Liverpool drew 1-1 with an impressive Arsenal side in a game that’s difficult to analyse. On one hand, Liverpool were unlucky not to have won 3-0 after Mane’s goal was incorrectly ruled out for offside, and VVD missed two big chances. On the other, Arsenal were dominant for long stretches of the match, and it’s arguable that Liverpool barely deserved a draw.
Klopp voiced his disappointment after the game regarding the offside decision but correctly pointed out his side’s own failings. Klopp said, “It’s a pity it didn’t count, but we made a few more mistakes than the ref to be honest. It was very intense, Arsenal are in a very good moment, I thought we made life a bit too easy for them.”
Liverpool didn’t come out of the blocks with their usual aggressiveness in the big games. Arsenal dominated the early periods, but it was Liverpool who had the two biggest chances of the half through Mane and VVD. Milner smashed home a rebound in the second half and the Reds looked like holding on, but a brilliant goal by Alexandre Lacazette rescued a point for the Gunners late in the game.Embed from Getty Images
Alisson – 6.5
This was probably the busiest Alisson’s been since he arrived, and for the most part, he handled the intensity of the match well. He made strong saves to deny the likes of Lacazette and Lucas Torreira, but could’ve done better on occasions such as misjudging a cross that Henrikh Mkhitaryan should’ve opened the scoring from.
Little to no blame can be put on the Brazilian for the late goal. The pass was expertly threaded through a tired defence, and Lacazette’s composure to scoop-turn away from Alisson and ability to find the far corner was superb. Alisson made the right choice by coming out, and a lesser striker would’ve had no chance of finishing from the angle that the goalkeeper left him.
Trent Alexander-Arnold – 3
This game was one of few, including Manchester United and Crystal Palace away last season, where Trent had a poor performance. He looked vulnerable all night and was constantly beaten by Arsenal’s attackers who took it in turns to have a crack at our right-hand side.
Sead Kolasinac, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and Mesut Ozil all found joy against TAA, but in fairness to the youngster, no one stepped in to give him a hand or even bother to track Ozil who drifted over to his side frequently. In reaction to the game and this performance, some fans have suggested this is a sign that Trent’s been found out at fullback and needs to move into midfield. This is a harsh assessment, and it won’t be long before Trent is back to his best.
Joe Gomez – 7
Gomez was simply incredible for most of the match. He made numerous blocks and interceptions to keep his side in the contest, and it’s undeniable that he’s playing like a centre-back with many years experience in the league. He uses his intelligence just as impressively as his strength and speed.
His positioning wasn’t the best when Alex Iwobi assisted Lacazette for the goal, as he left too big a gap for the ball to be played into. Lacazette did come from behind him though, and fatigue surely affected the situation as well.
Virgil van Dijk – (Man of the Match) 8
First and foremost, van Dijk defended brilliantly for the majority of the game and was responsible for rescuing Liverpool from themselves far too often. VVD had three big chances in the game, and the first was a case of ‘the wrong man, in the right place’, as the big Dutchman couldn’t sort his feet out to poke the ball past Bernd Leno. He was faultless for the second and third though, beating Leno to a header which agonisingly came back off the post, as well as forcing Leno to tip the ball over after another headed effort.
Like Gomez, van Dijk must shoulder some of the blame for the equaliser, but it can’t be stressed enough how impeccable the pass, run, turn, and finish were. VVD didn’t track Lacazette as he slipped behind Gomez, and he failed to alert his partner to the danger.
Andy Robertson – 8
While Trent struggled, Robbo thrived. The Scot benefited from the majority of traffic going down the opposite side and used this to his advantage by bombing forward whenever possible and linking up with Mane in a throwback to their excellent combination play of last season.
He could’ve had a goal for his efforts, but was unable to direct his powerful shot around Leno. Nevertheless, his runs and crosses were a constant thorn in the side of Arsenal’s defence and midfield who couldn’t pin him down.Embed from Getty Images
Fabinho – 3
Fabinho had a nightmare. Klopp and the fans were left furious as the Brazilian continually gave the ball away with sloppy passing and careless dribbling. Liverpool consistently put themselves under pressure by giving the ball away in midfield, and Fabinho was the worst offender.
He played much better in the last two games operating in Klopp’s 4-2-3-1 system, so perhaps some of the fans’ frustration should be tempered with an understanding that Fabinho needs more time to settle into the 4-3-3.
Gini Wijnaldum – 6.5
Gini was the only midfielder who didn’t give the ball away every other time he touched it, but he did little else to influence the result. His silky touches are a joy to watch, but they aren’t enough to win a midfield battle, and that was where the game was very nearly lost.
Crucially, Gini didn’t slide over to help Trent when it was clear that the youngster wasn’t coping well with Arsenal’s attack. In particular, Ozil was allowed free rein at times while Gini sat centrally, watching Trent struggle.
James Milner – 7
Milner had a poor start to the game and was uncharacteristically wasteful in possession at times. Like Gini, Milner either failed to recognise the fact that Arsenal were directing their attacks at Trent, or simply didn’t react to it.
He improved in the second half though, and his well-taken goal could’ve sealed all three points on another day. His work rate never slowed, even after he suffered a nasty head clash with Gomez.Embed from Getty Images
Mo Salah – 6.5
Salah is slowly continuing on his path back to top form, and had another promising display against Arsenal. He wasn’t at his absolute best, but his movement and passing were significantly better than earlier in the season.
His speed caused the Arsenal defence to panic on some occasions, and the Egyptian could’ve registered a winning assist, but twice his final pass to Mane just evaded the Senegalese flyer by mere inches.
Sadio Mane – 7
Mane did well to follow up on Firmino’s chip and stay onside in a tricky situation, although the officials disagreed with that last point. Mane didn’t get enough of the service that he needed, yet every time he did get the ball in space he looked Liverpool’s most dangerous asset.
His outstanding run and powerful cross forced Leno to palm the ball out of the path of Salah, before Milner belted the followup shot into the back of the net for what might’ve been a winning assist from Mane.
Bobby Firmino – 5.5
Bobby didn’t impact the game nearly as much as we’re used to seeing him do in big matches. His run and chip for Mane’s offside goal was classic Firmino brilliance, but aside from that, he barely got involved in the game.
His passes and touches weren’t nearly as potent as fans have come to expect from him, and Klopp rightly hooked him off for Shaqiri in the second half.Embed from Getty Images
Xherdan Shaqiri – (on for Firmino 77′) 5
Shaqiri didn’t do anything wrong when he came onto the pitch, but he didn’t quite have the impact that fans were expecting. Perhaps Klopp should’ve brought him on earlier to give him a better chance of influencing the game.
Joel Matip – (on for Salah 90′) N/A
No time to make an impact.
Simon Mignolet, Alberto Moreno, Adam Lallana, Daniel Sturridge, and Divock Origi.
Jurgen Klopp – 6
Many fans were hoping to see Klopp continue to use the 4-2-3-1 formation that had been working so well in previous weeks, but there was nothing wrong on paper with his choice to revert to a 4-3-3. Moreover, when it was clear that the original system wasn’t working, Klopp wasted little time switching back to his 4-2-3-1, and it had a positive impact on the game.
Likewise, his team selection can’t be faulted. Shaqiri was the only player who might’ve started instead of being relegated to the bench, but he would’ve replaced Milner who scored the goal to help us get the draw. Many fans have criticised Klopp’s perceived negativity as he brought Matip on for Salah with only seconds left on the clock, while Sturridge was left on the bench. Not bringing on Studge was strange given the impact he’s had to our season as a substitute, but Salah was out on his feet, so bringing on Matip to secure the result made sense.
Klopp’s fury was clear from the first few minutes at the casual passes that were gifting Arsenal possession. The decision making was generally sub-par, and that’s not something that the manager can be blamed for. His half time talk and adjustments did have an obvious effect and tilted the game slightly more in Liverpool’s favour in the second half.Embed from Getty Images
Klopp’s decision to abandon the previously successful 4-2-3-1 system in favour of his old 4-3-3 suggests that he believes the former still needs some work on the training ground before it’s ready to be used against the top sides.
Recent results and performances would suggest otherwise though. Utilising Gini and Fabinho in a double pivot has been a revelation for our midfield, and Shaqiri’s performances have generally warranted more starts. Using a 4-2-3-1 is ideal because it suits most of our players perfectly. For example, Trent can receive more cover from a four of five-man midfield, meaning the likes of Ozil and Aubmeyang can’t double team him.
It’s a mystery why Klopp isn’t as convinced as most fans about this subject, but the Arsenal game will have surely persuaded him that 4-2-3-1 is the way forward, at least for now.
How Bad Is The Result?
The performance was unacceptable in patches, but the result is what matters most. A lot of fans have reacted poorly to what they see as two vital points dropped. Their core sentiment is difficult to disagree with in the sense that it was an important game and one that both Manchester City and Chelsea managed to win. By extension, this result could be viewed as two points of lost ground to our rivals.
However, when the bigger picture is assessed, it’s not nearly as bad as some are making out. After 11 games, Liverpool are still undefeated and have amassed a whopping 27 out of a possible 33 points. Moreover, we’re the only team in the top six who have played four games against other top six sides. There are plenty more chances for our rivals to take points off of each other, but only a few for them to take points off of us. Beating Chelsea, City, and Arsenal would’ve been ideal, but at least we didn’t give any of them a win.
Even though many fans are stressing about the fact that City dominate smaller teams, Liverpool remain the only side in the league who haven’t dropped points to anyone outside of the top six. City drew with Wolves, Cheslea drew with West Ham, and the likes of Arsenal, Tottenham, and Manchester United have suffered more than a couple of bad results against lesser sides. We may only be top of the league for a few more hours, but we’re in a better position than many seem to suggest.
Different Challenge Ahead
Liverpool have emerged from perhaps our trickiest run of fixtures of the entire 2018/19 season unbeaten, and top of both our Champions League group, and the Premier League, at least until City play. Fans should be happy with that. Being clear top would’ve been amazing, but the lads have done a commendable job nonetheless.
Now that we’ve put ourselves in a competitive position, it’s time to capatilise on that by continuing to pick up wins against the smaller teams. Before we take on Manchester United in mid-December, Liverpool play Red Star, Fulham, Watford, PSG, Everton, Burnley, Bournemouth, and Napoli.
A win at Red Star could secure qualification for the knockout stages of the Champions League, and every one of those Premier League fixtures are winnable. In that same period, Chelsea play Tottenham and Manchester City, while City also have a game against Manchester United. If the players can make the most of it, this could be a period of real optimism for the club heading into the new year.
You’ll Never Walk Alone
Red Or Dead Liverpool FC Football Blog and Fields of Anfield Road – 04/11/2018