In what was billed as the early season match of heavyweights, Liverpool took the game by the scruff of the neck from the early moments and never looked back. Anfield was rocking the entire match as the Reds rolled to their 42nd consecutive game without a defeat in the fortress of a stadium. Now join us as we examine some of the narratives, tactics, reactions, and questions Liverpool will be dealing with and the fans will be talking about in the aftermath.
Mohamed Salah: The Egyptian forward was nominally involved in the first half, but man did he turn it on in the second half when the game opened up. Salah earned a penalty after being pulled back in the box by defender (lol) David Luiz. Mo converted with an unstoppable strike from the penalty spot. From that moment on, he was creating havoc all down the right flank. He found joy again the counter, beating Luiz to the ball before racing into the penalty area and sliding a trademark finish to the far post. When Mo gets hot, everyone better watch out.
Roberto Firmino: Stop me when you’ve heard this before. “Why are Liverpool fans so enamored with Roberto Firmino, he didn’t even show up on the stat sheet”! Today was a pretty quintessential Firmino match. He technically show up on the stat sheet, but he provided the fantastic ball to Salah before Salah was pulled down for a spot kick. Firmino was a creative force the entire match, generating chances, coming oh-so-close to scoring himself, and had a stone cold penalty shout ignored. The man known as Bobby Dazzler also defied several laws of physics when flipping the ball up to himself before striking a sweet volley. And, in true Firmino fashion, he tracked a runner back 60 yards to the top of his own box to snuff out a counterattack.
Joël Matip: He’s tall. He’s gangly. He’s finally gotten the hang of heading the ball into the opponents net. Matip turned Liverpool’s dominance in the first half into a 1-0 lead with a strong header off of a Trent Alexander-Arnold corner kick. On top of scoring, Matip did a great job stifling a few dangerous moments when isolated with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Nicolas Pépé.
Fabinho: The job as a defensive midfielder is often unheralded. Usually, it’s best when you don’t hear much about them during the game. The Brazilian, however, was in the thick of things all game on both ends of the field. His ball recoveries stopped counters before they could even get started, and he immediately moved the ball back into attacking players in dangerous positions. His pass was the one that sprung Salah on the counter for the third goal.
Fabinho’s game by numbers vs. Arsenal:— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) August 24, 2019
93% pass accuracy
27/32 final third passes
6 ball recoveries
6/7 long balls
4 key passes
Elite DM. pic.twitter.com/JSO3HFGwOi
Adrian: While he was not at fault for the goal, the Spanish keeper caused some nervy moments yet again. His over-aggressiveness coming out of the box when Virgil Van Dijk had things covered almost caused chaos yet again. You seem like a nice gent, Adrian, but I think I speak for everyone when I say I can’t wait for Alisson to come back.
Clean Sheets: Oh. So. Close. Liverpool’s defense was just minutes away from their first clean sheet of the season. Unfortunately, a momentary lapse in the 85th minute squandered the generally stellar effort.
Arsenal came out in an Unai Emery Europa League special. Gone was the naive high defensive line behind a free-flowing attack. Instead, the Gunners played a compact formation deep in their own area, ceding the flanks and possession. I guess someone should have mentioned that Liverpool have some fullbacks that are pretty decent at crossing the ball. While no goals were created from the fullbacks in open play, they continuously provided balls whipped into dangerous areas. The attacking Liverpool players failed to take advantage of some good deliveries, particularly missing runs drifting to the back post.
Once Liverpool scored and Arsenal had to come out of their shell to chase the game, Gini Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson became much more influential with their recoveries and ball progressions.
How The Manager Reacted
“I was really happy with a lot of parts of the game; I think everything we did well in the first four games we did tonight for longer, more precise and better tuned. I loved the desire, the passion, the power and the energy that we put into this game.”
Giving Credit to Arsenal
Arsenal showed a much more mature defensive effort than we have seen in a long time. While they ultimately had to break out of their shell after Liverpool scored at the end of the first half, they showed that they are progressing to play different styles under the tutelage of Emery.
What Happens Next
Three games into the season Liverpool now sit alone atop the table with the only perfect record left. Liverpool go to Mordor...er...Burnley next Saturday to hopefully extend their lead at the top of the table while avoiding any broken legs.