Arsenal were poor today. Liverpool were quite good. Those two things don’t make for a good pairing. So the 3-0 defeat feels about right, on the balance.
The international break couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Gunners or had a worse effect. The club went in playing well and almost fully healthy. They came out missing key players and lost their momentum. On the other side of the field, Liverpool limped into the break and came out looking like a team renewed.
Today’s performance doesn’t deserved anything more than bullet point observations.
- Bernd Leno has quietly been not great for a while now. He has saved Arsenal’s bacon many, many times over the last few seasons, but he’s struggling. He maybe could have done more with Liverpool’s first (but giving up a header from that distance isn’t great), and he was embarrassingly nutmegged on the second. Hopefully it’s just a dip in form and not something more concerning.
- Thought Gabriel was pretty solid today. Defended Salah 1 v 1 in the open field a few times quite well and was a bit unlucky that he mostly missed the ball on his slide before the second goal. He beat Salah to it, timed the challenge well, but didn’t get all of it, and then the bounce gave the ball right back to Salah. His giveaway on the third goal was bad. He’s got learning to do, but he’s going to be a star.
- Calum Chambers and Rob Holding were both mediocre at best. Really bad that the pair of them got beat by Jota’s movement on the first goal.
- Hope Kieran Tierney’s injury isn’t serious, but I’m concerned. Cedric Soares was not good in relief. Arsenal’s decision not to buy a proper backup left back doesn’t look good.
- Thomas Partey looked much better today, but he’s still not 100%. But I’m not as concerned about his play as I was heading into the break.
- Dani Ceballos stunk. He was slow on the ball and wasn’t strong enough defensively. Arsenal were overrun in the midfield all match. Mohamed Elneny replacing him didn’t really change really missed Granit Xhaka.
- Arsenal also really missed Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka. Turns out when you take the best passing CB, the midfield anchor, the best creative attacker, and the guy who was the “missing piece” that sparked the post-Boxing Day turnaround out of the side, it’s going to struggle mightily.
- Martin Odegaard, Nicolas Pepe, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and Alexandre Lacazette were mostly anonymous on the day. But it’s really tough to have a go at them given how badly Arsenal got dominated in the midfield. They hardly had a chance to make anything happen.
- Can we end the Aubameyang on the left switch-back? Please? He was playing well through the middle and the attack was much better. He’s had two nothing games at LW. Taking a guy who’s strength is getting into dangerous positions in the box, moving him away from the goal, and asking him to defend all the way back to your own 18 is not a good move.
Arsenal had an outside shot of making something happen in the Premier League because of their strong run of form post-Boxing Day. They still do, I suppose, but dropping points hurts. There is almost no wiggle room for the rest of the run-in. It’s all about the Europa League. Let’s hope they’re healthy and up for it come Thursday.