Watching Liverpool’s first Premier League game earlier today was reminiscent of the Liverpool of 2013/2014 in so many ways. Where do we start? The calamitous defending? The sensational Coutinho goal coming against the run of play? Feeling that the three points are in the bag only for the team to concede a couple of soft goals and have a nervous ending to the game? Check, for every single one of them. This game also had many reminders of the areas that need improvement for the Reds in defence and the goalkeeping area.
The game for me came a bit early in the season, as I do not recall seeing the Reds ever playing one of the ‘bigger’ sides in the very first game of the campaign. In hindsight, it wasn’t all that bad. Last season, Arsenal started the last campaign slowly as well, losing to West Ham at the Emirates 2-0, with new signing Peter Cech making a couple of blunders on his league debut. The first half was frustrating, with many passes by the Reds going astray, with Arsenal doing what I’d have expected Liverool to do: Pressuring and pressing the opposition, forcing them into making errors .
Moreno, Firmino and Henderson were wasteful in the first half, with the Spaniard taking up from where he left off after that shocking performance in Basel versus Seville (and in many other games in the league and the cups). He was all over the place, misplacing passes, heading the ball straight to opponents in the penalty box and capping it all off by conceding a penalty with a reckless challenge on Arsenal’s Theo Walcott. Thankfully for Alberto, Walcott’s penalty was saved by the much-maligned Simon Mignolet, yet, with barely a minute gone after that miss, Moreno made a complete mess by allowing Walcott to stray into the penalty box unchallenged to score the game’s first goal. The rest of the first half, apart from the very last kick in it (that sumptuous Coutinho free-kick) followed the same pattern.
The goal galvanized the side, and whatever Klopp told his troops in the dressing room at half-time did the trick. Liverpool dominated the second half with 3 goals in 20 minutes, with each goal providing throwbacks to that memorable 2013/2014 campaign. Crisp passing, great interchanges and strong will. For the interchanges part, Coutinho’s second strike came after a 19-pass move. Mane showed great determination to make something out of nothing by rampaging through the Gunners’ defence from the right wing for the Reds’ fourth goal. The celebrations on the touchline were wild, and to Klopp’s own admittance after the game, they were premature and the team was distracted after that. Only Liverpool manage to come so close to throwing a three-goal lead with 25 minutes to play…
The Arsenal comeback started with a solo effort by ‘Ox’ that was rather similar to Mane’s strike for Liverpool. Less than two minutes separatedthe goals, with Oxlade-Chamberlain running through the Liverpool defence and scoring another ‘goalazo’ to add to the list in this crazy match. The introduction of Santi Cazorla changed the game as he was involved in both Arsenal goals in the comeback. The second was a free-kick which was headed in by defender Calum Chambers to set a tense finale to the game. Liverpool opted for time-wasting tactics, which is something I am not very fond of myself, but heck, if it means 3 points, so be it.
The Reds survived the final 15 minutes of regulated time and 5 minutes of stoppage time, but doubts remain over the side. Simon Mignolet was shaky throughout, Moreno’s failings are well-documented, the defence is far from being rock solid. Hopefully Loris Karius will prove to be a more reliable option between the sticks once he recovers from a broken finger sustained in pre-season.
For Arsenal, they have their own reasons for being concerned. Going forward they had many options, and the result could have been very different if they were more decisive in the final third. They will fare better as the season goes on, they played with two young and relatively inexperienced center backs, but in Wenger’s final season in charge, he better has something good up his sleeve. The games will come thick and fast, and this season will not be as forgiving as the last campaign.
As usual, YNWA. Here’s to hopefully more wins and less nerve-wrecking moments.