Arteta and Co bullied out of Anfield as Liverpool swipe Arsenal aside
Mikel Arteta and Co were bullied out of Anfield as Liverpool swipe Arsenal aside, the only contest in the match was on the touchline between the two managers
- Arsenal suffered yet another heavy defeat away to Liverpool on Saturday
- Liverpool have proven to be vulnerable but the Gunners failed to take advantage
- Emile Smith Rowe and Nuno Tavares are good players but they got slaughtered
- Arsenal need to figure out a way of landing punches against the top teams
After the scrap came the beating. If Mikel Arteta intended to set an example for combat via his scuffle with Jurgen Klopp, something failed to cross that white line.
On the pitch his players went on from that rumble at 0-0 to endure a painful and prolonged reminder that some levels of this game remain out of Arsenal’s reach.
The fact that they have been going well is evident by their numbers, but just as their unbeaten run of 10 started on the back of a trouncing by a big club, against Manchester City, so it was ended by one in Liverpool.
Mikel Arteta and Jurgen Klopp went head-to-head on the touchline during their sides’ clash
There is a lot to admire in how Arteta revived them in the intervening two months, but when he talks of Arsenal’s grand ambitions, the gut-punching reality is that in games with the division’s best three sides — Chelsea, City and now Liverpool — they now have an aggregate of three defeats, 11 conceded, none scored, six shots on goal.
Arsenal’s followers may hyperventilate beyond proportion, because that has long seemed to be the natural reflex with this club. But their fixture with Liverpool was always going to be the truer temperature check and without another flurry of excellent saves from Aaron Ramsdale, the margin on Saturday evening would have been far wider.
Indeed, one of these sides looked capable of fighting for the title after a minor wobble of two wins in the previous six, and the other, while improved substantially on last season, is fighting for top four. More pointedly, Liverpool bullied Arsenal out of town; Arteta’s row with Klopp was the only even contest all night.
The defeat against Liverpool on Saturday saw Arsenal’s 10-match unbeaten run come to an
Perhaps the biggest mauling came in midfield, where Fabinho, Thiago and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had a patchwork feel to it but covered Arsenal’s equivalent to the point of suffocation. They outnumbered Thomas Partey and Albert Sambi Lokonga, crunched them when they needed crunching, intercepted all traffic and built the platform for the magicians in the front three.
Through injury, rotation and a lack of satisfaction, Klopp has had nine combinations in his midfield this season, and rarely has the result been so well suited to the task in hand. Oxlade-Chamberlain in particular had his best game of the campaign.
A question at this point for Arsenal’s approach. They went with all their attacking riches — Arteta fielded Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette, Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka — and it would be too wise after the event to criticise that too heavily.
Liverpool’s high line and proven vulnerability to through-balls meant a valid opportunity existed for the brave, but Arsenal were too careless to pull it off, especially in the opening half-hour when this contest was still alive. In subsequently leaving themselves so open and with no fall-back strategy — a recurring problem in these bigger games — they were predictably crushed by the goals from Sadio Mane, Diogo Jota, Mo Salah and Takumi Minamino.
Nuno Tavares and Emile Smith Rowe are marvellous young players but they were slaughtered
Nowhere in all that was the pain more acutely felt than Arsenal’s left flank where Nuno Tavares and Smith Rowe faced the thankless task of battling Salah and Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Tavares has done well lately and Smith Rowe is a marvellous young player but combined they were slaughtered.
Alexander-Arnold, with assists for Mane and Minamino, had another of those games that reaffirmed his place among the very finest right backs worldwide.
His assists total for league games already stands at six for the season (11 including England and European fixtures), and he has now stated a target of 15 to 20. Incredible numbers that seem well within his talent.
Trent Alexander-Arnold (right) is a man in-form after picking up two assists against Arsenal
‘I want to break as many records as I can,’ he said. ‘I want to make history with my performances and my tallies. For me it is about contributing as much as I can for the team and making sure we win. The team trophies are much more important than the personal ones but for motivation I do like to set myself targets.
‘The manager has given me that freedom to play the way I feel is right and it’s worked so far. I try to keep adapting to create as many problems for the opposition as I can. The very minimum (assists target) is always double figures and I’ve hit that already. I would probably say this season would be 15 to 20 in the league.’
He is going places at speed and will no doubt be key to Liverpool’s title aspirations. Arsenal still need to learn a way to land punches on that kind of opposition.
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