In the first of his regular post-match pieces this season, Neil Poole takes a look at the bigger picture surrounding Arsenal 3-4 Liverpool.
“Pick the bones out of that!”
For some games it is easy. Liverpool’s season opener and seven goal thriller however is like dissecting a giant anaconda with a tooth-pick. 500 vertebrae. And that’s just the dodgy defence.
Where shall we begin? Let’s begin before the beginning,
There are lots of positives to take from starting the season with a win in an already potential six-pointer and at a ground where we’ve had about as much luck as a fingerless mirror juggler over the years. However, four goals immediately make an irrelevance of the pre-game ‘scandals’ glinting in the milkman’s eye: the omission of Daniel Sturridge and Danny Ings from the squad.
Whether you view their absence as murkier and more conspiratorial than the JFK assassination or accept that both, while technically fit, have been adjudged to not be match-fit, the truth was that neither were missed. Four goals put pay to that. The what-ifs and magical power of hindsight can be kept locked in the cage, until the next game at least.
Going forward, Sturridge most likely walks back into this team if he can stay fit, and at worst has a short wait warming the bench before being offered his chance.
As for Ings, not since Robbie Keane has there been so much good will towards a square chinned, try-hard from the Liverpool faithful. However, it’s currently difficult to see where he fits in unless a spate of injuries occurs. Nonetheless, another goal against Southampton in the U23s keeps him knocking on the door of Klopp’s subconscious. File under ‘clearly knows how to find back of the net.’
For those who prefer their players to come in tins clearly labelled with what they do in big, block capitals (me), minds may be imploding as they struggle to grapple with the absolute splendour of a twenty-minute spell. A spell in which a fistful of players who ebb and flow in-between an intangible purgatory of midfielders, attacking midfielders and attacking players who aren’t recognised out and out strikers, contributed to four potential goals of the month.
The ‘postage stamp’ free kick from Coutinho was even better than last season’s opening game stunner against Stoke, and no less valuable. He remains our specialist in excavation services, digging us out of holes of our own making. Say what you want about our squad having greater strength in depth but it was difficult not to feel that impending sense of panic when he pulled up with injury.
Our Brazilian pocket rocket may only measure in at five and a half feet but take him out that squad and despite the money spent, it’s like shipping fathoms, suddenly finding ourselves wading only knee-deep in that perceived depth.
Coutinho’s second and our third – if it hasn’t been already – is the type of goal someone tech savvy whizz-kid will make a video of counting the bazillion passes that led to the final execution. The team nature of the goal also nicely contradicts my previous strength-in-depth moans which I’ll happily put to bed if we see it more often.
Coutinho's 2nd vs Arsenal – All 25 passes pic.twitter.com/Yd1IP0mVzy
— MB (@MrBoywunder) August 14, 2016
If we’re in the business of finding promising indications of what may become future trends then the way in which Lallana took his goal was a welcome surprise. Time and time again we’ve witnessed him take the ball, move and shimmy or set himself in front of goal with finesse. More often than not – and he’s certainly not alone in this – it ends with a chance from an acute angle ballooned into the stands.
If we’re in a forgiving mood, we can tell ourselves it was a harder chance than it really was. Therefore, to see him bury one with confidence and aplomb was a joy to behold. Good stuff Adam. More please. Decent assist from Wijnaldum too.
It’s early days and anyone who puts online pen to online paper can be made to look like an idiot with hyperbolic and premature claims of greatness. Nonetheless, the feeling in the loins is that Mane looks the real deal. With pace to burn, he’s direct, strong and has an eye for goal. Throw in the fact he never smiles, never will smile, and suddenly he’s the heart-on-the-sleeve arch-nemesis of Dwight Yorke and Chris Akabusi rolled into one. And that can never be a bad thing.
Onto the negatives.
There’s of course the whole Moreno ‘thing’. Guilty of giving away a penalty, the signs were already there ten minutes earlier when he left the floor in a two footed tackle in the box. Yes, he got the ball on that occasion but it was an early indication that a coconut on the shy goes to greater lengths to risk assess its situation than what goes on in the coconut replica that is currently Moreno’s head.
AWOL for the second too, I now give up even commenting on him. Serious questions need to be asked if we don’t find at least viable competition for his position before the transfer window shuts at the end of August. It’s almost not even his fault anymore.
It’s arguable whether Mignolet was at fault for Arsenal’s second and third goals. The gut instinct on both was he was. Floundering and looking dumbstruck as the ball deflected in one instance and rooted to his line for the free-kick. Regardless of blame, he still has an uncanny knack of making every goal look like it is his fault and leaves you with the feeling that he could have done more surely?
However, he did save a penalty and we all know what happened last time he saved a penalty in the first game of the season? We finished second and we’re crushed by it to the extent we still haven’t recovered. See it’s not all bad. No penalty save makes it 4-4 in a parallel universe we could never know too.
Conceding from set pieces, and as demonstrated in the wake of the saved penalty and our fourth goal, still seemingly with the concentration span of a narcoleptic, old ailments persist.
There is plenty of room for improvement too. There’s no denying that.
However, one game down and it’s three points in the bag. A notoriously difficult away is succesfuly done and dusted. It’s early days but we’ve already stolen a very minor march on the likes of Arsenal and Spurs. There’s signs that we’ve possibly made our first ever successful £30+ million signing in Mane and we have an attack that – when it sparks into life – is frankly staggering.
Some nice bones to put the skin on there.