Liverpool turned on the style against Arsenal with a helping hand from the opposition manager.
Liverpool 4-0 Arsenal
Anfield, Premier League
Saturday 20 November, 2021
Goals: Mane 39′, Jota 51′, Salah 73′, Minamino 76′
Trent’s creativity continues
In one sense it was an unusual game for Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson made more passes (68) than any Arsenal player #LIVARS ????
— James Nalton (@JDNalton) November 20, 2021
But in another sense, it was business as usual for Trent and a continuation of what is so far his most productive season in terms of creativity.
He already has six assists in the league this season, just one behind last season’s tally, as well as two assists in three Champions League outings.
Improving on the output of a season or two ago didn’t seem possible, but he is doing just that so far this season.
Arteta gets us going
Mikel Arteta was obviously listening when the Arsenal fans began chanting “where’s your famous atmosphere” in the first half, as it was he who really lit the touchpaper on it.
A touchline confrontation between himself and Jurgen Klopp turned what was a fairly flat game, on the pitch and in the stands, into something altogether more lively.
Liverpool tested Aaron Ramsdale who may have celebrated his saves a little too early, while the managers’ touchline altercation raised the volume in Anfield and gave the players some added impetus to finally get a goal.
A last-man tackle from Fabinho on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was good timing in this regard, too, and the goal eventually came as the crowd’s influence increased, thanks in a large part to Arteta.
There’s your atmosphere, thank you.
From starting XI to bench
Without Henderson, the bench had just 25 league starts between them.
Liverpool are once again walking a tightrope with injuries, and are just a couple away from some of these names forced into the starting lineup rather than introduced gradually, but at this stage, given the lack of signings, the conclusion can only be that it is part of the plan.
And it worked well here. Minamino came off the bench to score the fourth (with his first touch), while Morton was able to come on for his league debut, at Anfield no less, under no pressure with the game already won.
Liverpool’s lineup for this game boasted what in theory should be an ideal midfield balance.
Fabinho‘s role needs no explanation, and he’s the only player in the squad who can execute it.
Alongside and slightly ahead of him was Thiago — the multinational midfielder who sometimes plays for Spain and controls the game in his own way.
Then more unpredictable, a little untidier but more of a direct threat to the opposition was Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, building on the base provided by the other two.
There has been a lot of discussion around what is Liverpool’s best midfield, but sometimes it might be a case of best balance rather than best players.
Each of the three performed well Fabinho and Thiago finished the game with a pass success of 98% and 95% respectively, while Oxlade-Chamberlain finished with something much more sought-after — a This is Anfield man of the match award.
The feeling Liverpool had at the end of this match may continue into Wednesday’s Champions League meeting with Porto.
They are already through to the knockout stages and are already guaranteed top spot in the group.
There is the question of considerable prize money for a win, but there is no reason Liverpool can’t take these games seriously while also resting players who will be important for the title challenge.
They need to collect as many points as they can in the league in this period before the Africa Cup of Nations arrives and the Champions League knockout stages begin early next year, so this needs to be the priority now.
They were able to rest players late on in the game against Arsenal and still score, and should be looking to do the same against Porto, trusting the squad they have assembled.