‘Arsenal showed character, Liverpool look a force’

15 Aug

Match of the Day 2 analysis

Liverpool’s 4-3 win over Arsenal was a crazy way for both teams to start the season.

It was the kind of game in which it is difficult to pick out much of a pattern of how either side will look to play, but it did offer a few clues as to how they are shaping up.

Both teams will need to be better defensively than they were last season if they are to have any aspirations of winning the title this time around and, if you were to just go off Sunday’s game, that does not appear to be the case.

But I have been involved in plenty of matches like that myself, where your tactics end up going out of the window as what starts out as a tight and technical battle ends up wide open with both teams going toe to toe on the attack.

They are exciting to be involved in and to watch, but they are not always a true reflection of a team and, in this case, I don’t think it showed us how Arsenal or Liverpool will defend this season.

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Liverpool’s Klopp pleased with ‘deserved’ win

What we saw was how strong Liverpool now look from an attacking perspective and, like Arsenal, they are going to score a lot of goals this season.

The other thing that impressed me about the Gunners was the character they displayed. At 4-1 down, things looked pretty bleak and the fans were on their backs, but they responded pretty well.

They did not pull it back to 4-4 but they made the scoreline respectable, rather than it being an embarrassment.

Unfair to blame Arsenal’s young centre-halves

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Arsenal lacked experience – Wenger

Arsenal turned the tables on Liverpool in the first half by pressing them high up the pitch, and it worked – that is how they got their opening goal.

But the Gunners fell apart at the start of the second half and the easy option would be to put that down to their young centre-halves, Calum Chambers and Rob Holding, who were playing because of injuries to Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker and Gabriel.

Of course they missed their first-choice defenders, every team would, but I think it is unfair to completely blame Chambers and Holding for their defeat, mainly because they were not that bad.

With Liverpool’s attacking players running at them from all angles the way they did, it would have been a tough game for any defence.

For Chambers and Holding, it was not just their inexperience that made it hard for them as much as the fact they had never played together in a competitive game before.

The only positions I genuinely think need a relationship are centre-halves. Yes, you could say the same about players who are up front together but, while you might not score as many goals if you don’t have an understanding, it is not going to cost you goals.

At the back, it can cost you the game if you are unsure of who is doing what.

Liverpool look like a real force in attack

Theo Walcott is fouled by Alberto Moreno<!–

Moreno fouled Walcott for Arsenal’s penalty – which was saved by Simon Mignolet

Liverpool also had issues defensively, mainly involving their left-back Alberto Moreno, who gave away the penalty Arsenal missed and was also at fault for their first goal.

Moreno was probably lucky the game went the way it did, because otherwise there would be far more focus on him.

But we should remember that their whole team played pretty poorly in the first half, not just him.

They came out in the second half and decided to go for it, and were very clinical. They stuck away every chance they had.

Arsenal had the same approach when they put Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Santi Cazorla on after an hour, threw everything at Liverpool and pulled a couple of goals back.

At that stage, Liverpool were not just sitting back like you might expect them to in their situation but I can understand why.

They wanted to defend and protect what they had but they could not ignore the opportunities they were getting at the other end and had to keep on attacking, which made it such an exciting game.

When they did come forward, they looked like a real force and another plus for Jurgen Klopp is the depth in his squad that allowed him to bring Emre Can and Divock Origi off the bench in the second half.

Not much positivity at Arsenal right now

Arsenal fans<!–

Some Arsenal fans sang “you don’t know what you’re doing” at Wenger during their defeat by Liverpool

I have tipped Liverpool to finish in the top four, and this performance was an example of why I think they will make it. It is no disgrace to be beaten by them, because they will beat a lot of top teams this year.

Arsenal fans were clearly disappointed by the result but I think they will have to accept that, while they are going to win a lot of games this year, they are also probably going to lose more than usual because the Premier League is getting stronger and the number of sides challenging for the Champions League places has increased.

What does not help the Gunners at present is that, out of all the leading English clubs, they are the only ones where, if they go behind like they did on Sunday, some of their supporters turn on the manager.

In some ways, Wenger has made a rod for his own back there because some of their fans see their team’s problems as being very obvious and avoidable, and down to him.

Their injuries at centre-half are the latest example, because the fans want to know why experienced cover has not been brought in, and it is the same with their lack of an out-and-out striker as back-up to Olivier Giroud, that meant Alexis Sanchez played down the middle against Liverpool.

I do sympathise with the way the Arsenal supporters feel but, if that is going to be how they react to setbacks all season, it will have an effect on the team.

It is especially obvious because of the positivity that fans of the likes of Liverpool, Tottenham, Chelsea and both Manchester clubs have about their managers right now.

Arsenal’s players – and Wenger – will have to keep dealing with it the way they did on Sunday, but I suppose it is nothing new to them, because it has been happening for the past three or four seasons.

Jermaine Jenas was speaking to BBC Sport’s Chris Bevan.


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