After winning our opening three games in all competitions, we lost yesterday to Liverpool. I loved the optimism from many supporters going into the match. Mikel Arteta has changed how we view these games after beating Liverpool twice and Manchester City once within his first 8 months in charge. Personally, I wasn't as sanguine considering the Merseyside club hadn't lost a league game at Anfield since April 2017.
Additionally, Arsenal hadn't won an away league game against a 'big six' opposition since January 2015. As Jose Mourinho would put it, this was the 'football heritage' that Arteta had inherited.
Arteta stuck with a similar side to what worked in the Community shield. The back 5 and central midfield pivot were all the same. In all honesty, defensively I thought we did well for the most part and I don't believe our errors were as blatant as they normally are. Liverpool are phenomenal. You give them a little sniff and they have the quality to make you pay. The margin for error is extremely small.
The intensity Liverpool play with is incredible and you have to give them credit for the way they press. We lost too many individual duels yesterday. Granit Xhaka did not have his best of games. Elneny did not do much wrong, but again, he's pretty limited as a footballer. We were struggling to get out of our own half. As a result, our only route of trying to make an opening was to use Luiz' long balls. But Liverpool stepped up high and played the offside trap to perfection.
Our goal came against the run of play, but Liverpool showed why they haven't lost a league game at Anfield in almost 3 and a half years by scoring a goal immediately and then adding another.
The introduction of Dani Ceballos gave us a different dynamic. I thought he was exceptional yesterday. So fearless, but at the same time very effective in terms of how he moved away from Liverpool's press and was constantly looking for through balls. If there is one key takeaway from yesterday, it is the fact that Dani absolutely must be starting these games going forward.
Alexandre Lacazette should have definitely scored and after that Eddie Nketiah almost broke in too. The second half performance was encouraging, but Liverpool killed the game off in the end with Diogo Jota getting his first goal for them.
On balance of play, Liverpool completely deserved to win the game. Having said that however, I think Sadio Mane was lucky not to have been shown a red card after his shove on Kieran Tierney's face. Additionally, I believe that Jota's goal was a handball. But again, I don't want to make this about the refereeing. We know what we are up against when it comes to Premier league referees. Arteta didn't want to say too much either. The focus should be on the way we play.
At this moment, the struggle is chance creation. Yes, Lacazette should have scored, but in general, we absolutely must be creating a lot more. At this moment, we are the second worst team in the league for shots this season. That absolutely must not be the case for a team like Arsenal with top 4 aspirations. The bigger issue was and still is the midfield. Its not Thomas Partey OR Houssem Aouar, it has to be BOTH. They will completely change the way we progress a football which will give more for our front three to work with - it really is that simple.
This loss was always coming at Anfield. I thought the team showed good fight to take it till the end. It is a process and we will learn from these mistakes and move forward. Exciting week ahead in terms of transfers, hopefully we will get Partey and Aouar done. COYG!