Coutinho & Mane lead attack, but familar defensive issues persist: 5 talking points from Arsenal 3–4 Liverpool

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Liverpool opened their Premier League campaign in thrilling fashion, claiming a memorable 4-3 victory against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.

Theo Walcott’s strike, a minute after seeing his penalty saved by Simon Mignolet, put the Gunners ahead, before Philippe Coutinho’s sensational free-kick drew the Reds level on the stroke of half-time.

Crisp finishes from Adam Lallana and Coutinho, followed by absolute rocket from Sadio Mane, put the Reds into a commanding 4-1 lead, as Jurgen Klopp’s men turned on the style, blitzing Arsenal in a blistering 14 minute period at the start of the second half.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Calum Chambers pulled two back to ensure of a nervy ending for Liverpool, but Klopp’s side held on to start their season with a delightful three points.

Here are the talking points from an exhausting opening victory for Klopp’s side.

Brilliant Goals but Defensive Issues Remain

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, August 14, 2016: Liverpool's goalkeeper Simon Mignolet saves a penalty from Arsenal's Theo Walcott during the FA Premier League match at the Emirates Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

A fantastic result and the perfect start it may have been for Liverpool, but it was a performance that certainly thrilled and frustrated in equal measure.

The Reds produced some absolutely blistering attacking play – notching some fantastic goals that included some potential goal of the season contenders – which thrilled as Liverpool displayed some trademark Klopp offensive football.

But it was a different story down the other end, with the Reds causing their own problems and found wanting defensively far too often, plagued by the same errors and leaking avoidable goals.

Alberto Moreno was a real problem in this regard, but equally as bad was the defending down the right which allowed Oxlade-Chamberlain to dance through half-hearted challenges and fire home, as was the lack of organisation and conceding yet again from a set-piece for Chambers’ header.

The instant improvement in front of goal is certainly promising, but the defensive issues must be ironed out before they prove costly to Liverpool enjoying a good season yet again.

Mane Magnificent on Debut

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, August 14, 2016: Liverpool's Sadio Mane in action during the FA Premier League match against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Three summer signings made their debuts at the Emirates, but it was Sadio Mane’s maiden outing that really caught the eye in the capital.

Forming the attacking trio with Brazilian’s Coutinho and Roberto Firmino, the Senegalese provided a lethal outlet to the Reds attack – with his pace, work-rate and goal threat adding exactly what Klopp wanted from his new man.

Constantly attempting to break in behind Arsenal’s defence, Mane’s speed with and without the ball forced the home side back to their own goal time again, dragging the Reds onto the attack in the process – showed best with his stunning debut goal.

As soon as Coutinho settled in possession, Mane was off, but most impressive was the pace and close control of his dribbling, determination to drive with the ball, and most importantly, the quality of his finish that found the top corner like a rocket.

While Mane’s attacking influence was crucial, equally as vital was his defensive work; he made the most tackles of any Red (6) and the most ball recoveries (8), something that will please Klopp just as much as his goal-scoring display.

Pace, creativity, directness, work-rate and goal threat in abundance, Mane looked a perfect fit for this team and his fantastic debut display is hopefully the first of many impressive games to come.

Coutinho Magic Inspires the Reds

Picture by: Nigel French / EMPICS Sport Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho (second right) celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game with team-mates

Growing into a vital player for the Reds last season, expectation is on Coutinho to carry that mantle for Klopp’s side again this year.

And the Brazilian showed he’s ready to be Liverpool’s talismanic figure again with a man-of-the-match performance that provided the catalyst for a stunning comeback victory.

Though enduring a quiet opening period himself, Coutinho rose to drag the Reds level with a stunning free-kick, providing a watershed moment that totally transformed Liverpool’s belief and mentality going into the second period.

And in that, a stunning flick to Gini Wijnaldum triggered a delightful move for Lallana’s goal, before Coutinho then notched a deserved second of the afternoon with an excellent finish after a perfectly timed run in the box.

Playing a key role in three of Liverpool’s four goals, this is the sort of influence Coutinho’s needs to enforce regularly, with the 24-year-old capable of driving Klopp’s side to a successful campaign.

Moreno ‘Mare Shows Klopp Must Act

FLEETWOOD, ENGLAND - Wednesday, July 13, 2016: Liverpool's Alberto Moreno, with a tiny pony-tail, in action against Fleetwood Town during a friendly match at Highbury Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The start of a new season always brings fresh hope, and in that faith was that an improved Moreno would transpire.

But the Spaniard – who endured a poor pre-season – picked up from where he left off, turning in a nightmare display at the Emirates where he was Liverpool’s weakest link.

Moreno endured a shambolic first-half, giving away the penalty Mignolet saved from Walcott, as well as going missing for Arsenal’s opener, and his all-round poor performance caused all manner of self-inflicted problems down Liverpool’s left-side.

The uncertainly did little to help settle Ragnar Klavan in on his Premier League debut, and as a result, the Reds’ left-side were picked off numerous times in the first 45 – with Arsenal enjoying plenty of success from targeting Moreno.

Gary Neville stated in commentary “you may as well start a goal down with Moreno at left-back” and looking for a strong domestic campaign, Liverpool simply cannot afford to have such an erratic presence as part of a defence needing improvement.

Moreno’s dismal display means it’s time for Klopp to act – he has 17 days lefts of the transfer window to do so.

Reds Show Character and Now Must Build

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, August 14, 2016: Liverpool players thanking supporters after the 3-4 victory over Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Starting at a ground where the Reds have a wretched record to say the least, a big show of character was always going to be needed a the Emirates Stadium.

Thankfully, Klopp’s side rose to the challenge and – despite lacking quality and composure at key moments – at least showed a hugely positive battling spirit, never-say-die approach and team togetherness.

Though a moment of magic dragged Liverpool back into a game they were never in in the first-half, the way Klopp’s side grabbed the opportunity and seized control with such dominance at the start of the second period was a brilliant response.

To then take the lead and continue in such a relentless manner showed the early confidence levels within the squad, and though game management must improve once ahead, the desire to scrap and hang on to the precious lead, seeing off some nervy moments, was extremely promising.

Fighting to a fantastic opening victory must spark momentum for a strong start for Liverpool from here, with the Reds needing to ensure of forward progress.

If such momentum and form can be sustained, a positive season lies in wait.

To mark the end of the 30-year wait for a league title, the ‘Liverpool Mishmash’ poster is available to order exclusively on This Is Anfield — the history of the Reds in one image!

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