They took a hit against the run of play in the first half, but this Liverpool side is nothing of not resilient, and made bouncing back from one of those chaotic football moments look like the easiest thing in the world, thoroughly dominating their visitors for the entirety of the match, and putting a cherry on top to make the scoreline match the performance that produced it.
Below we look at some of the winners and losers after the Reds continue their run to retain the Premier League title.
JOTAAAA: Remember how we all fawned over Thiago after he pass-mastered his way through that Chelsea match on his debut? Let’s do that again!
Now, I realise he made his actual debut in the Carabao Cup at the weekend, but the Premier League is a real competition, and the Diogo Jota made his mark on it immediately. In 10 minutes of pitch time, the new signing had 16 touches, five of which were in the box, took three shots for a total expected goal value of 0.47, and scored a goal. That is an outrageous amount of attacking involvement to have in so little time, and while the game was definitely in a forgiving state for a Reds attacker to come on, it is still remarkable how instantly the Portuguese winger made an impact.
Brought in for similar money to Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah, Jota is expected to deputise for the duo this season, with the long-term hope that he can replace one of the superstars at the inevitable point that they can no longer perform to their supernatural standards. On tonight’s extremely limited evidence, the signs are promising.
Alisson Becker: For a man who once uttered the phrase “We play 100 percent, we party 100 percent!”, Alisson sure looked unimpressive in the games after the Reds wrapped up the title this spring. Having racked up a ridiculous 81% save rate up to that point, the Brazilian dropped below 50% for the rest of the year, and 2020/21 didn’t start much better, with Liverpool conceding all three shots on target in the season opener against Leeds.
Since then, the former Roma man seems to have been getting back to form, making three stops against Chelsea, and, having been hung out to dry by his left-back for the opener tonight, made two outstanding one-on-one saves from Alexandre Lacazette. Sure, the first one wouldn’t have stood, as the Frenchman was well offside, but the performance will nonetheless be boon for Alisson’s confidence, as well as my confidence in him.
Roy Keane: Inject this directly into my veins forever.
OHHH MY GAAAAWDDDDDDD - JR pic.twitter.com/yRFsiffHyV— The Redmen TV (@TheRedmenTV) September 28, 2020
Did you know that Liverpool play a high defensive line? If you were unaware of this fact, a quick visit to the Twitterverse would inform you that this is indeed the case, and that in order to beat the Reds, other teams should simply play passes in behind that high line. Managers across the league, nay the continent, nay THE WORLD will surely be kicking themselves when they are informed of this insight.
Obnoxious snark aside, there are reasons Liverpool are one of very few teams on the planet that can consistently have their centre-backs sit a full fifty yards away from their own goal for the majority of a match, even when out of possession. The first is Jürgen Klopp’s gegenpress, and the frontline’s pressing activity in general, which prevent opposing teams from having time on the ball or passing lanes through which they can play it forward unencumbered.
Secondly, there is the recovery speed of Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk. Among the fastest straight-line sprinters in the league, the defensive pair are more than capable of making up ground on attackers who have stolen a march on them. Looking down the list of defensive youth prospects currently at the club, it is clear that this is a recruiting requirement.
Arsenal were set up to do one thing in possession tonight; draw in the press, play through it via the wingbacks, and have a shot at getting in behind the Reds backline. They succeeded twice, getting a goal — with a bit of assistance from Robertson — the first time, and an Alisson save the second. Meanwhile, Liverpool took 12 shots in the Arsenal box. If that is the risk the Merseysiders take with their defensive set-up, then this writer is confident they’re pretty happy with that.
What Happens Next
It’s Arsenal at Anfield again! Although this time in the fifth round of the Carabao Cup. Both managers will undoubtedly field massively rotated sides, but as we saw against Lincoln at the weekend, even Liverpool’s second string is an entirely different beast than used to be the case. Last season, this fixture ended 5-5 and then 5-4 on penalties, with half a dozen wondergoals to boot, so fingers crossed we can have a rerun of that.