Ah, the Community Shield. A trophy if you win it and just another meaningless friendly if you lose it. And that’s exactly what Liverpool did today. They lost to Arsenal, making it the second straight year the Reds have lost the Community Shield on penalties to start the season.
Just like last season, it would be unwise to read too much into this game. But that doesn’t make for interesting content, so here we’ll evaluate what we saw and what it means and how it can inform us as the season wears on.
The first half was very boring. You know, something you’d expect from two teams that have had about a week’s worth of time total of preseason. Coming into this one, Arsenal had played just one friendly against MK Dons last week. While Liverpool had a whooping two friendlies while they were in Austria. The first 45 minutes were separated by one really good attacking movement from Arsenal. Bukayo Saka played a long switch in the attacking half to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who then did very well to find the net. Liverpool’s attack was very slow and they weren’t able to create much.
The second half was quite the different story especially when Takumi Minamino came on. Liverpool changed up the formation and found a way to breakdown Arsenal with a formation change, but more on that later. They would not go on to find a winner and ended up losing on penalties. Such is life. But what does all of this mean? Let’s dig deeper into some of the interesting facets from the match.
World Class Players Are Important
This may come as a shock to everyone reading this, but Liverpool play worse without Jordan Henderson and Trent Alexander-Arnold. The two key players for the Reds have been missing from preseason with injury. I am being a bit tongue in cheek here, but without Trent or Henderson on the field, the whole right side of Liverpool’s attack just....doesn’t work. Mo Salah only had 11 touches in the first half, of which only two were inside the opponent’s penalty area. Neco Williams is a fantastic young talent who is a decent deputy at rightback, but he’s not Trent. My suspicion is that had Henderson been playing, Neco would’ve found the game much easier — both offensively and defensively. Which leads well into my next point.
A Formation Switch and A Role Player Could Bode Well Against the Bunker
I couldn’t think of a quippy title for this section so I just went with this. About halfway through the second half, Jurgen Klopp switched formations and introduced Minamino to the game. Things changed for the better.
There’s some debate about what the formation actually was. Was it 4-2-3-1 with Salah as the one? Or was it a 4-2-2-2 with Bobby and Mo up top and Taki with Mane underneath? Perhaps it was a bit of both, but what was important about the switch is that it brought another attacker on the pitch in sacrifice of a midfield player. Being able to switch to this mid-match when things aren’t going Liverpool’s way or even starting a match like this against the bottom 12 in the league might give the Reds a leg up on breaking down the bunker. Dropping Fabinho to CB and bringing on a midfielder like Naby Keita means Liverpool can control the tempo from back to front.
There’s talk that Liverpool need another forward from the transfer market, but I think what we saw from Minamino today might calm down those cries. Besides, it sure is nice not having to rely on whether or not Divock Origi decides to have a good game.
Last season was obviously great. Liverpool won the league after starting the season with a loss in the Community Shield. Should this season spell the same? We shall see.