Arsenal 3: Walcott 31', Oxlade-Chamberlain 64', Calum Chambers 75'
Liverpool 4: Coutinho 45+1', 56', Lallana 49', Mané 63'
Has your heart stopped racing yet?
The first game of the season always brings with it plenty of added nerves as every fan hopes that their team starts off in the right direction. The last two season-openers saw Liverpool barely squeak by with 1-0 victories, but welcome to the Klopp-era, because this game was a whole different animal.
After a tense but error-stricken first half, Liverpool were lucky to go into half time on level with Arsenal. It might be first game bumps, it might be the lack of Emre Can in the starting XI, but Liverpool's midfield was a mess for the first 45 minutes. They could barely string two passes together, and each of Henderson, Wijnaldum, and Lallana seemed to be on a totally different page from each other.
It seemed, at first, that Liverpool might get away with their missteps, thanks to Arsenal's similarly early performance, but then in the 28th minute, Alberto Moreno conceded a clear cut penalty on Theo Walcott. Things looked bleak until Simon Mignolet performed a fine save of Walcott's spot kick. Liverpool barely had time to celebrate, however, and I had only made it half-way through a Tweet comparing that moment to Mignolet's big penalty save against Stoke in the first game of the 2013-2014 season, when Walcott redeemed himself, slotting the ball into the back of the net a mere 69 seconds after the penalty had been saved. The goal came after Adam Lallana, another player who did not look up for it in the first half, lost possession to Coquelin, who quickly passed it to Walcott in acres of free space where Alberto Moreno should have been.
Not great work, but Liverpool didn't let their heads drop. They attempted to equalize quickly, but Roberto Firmino's attempt went well wide of Cech's goal.
It was Coutinho, as it often is, who wrested back control of the game at the very end of the first half. He won a foul off of Rob Holding, and made no mistake with an unstoppable free kick into the top right corner. It was the perfect way to end the first half.
Then the second half happened. We can only guess what Jürgen Klopp said to the team at half time, but they came out firing on all cylinders. They scored three goals in less than fifteen minutes, each more stunning than the last. Lallana, the man responsible for Arsenal's first, changed his narrative for this game when he collected Wijnaldum's cross, got past Monreal, and beat Cech to put Liverpool up 2-1.
Philippe Coutinho completed his brace and a commanding performance by timing a perfect run, receiving Clyne's pass, and slotting home Liverpool's third goal, the culmination of a magnificent, 19-pass move that involved nearly every Liverpool player on the pitch. More of that, please, forever.
And now might be a good time to mention Sadio Mané. He impressed during pre-season, and any concerns that those performances were a fluke were firmly put to bed today. His blistering pace and eye for a pass created space and opportunities for his teammates the whole game. This was most evident in the 63rd minute when he turned defenders Calum Chambers and Nacho Monreal inside out before ripping one past Cech in the center of the goal. Sadio Mané is the light and the way, y'all.
But because this is Liverpool, things couldn't stay easy for long. Within moments of Mané's decisive goal, substitute Oxlade-Chamberlain found space on the break, and beat both Lallana and Clyne to squeeze a goal past Mignolet. Suddenly Liverpool's 4-2 lead was looking a bit more precarious than their previous 3-1 lead had as a desperate and demoralized Arsenal pushed their way back into the game, keeping possession and forcing Liverpool to play long stretches in their own half.
This would pay off ten minutes later, when Chambers headed in Arsenal's third goal on, you guessed it, a set piece, and setting the scene for a nail-biting last fifteen plus minutes of the match. Liverpool were able to hang on in the end to get three points and secure a win at the Emirates, no easy feat.
As for injuries, Coutinho was forced off of the pitch with a cramp, prompting Klopp to bring on Emre Can to finish out the game. Thankfully, it appears only a minor problem that shouldn't impact future games.
The defense was porous, as ever, but Liverpool looked strong going forward -- and this without Daniel Sturridge, Joel Matip, Mamadou Sakho, James Milner, Loris Karius, or Emre Can to start the game. Someone pinch me, I think I might be feeling a bit optimistic.
Welcome back to Premier League football, everyone! If this is how it's going to be every week, I'm not sure we'll make it.