Arsenal endured a severe first defeat of the season at the hands of Liverpool, with the Gunners needing massive improvements in defence.
One cannot say they did not expect this result for Arsenal against Liverpool. Last season’s Premier League runners-up were always expected to take three points against Arsenal at Anfield, and they did. However, it wasn’t the same as last season when Liverpool thrashed the Gunners hopelessly. The visitors put up a good fight defending and also had their moments in the attack.
Nicolas Pepe made his first start for Arsenal since signing in the summer. The Ivory Coast international certainly had a positive impact on the game with several chances falling at his feet. A great moment of the game occurred when he was one-on-one with Liverpool goalkeeper Adrian, but the Spaniard somehow saved the goal-bound effort.
On the other end of the pitch, Dani Ceballos, who made such a positive impact against Burnley, struggled, barring a few shiny moments. So did David Luiz, whose performance was blasted on social media, as Liverpool scored twice through Salah in the second half.
Unai Emery tweaked his formation for this game, preferring two strikers and four midfielders. It had its moments but severely backfired in the end. Liverpool struggled to break down Arsenal’s stubborn defence in the first half, but ended the first period with the lead after Joel Matip headed late in the half.
Salah then got in on the act in the second period, scoring twice. The first of his goals came from the penalty spot, and the second a work of his own as he slotted the ball past Bernd Leno for the third Liverpool goal. Here’s how we rated Arsenal’s performance against Liverpool as the Reds took pole position on top of the Premier League standings.
Bernd Leno: 6/10
There was nothing wrong with Leno’s goalkeeping on the evening, but the problems lay in his distribution. It was clear as day from the first gameweek of this season that Liverpool like to press, and yet Leno took ages to kick the ball long. Instead, he waited constantly and then sent it five yards to the closest player, whom Liverpool continued to press hard.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles: 4/10
Maitland-Niles got dispossessed more than any other player and had the worst pass accuracy of any player. The reason for this is because Maitland-Niles is an improving defender but not a smart and experienced one. He did have a decent first half after struggling during the initial 10 minutes, but overall his day was poor.
Not suitable for a player of his experience. His output for the first Liverpool goal showed that he was more obsessed with keeping hold of Virgil van Dijk than head the ball away. His battle against Roberto Firmino was also a lost cause as the Brazilian regularly got the better of him. However, Sokratis could have been better had others around him helped.
David Luiz: 3/10
Conceding a penalty during the run of play is one thing, pulling the shirt of Salah the way Luiz did to concede it is another issue altogether. Luiz was easily turned by the Egyptian to race towards goal and score Liverpool’s third. Bad performance considering Arsenal signed him as a direct replacement for former captain Laurent Koscielny.
Nacho Monreal: 5.5/10
The best among Arsenal’s defenders. Was intelligent to close down Trent Alexander-Arnold all game and minimised his threat to an extent. However, this does not mean Monreal played well. In fact, he was off his usual level and did not do much to stop Mohamed Salah on his side. But, it was never really his job on the Egyptian.
Matteo Guendouzi: 6/10
A top performer for a side that lacked bite in midfield. Guendouzi played further behind to deal with Liverpool’s attacking threat, or so was the plan, and he seemed like the only player who was carrying out his task properly. To define further on his role, he had to track Robertson, win the ball and pass it quickly and efficiently, something he did quite well.
Granit Xhaka: 2/10
We reckoned Xhaka would be benched in the build-up to this game, and it would have served Arsenal well if he was there and not in the starting lineup. Atrocious performance, wherein Xhaka did not understand the importance of mobility, building up play from the midfield or even passing the ball forward properly. Arsenal do not look good when Xhaka is playing in Saturday’s role.
Joe Willock: 5/10
We predicted it would be a stretch if Willock started this game, but the youngster proved us somewhat wrong. He did have a few moments in both halves, but honestly, he struggled to get a grip of this game and its intensity. He will certainly learn when to press, tackle and push forward in a game of such pressure, but the signs are there for massive improvements.
Dani Ceballos: 3/10
A complete reverse from last weekend for Ceballos. He could be forgiven to experience the Premier League at its best, but he seemed to be out of his depths physically after the first quarter of the game. Nearly gave Liverpool an opening goal with an awkward pass to Sadio Mane. He did not seem to know how to pass the ball forward to start attacks, but he too will learn.
Nicolas Pepe: 7.5/10
An encouraging display from Pepe on his first Arsenal start. Pepe caused plenty of problems to Robertson and van Dijk throughout the game. There seems to be something about him as whenever the ball fell to him, it seemed like he’d do something great with it. Also had a brilliant chance to put Arsenal ahead which he missed, but his overall performance was highly promising.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang: 5/10
Not the kind of performance a club wants from their top goalscorer. However, he was tasked with leading the front line all by himself on one end of the pitch. The problem was that Aubameyang did not do well when Arsenal counterattacked, and very much missed Alexandre Lacazette on the pitch. Still, it is a long season ahead and Aubameyang is vital to Arsenal’s chances this term.
Lucas Torreira: 7/10
Forward passing, protecting the back-four, and bringing a whole lot of energy into the game is what Xhaka should have done; instead, Torreira did it. Should have started the game ahead of the Swiss midfielder. Grabbed his side’s consolation goal.
Alexandre Lacazette: 6/10
Like Torreira, Lacazette should have started the game. When he came on, Arsenal suddenly had a focal point. It would have been quite something to see how Lacazette, Aubameyang and Pepe would have performed together, from the start. Maybe this will happen in the next game.