Goals from Sadio Mane, Andrew Robertson, and new signing Diogo Jota saw defending champions Liverpool make it three wins from three to start the new Premier League season as they defeated Arsenal 3-1 at Anfield.
After a slow start during which Liverpool dominated possession, it was in fact the visitors who took the lead completely against the run of play. Robertson horribly miscontrolled a hopeful cross into the box from Ainsley Maitland-Niles, teeing up Alexandre Lacazette to bundle a scuffed finish beyond Alisson in the Liverpool goal.
However, the Reds were back on level terms less than three minutes later through Mane, who tapped in the rebound after Bernd Leno could only parry a powerful strike from Mohamed Salah.
Six minutes later, the hosts turned the match on its head, with Robertson making amends for his earlier error by coming in at the back post to prod home Trent Alexander-Arnold’s cross.
Having been outplayed by Liverpool in the first half, Arsenal gave a better account of themselves in the second and should have regained parity near the hour mark, only to be denied by Alisson.
The Gunners were made to pay for their wasteful finishing late on as substitute Diogo Jota, making his first Premier League appearance for the Reds, scored his first goal for his new team to secure the three points and preserve their perfect record this season.
The win was made doubly sweet for the Reds as Jota’s strike also saw Liverpool leapfrog rivals Everton to go top of the league table on goals scored, while Arsenal suffered their first defeat of the season.
As the two sides prepare to face each other again in the Carabao Cup on Thursday, here are the 5 major talking points from their latest Premier League encounter.
#1 The spotlight shines on Liverpool’s shaky defence
A backline that was as secure in defence as it was potent in attack played a vital role in Liverpool’s title win last season, as they provided not just clean sheets but also goal contributions with some regularity.
However, some cracks had started to emerge in Liverpool’s defence towards the end of the season, and this was highlighted in their defeat at the Emirates in July. Back then, errors from the normally reliable Alisson and Virgil van Dijk gifted two goals to Arsenal - this time, it was the equally dependable Robertson whose horrible miscontrol allowed Lacazette to open the scoring.
With their forwards scoring goals for fun at the other end, the defence might not be that big a concern for Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp at this stage. However, having conceded three against Leeds in their Premier League opener, two against Lincoln City in the Carabao Cup, and another easily avoidable goal against Arsenal here, Liverpool’s formidable backline seems a little more susceptible to conceding goals than usual.
#2 The good & the bad side of Arsenal’s ‘build from the back’ philosophy
Mikel Arteta has rightfully earned praise for the well thought-out and equally well-implemented tactics he has employed in his short stint at Arsenal. One major change he has made since taking over has been reverting to a back three in order to shore up a defence that had looked extremely shaky before he got there.
With accomplished ball-players like David Luiz and Kieran Tierney in Arsenal’s first-choice three-man defence, the Gunners have taken to passing out from the back, putting together many an eye-catching passing move in their matches. This was the case here as well, and it was a series of precise passes that led to Lacazette’s opener.
However, the insistence on building from the back, which includes taking short goal kicks at every opportunity, also seemed to play into the hands of Liverpool’s high press. Much of the game was played out with all outfield players in Arsenal’s half, with Jurgen Klopp’s men forcing more than a few mistakes out of the Arsenal players and rarely affording them a moment’s peace.
Arteta seems to have settled upon building from the back as the preferred method of creation in his Arsenal side. But he would surely be seeking to achieve a profitable balance between building from the back and playing long balls from deep, especially against teams that press with as much urgency as Liverpool do.