Arsenal vs. Liverpool: *Bumper* Post-Match Analysis
Paul Tomkins, Andrew Beasley, Daniel Rhodes and other TTT regulars will give their thoughts on the match for 24 hours after the game, so the article received via email is unlikely to be the final version. There's statistics from the match and videos too.
The game – with Liverpool dominating the first-half – changed on the loss of Luis Díaz, Liverpool's best player, and an enforced return to the older guys, who are slower and not as energetic.
(Plus, a really dumb decision to throw everyone forward for a non-dangerous free-kick. Then a soft penalty to rub salt into the wounds.)
The team, fairly old to start with, got older, with the Colombian's pace and directness replaced by Roberto Firmino's smartness – but the team needs pace and energy and youth. Especially in front of two 31-year-old centre-backs and two midfielders of a similar age (who bossed the first half and lost the second). To add a 31-year-old striker just feels like too much.
Firmino took his goal superbly well, but the team is not as fit, sharp and young as it was. You can’t field an entire spine of 30-somethings, but Liverpool had one after the break, including the keeper. (30, 31, 31, 32, 31 and 31.) None of them are past it; but as a team, it feels too much.
Some of the problem is a hangover from the exertions of last season; some of it the fact that too many older players have been called into duty, partly through injury, partly through choice.
Joël Matip had a nightmare, but even when playing well (which is most of the time), he's one of the older ones I'd have sacrificed to have had the younger, faster, stronger Ibrahima Konaté in the side going back to preseason. (Konaté got injured in the preseason B-team, with Matip chosen ahead of him in the main games this summer. I had assumed Konaté's role in the second half of last season made him first choice.)
Díaz was the best player on the pitch until a series of kicks knocked him out of the game. He was linking with and running off the dangerous Darwin Núñez extremely well; but once he went off, the pace was gone. Liverpool tipped from lively into lethargic.
It's galling that a soft penalty won the game, when the Reds, a quarter of the way into the season, have yet to be awarded one (two against, none for; and a red card against, too). By then, Arsenal were on top, but big decisions change games, and today, they all went against Liverpool. It's also true to say that the defending before the penalty was grimly comical.
In the first half, Trent Alexander-Arnold was all at sea on the right side, and I felt Joe Gomez did better individually when he came on (at least blocking some crosses, winning some tackles, tracking some runners), but by then the Reds were being pushed back and lacking the ability to press. The overloads were clear, and after so many injuries, Gomez doesn't look quite as quick as he was.
It may be that the Reds' right-hand side pushed teams back for so long – year after year – that, with Mo Salah now in his 30s, Alexander-Arnold (a great footballer, if not a great defender) lacking confidence and Matip (31) looking shaky – plus Henderson, 32, the nominally covering midfielder – it's a side of the team that's now being forced to defend; and the lack of true pace from any of those players is telling.
Teams Liverpool play feel younger and fresher. And faster. But the Reds were the better team until Díaz limped off. He could take the fight to Arsenal; the rest could not, in a consistent manner.
The second half of my comments, and those of the others, follow for subscribers only.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to The Tomkins Times - Main Hub to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.