, with stellar performances from Coutinho and Mane, in particular. Debutants, Mane and Wijnaldum, were terrific on the day. At the back, Liverpool fans might have cause for concern, certainly with Moreno who looked at sea for large parts of the game. Perhaps further strengthening at LB, followed by a bettering in understanding between Lovren and new boy Klaven at CB might improve their defence. All in all though, a very good day for the red half of Merseyside. Can Jurgen Klopp lead Liverpool to the Champions League? It’s difficult to say, but with no midweek European football to distract them, theres no reason why they can’t.
As for us, this is the first of a weekly series of Game of the Week blog posts; where we’ll be analysing the major talking points from a selected match. Also, we’d like to remind you that our furry friend, Cosmo the dog, called this game a while back… (Check our Twitter page). Keep your eye on our page for more updates!
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