Liverpool are now the only Premier League side to have a 100% record after Jurgen Klopp’s side brushed aside Arsenal 3-1 today at Anfield.
This was far from the usual capitulation we have come to expect from Arsenal sides away to other members of the top six, although once Joel Matip headed the home side in front just before half time the gulf in class between the two teams began to show.
Reds attacker Mohamed Salah’s well-taken brace not long into the second period essentially killed the game, before Gunners substitute Lucas Torreira scored a late consolation for the visitors.
Here are five things we learned from the game…
Top six now top two?
The big 6 in the Premier League has been established for some time now with the powerhouses dominating the domestic game. However, the gulf in class on show today between two sides that finished 27 points apart last season may suggest that the top two are running away from the other four.
With Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United all suffering defeats after just three games of the new campaign, the writing could already be on the wall for the chasing pack. The firepower on offer from the Gunners barely got a sniff of the Liverpool goal, despite some bright moments from Pepe, who had a golden opportunity with the score level at 0-0, but shot straight at the keeper when one on one with Adrian.
Manchester City and Liverpool pushed each other all the way in 2018/19, amassing monstrous point’s tallies in the league and collectively scooping all the major trophies in England and Europe.
Unai Emery was charged with returning Arsenal to the top of the footballing pyramid after their slide during the latter years of Arsene Wenger’s reign but the North London outfit face a battle, along with Chelsea, Spurs and United, against arguably the two best teams to ever compete in England.
David Luiz doesn’t learn
Arsenal are just as famous for their shaky defence these days as they are for their attacking prowess. The £8 million signing of former Chelsea centre- back David Luiz was designed to shore up the defence, and although the Brazilian can offer character and leadership to a backline that has so often lacked both of these things, today he proved that old habits die hard.
The former PSG man was often criticised when he first arrived in England for his tendency to make high profile errors and although he has worked hard to eradicate them from his game, he is still cable of a slip-up or two. The Champions League winner inexplicably pulled Mohamed Salah’s shirt inside the box after a lovely pass by Firmino.
Luiz effectively killed the game for Arsenal early in the second half as Salah tucked away the resulting spot-kick, expertly smashing the ball into the top corner giving Leno no chance. The experienced defender who was making his 250th appearance in English football looked anything but as he was also partly to blame for Liverpool’s third.
He committed himself, and Salah fooled the Arsenal man once again before going on a great solo run and finishing the chance with a magnificent curling effort. Luiz will have better days but if Arsenal are going to end their Champions League hiatus, the mistakes will have to stop.
Arsenal’s away day woes
Arsenal hadn’t won away from home against the big six for the last 22 games coming into this match, drawing eight and losing the other 14. That run has now been extended, resulting in the Gunners picking up a miserly 8 points from a possible 69.
To be considered the best you have to beat the best and Emery’s side are failing to do that away from home at the moment. Arsenal managed to make the Emirates stadium a fortress last campaign, before dropping points there late on in the season, including a sloppy 3-2 defeat to Crystal Palace which saw them miss out on a place in the top four.
They are going to have to perform well at home again this season, as they seem incapable of doing it anywhere else. Compare that record to Liverpool who only lost once away to the big six last season – 2-1 at the Etihad – and there is clearly work to be done for the Spanish boss and his staff.
This fixture has produced the most amount of goals in Premier League history. Coupled with the fact that the three golden boot winners from last season, Salah, Mane and Aubameyang were all starting the game, there was always going to be goals. It was Salah, Liverpool’s Egyptian king, who stole the show though with two great goals and an impressive all-round performance.
Much of the pre-match tale surrounded Liverpool’s famed front three versus Arsenal’s new-look attack with the addition of Pepe to Lacazette and Aubameyang. It is a frightful combination that Emery has at his disposal but one he chose not to use until the 80th minute. It was former Lyon striker, Lacazette that missed out as Arsenal set up with a diamond in midfield, designed to cut off the supply line through the middle to Firmino and co.
There were moments in the match when record Arsenal signing Pepe had the Anfield crowd worried as his fast feet and turn of pace had Van Dijk and Robertson on the back-foot, but he couldn’t find an all-important finish. Liverpool’s key man had no such trouble and the Merseyside team are now unbeaten in their last 42 home Premier League games, winning 16 of their last 17 matches and averaging around three goals a game in the process.
Arsenal show new character
Despite the loss many Gooners will be travelling back to the capital with an air of optimism. Arsenal have lost 5-1 and 4-0 on their last two trips to Anfield so 3-1 in comparison is certainly a step in the right direction. However, it is not the scoreline which is the most important thing here; it is the manner of the defeat, the performance that accompanied it and the character that was present throughout the 90 minutes that really matters.
Many Arsenal sides in the past have looked extremely open and void of a competitive game-plan in the big fixtures. This was not the case today as Emery’s Gunners had a clear strategy to try and stop the Liverpool juggernaut and showed their resilience, character, and determination by finishing the match strongly and grabbing a late consolation.
Even though they weren’t successful in getting anything out of the game, they only conceded to a penalty, corner, and a great solo goal.
In the past, opposing teams were slicing Arsenal open at will and taking full advantage from their lax defending and tactics. The grit and steal that was for so long synonymous with Arsenal teams via the likes of Keown, Vieira, and Adams seems to have been reinstated, not by the physical nature and presence of the aforementioned players, but by a never say die attitude and determination to fight for the fans, manager, and club that now seems to have been instilled in Emery’s players.