So i sat down to watch our season opener today at Arsenal, a team we have a very bad record against away.
Like all supporters in general a new season usually brings renewed hope and exuberance at least for the start anyway. But this season I have more reason than most to be hopeful. Jürgen Klopp looks like he is shaping the team he wants and judging by his preseason comments and implementation of a tough training regime we have an exciting season ahead.
So when I saw the team Klopp named, it wasn’t a huge surprise. It wasn’t a surprise that he picked an out and out attacking formation given Arsenal’s reported injuries and absentees for the game. The only downside as I seen it was the inclusion of the much maligned Alberto Moreno. With Sadio Mané making his debut along with Georginio Wijnaldum and including Adam Lallana in a midfield role it looked promising.
So as the game got under way and the pattern revealed itself it became clear we did not come out of the traps as hoped at all. We were slow, standoffish and lying too deep in midfield to get enough of the ball to have a say in the game let alone control it. Maybe this was due to new partnerships being formed, most notably between Jordan Henderson and Wijnaldum in midfield.
Both looked lost early on and seemed the game was passing them by. Henderson was too deep in trying to protect his back four and in doing so drew Wijnaldum back along with him hence giving up the midfield totally apart from Lallana which was beyond his control.
Up front when we did get the ball to feet and with space, which was very rarely in the first 45, we did look like causing problems. And it was just as we were starting to gain a slight foothold in the game the first setback arrived with a bomb.
Arsenal awarded a certain penalty after Moreno jumped into a tackle which didn’t need to be made on the left side of the box. Theo Walcott was pushing forward onto Moreno knowing he is reckless to say the least. His efforts paid off.
A huge hammer blow for a team that was widely tipped to win this game.
The resulting penalty taken by Walcott however was superbly saved by Simon Mignolet and it felt like Arsenal had actually let us off the hook.
Not for long as it turned out. Walcott again got down the flank behind an absent Moreno about a minute later, drove into the box to receive a clever through pass and rifled home low and hard to Mignolet’s right side. The obvious weakness in Klopp’s team choice had rewarded Arsenal with a first goal of the season.
At this point the game was certainly passing Liverpool by and we were looking more jittery now and praying that half time would save us and let Klopp find some way out of this performance.
And just as the half seemed to stumble to a conclusion we got a free kick just outside the box. Some say it was soft but like loads of others they are given too.
So up pops Phil Coutinho with such a special goal – it’s hard to believe Petr Cech could be beaten in such fashion from a dead ball outside the box. It was as good a goal as we will see this season on any pitch.
So we go in at half time level and on a high. Something I didn’t see coming after conceding so badly earlier and playing so below par.
To try to describe the first 15-20 mins of the second half would simply be too hard to do it justice.
Simply to say we didn’t make any personnel changes but we did change in attitude. Henderson and Lallana started to engage alot further forward and apply the pressure we were all expecting. We pushed forward and superb individual and team goals followed. We raced into a 1-4 goal lead and by now Arsenal were obviously shocked and under huge pressure not to cave in totally. As we piled on the goals the one thing that struck me was our commitment to keep piling forward and score more. In recent seasons we would have been hell bent on defending a lead. This I see as Klopps influence and reason for his attacking purchases this summer. To kill games off when we have the chances.
Unfortunately we didn’t get that next goal and whether we did show some complacency or just were unable to control the game, Arsenal found their way back into it with 2 good goals. Their third goal was a particular weakness of ours . A headed goal from a floated free kick it our box from a wide area.
The game now was 3-4 to Liverpool and although we seemed under huge pressure the introduction of Emre Can andDivock Origi did bring some control and possession again.
Can filled in the spaces in front of the back four and was able to get a foot on the ball and move us out and forward.
Origi in particular showed his ability to hold the ball up and bring players into the game. A big asset when under the pressure Arsenal were applying. They were restricted mostly now to long range pot shots and sideways passing across the pitch hoping to find a crack.
Although 5 mins of added time seemed harsh and offered Arsenal more hope, in truth the game fizzled out somewhat.
At the final whistle the Emirates resounded to noise of boos and whistles from the home support with a pocket of celebrations from our away fans in the corner.
Ragner Klavan and Dejan Lovren played well together and could form a partnership in future. Klavan did get out jumped for the third goal. His only mistake having kept Alexis Sachez quiet all day.
Klopp seems to know how to play away at the big teams which can only be a great thing. This result although it’s very early will undoubtedly give a huge confidence boost and hopefully show the players that when they go at a team they are very hard to stop. More control is needed in midfield but this will come I feel with games and understanding of each others roles.
Going back to Moreno he again had an awful game. It won’t go unnoticed and when James Milner is fit I’m sure he will start at left back unless we do sign a new one which looks unlikely just now.
So all in all a huge win. Fighting back in the fashion we did away to a big rival and holding out while under alot of pressure shows some improvement. The biggest plus was our attacking seems to be more intune and deadly than it has been in along time.
3 points in the bag and on we go to the next away game. The ice is broken of a new season and we’re off and running.
Written by Stephen King (@StephenKing75)