Reds Triumph at the Emirates in a Nail-Biter
Many tipped this to be the best game of the opening round and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Despite a reasonably slow start with both teams trying to dust off the cobwebs of the summer, the tempo grew to such a degree that it became impossible to turn away.
Simon Mignolet – 6: The much maligned Belgian could hardly be blamed for conceding three goals, some poor defending gave him little chance of a clean sheet. Indecisiveness when coming out to defuse crosses, put his defenders under unnecessary pressure at times, but overall hardly put a foot wrong. His save from the penalty spot revived memories of his debut game against former team Sunderland in 2013.
Nathaniel Clyne – 6: A steady start to the season for the England national. A pin-point cross whipped into the path of Coutinho for Liverpool’s third goal was his high point. Looked uncharacteristically shaky after Alex Oxlade-Chamberlin was introduced, the Arsenal man bested him regularly leading to Arsenal’s second. Decent showing, but will want to improve at Burnley.
Dejan Lovren – 5: Disappointing start to the season for Lovren, could find himself replaced by Joel Matip unless he bounces back immediately. Some poor passing early on, coupled with a careless tackle prompting a yellow card saw the Croat under pressure early. Allowed Callum Chambers space to rise and score Arsenal’s third.
Ragnar Klaven – 8: Could hardly have had a better debut, encouraging start from the Estonian. Regularly found himself cleaning up at the back with some calm passes and effective clearances. Arsenal’s attempts at getting on the end of crosses were completely scuppered by Klaven’s dominance in the air. Even with Joel Matip and Mamadou Sakho’s imminent returns, surely repeat performances will ensure Klaven stays in the first team.
Alberto Moreno – 4: An unbelievably rash challenge in the box saw Moreno go over the ball and take out Theo Walcott for a penalty. Mignolet momentarily saved him from further embarrassment, but less than 90 seconds later Moreno lost his man again and Arsenal were up 1-0. To be fair Lallana should shoulder some of the blame for turning the ball over cheaply, but Moreno had his back to play and was beaten by his man regularly throughout the game from start to finish. Simply not good enough, James Milner may well start at Burnley next week, but a long-term solution is needed.
Jordan Henderson – 5: Not exactly a captain’s performance on a day where some strong leadership wouldn’t have gone astray. Seemed to drift in and out of the game, even during the moments that he was present his contributions were largely ineffectual. A nice switch-pass to Clyne and a good cross to Firmino were the highlights of his afternoon. Worked hard as usual, but needs to show more influence, in fairness defensive midfield is clearly not his best position.
Georginio Wijnaldum – 6: Much like his captain, the former Newcastle man found himself on the periphery at times. His impact was much greater when venturing forward, providing an excellent cross for Lallana’s goal. Had an opportunity to score one of his own in the second half, but side-footed a tame effort straight at Petr Cech. His hunt for an away goal in the Premier League continues and he will look to be more involved at Burnley next week.
Adam Lallana- 6: As stated above, Lallana was largely at fault for Arsenal’s first goal, carelessly losing the ball deep in our own half. He was able to atone for this though by scoring his first of the season to give Liverpool the lead. Was subbed off with 15 minutes remaining after running himself into the ground. Great to see Lallana’s goal tally starting already.
Sadio Mane – 8: Another excellent debut, this time from the Senegalese wide-man. Like most of the Liverpool players he struggled to impose himself onto the game in the first-half. Although once the midfield began utilising him in the the second, his pace and direct running caused panic in the inexperienced Arsenal defence. An incredible goal after a terrific run gives Liverpool fans reason to be optimistic, looking forward to seeing more of the same this season.
Philippe Coutinho – 8 (Man of the Match): Last year Coutinho produced a wonder-strike to defeat Stoke on the opening day, this year he’s done it again. One of the best free kicks you’re likely to see, Coutinho’s shot swung away from Cech and into the top corner, absolutely inch perfect. This, followed up by some nice touches in the build up to Lallana’s goal and a cool finish from Clyne’s cross summed up his afternoon. Klopp and the fans will be hoping that his injury was nothing more cramp and that he’ll be raring to go at Burnley.
Roberto Firmino – 5: Despite having a full preseason under his belt, the Brazilian looked off the pace and out of sync with his teammates. He failed to demonstrate the same pressing and desire that Mane and Lallana had. Despite some improvement in the second-half, it is still questionable if Firmino should be leading the line as he looked much more comfortable after the introduction of Origi. Could be dropped in favour of Origi or the returning Sturridge after a disappointing start to the campaign.
Emre Can, Divock Origi and Kevin Stewart – N/A: None were involved long enough to warrant a fair rating, however they all did their jobs well. Can was calm and calculated in defensive midfield, providing Liverpool with a much-needed physical presence in the middle of the park. Origi shifted the momentum back in Liverpool’s favour upon his introduction; releasing Firmino into more space and allowing Liverpool’s defence the option of pumping the ball upfield. Kevin Stewart was only on for a few minutes but got involved defensively and didn’t appear to be fazed by the hostile crowd.
Jurgen Klopp – 6: The toughest rating to give on this list, Klopp’s afternoon was filled with ups and downs. The starting XI failed to impose themselves in the first-half.Jordan Henderson playing a holding role with only Wijnaldum and Lallana to assist him seemed a strange decision. However whatever he said at half-time clearly fired up the Liverpool players as they came out looking completely revitalised. Arguably got too carried away after Mane’s goal, the wild celebrations could be seen as the reason for Liverpool switching off and allowing Oxlade-Chamberlin to score only seconds later. Has some important decisions to make before the Burnley game, and before the transfer window closes.
Same defensive issues?
Despite some wonderful moments going forward, Liverpool’s defence looked as shaky as ever, only Klaven instilled any form of confidence. Moreno, Clyne and Lovren could all be blamed individually for each goal respectively. Whilst there were other factors, the images below demonstrate how poor positioning contributed to the goals.
Klopp will have no doubt seen these simple mistakes as well, meaning some of the offending trio may well be replaced for the trip to Burnley. Matip could come in for Lovren and Milner for Moreno, Clyne is the only one currently without a senior replacement. If not, then some serious work is needed on the training ground, otherwise we can expect to see many more goals like these in the weeks to come.
Poetry in Motion
All four of Liverpool’s goals were brilliant, Coutinho’s incredible free-kick will steal the headlines, but Liverpool’s third was a passage of pure excellence. Roughly 40 passes were completed in the build up to the goal which was finished off by Coutinho; the fans duly showed their appreciation for such a fine team goal at this stage of the season.
Players on Debut
Sadio Mane lived up to the hype with a memorable debut goal and performance. For all Liverpool supporters it must have been very refreshing to see a winger in red with pace and utilising it with direct running. This caused major problems for Arsenal in the second-half and will cause many other teams similar problems throughout the season. Ragnar Klaven exceeded expectations, many fans predicted a solid debut from the experienced defender but few would’ve thought that he’d be by far Liverpool’s best defender on the day. Wijnaldum didn’t quite have the eye-catching debut his new teammates had, but it was a good showing nonetheless. Struggled with his defensive duties early on, but grew into the game, and provided an excellent assist for Liverpool’s second. Great signs for the Reds, good business thus far.
Still Finding our Style
Liverpool’s attack in the first-half was practically toothless, with no one really showing any sort of penetration or making any runs. Once we started using Coutinho in a number 10 role in the second-half, it opened up spaces down the flanks for the likes of Mane and Wijnaldum. Firmino as a ‘False-9’ didn’t seem to work at all, and until Origi’s introduction he really struggled to link up with his teammates. The midfield trio will also need more time to gel as Henderson is not a natural holding midfielder, whilst Lallana and particularly Wijnaldum are not utilised best in a supporting role; both need the freedom to roam forward to be effective. These issues will need to be addressed sooner rather than later because Liverpool have a very difficult run of fixtures, and the sooner everyone is working together and know what’s expected of them, the better.
Cieren O’Dea for Red Or Dead – Liverpool FC Football Blog – on 15/08/2016.