Another game, another three points: Steven Scragg picks the bones out of a game which saw Liverpool decimate another opponent who had been touted as capable of challenging.
Liverpool are psychologically bossing English football at the minute.
I’ve a lot of time for Arsenal and the way they’re reinventing themselves.
Mikel Arteta’s switch to North London has had two discernible effects. His new club are casting away many of the clouds that have hovered over it in recent years, while at his previous club, Pep Guardiola seems to be struggling without the presence of his former sidekick.
Dealing With the Reds
Under Arteta, Arsenal have found a way to deal with Liverpool that has been as compelling as that of any other team, in the last two years or so. They beat us at the Emirates in mid-July, coming from behind to do so, which was then added to by sneaking the Community Shield from under our nose, a month ago at Wembley.
Arteta and Arsenal will have been under no illusions about the task that presented itself to them on Monday night, yet they will have come to Anfield in a hopeful mood.
Jurgen Klopp’s team did what has become second nature to them. They moved the ball with a speed and ease that is almost violent, they chased the ball in packs when they lost possession of it, they were sharp and incisive in everything they did and what mistakes did occur were taken as an insult and remedied.
For reference of this, see Andrew Robertson.
Despite all of this, Liverpool dangled an enticing carrot of hope at 2-1. Alexandre Lacazette was wasteful with two opportunities when bearing down on Alisson Becker, having earlier been gifted the opening goal.
Psychologically, these types of experiences are damaging ones. For the beaten team, thoughts will linger on the lost chances to make it 2-2, rather than the way their players were made to look like road cones for large swathes of the game.
Two teams might go into a game with six points each from their first two fixtures, but it doesn’t mean they are equals of one another. Arsenal are going to do well this season, but they are a chasm away from Liverpool’s standards.
For those who are of a non-Liverpool persuasion, they will have looked at the opening acts of the fixture list and hoped that points were there to be dropped.
In fact, the first two months of Liverpool’s campaign are littered with potential pitfalls, that include not only an opening day mad one against Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United and already the vanquished Chelsea and Arsenal, but also Manchester City, Leicester City, plus dates with the in-form entities that are Aston Villa and an Everton side that are cutting their best rug in a generation.
Should the reigning champions be bulletproof throughout this run, the psychological impact on the rest of the Premier League will be massive.
The campaigns of rivals can be derailed early and easily, once you are the team at the top.
It is the hope that kills you. Remove hope and half the job is done. In this respect, this is a Liverpool team that is clinical at sucking the wind out of opposing teams’ sails.
A Change of Currency
Against Arsenal, it would have been the old Liverpool currency to have frozen at the prospect of a visit from a team that has landed two recent blows. Klopp’s Liverpool, however, tend to make an example of upstarts.
Gary Neville’s admiration for the way the champions play comes laced with an alluring mix of sad resignation and appreciation. The psychological torture he goes through must leave him bewildered.
Commanding goalkeeping from Alisson, Virgil van Dijk pinging the ball out of defence, the return and calm authority of Joe Gomez, Trent Alexander-Arnold in the mood to assist goals, Robertson making amends for errors, a midfield of Naby Keita, Gini Wijnaldum and Fabinho gliding along, to make the absence of Thiago a mere irritation rather than a detrimental issue, Mohamed Salah in tunnel-vision mode, Sadio Mane the best player in the world and Bobby Firmino performing between every line and parallel universe on the pitch.
Liverpool won this one with style, substance and stubbornness.
There was even time for Klopp to shoot down Roy Keane in his post-match interview.
Diogo Jota’s late cameo of a league debut brought him a goal, the goal that settled any lingering nerves, via Mane having been incensed at being withdrawn and Salah nicking the ball off his foot. Welcome to life at Anfield.
It’s the same opposition again on Thursday evening, in the League Cup, where a vastly changed Liverpool line-up will take on a greatly altered Arsenal team, in a game of aesthetically pleasing movements of both body and ball.
Beyond that, it is a Sunday evening trip to Villa Park, to face an interesting challenge against a team that seems to have embraced their escapology from relegation with a spring in their step.
Another bubble to burst.