Yesterday Liverpool were explosive as they put 4 past Arsenal. However the Reds conceded 3 goals resulting in a nervy end to the game.
It would seem that Liverpool are still a side who win games simply by outscoring the opposition. This may seem like obvious football logic but as a supporter I can vouch for the cardiovascular issues that a 4-3 scoreline poses.
When the club went so close to winning the league in the 2013/14 season there were blatantly clear defensive issues which seemed present yet again against Arsenal. Last season was one full of dramatic comebacks and classic matches like the 4-5 victory over Norwich and the Europe League epic against Borussia Dortmund which ended 5-4 on aggregate.
While it may be entertaining to watch games like these it is also far from a recipe for success. The last thirty minutes at the Emirates could’ve gone much differently as could’ve the games at Carrow Road and Anfield last season. Jürgen Klopp is aware of the difficulty to be successful over a 38-game season when it’s necessary to score 4 goals to win a single game.
Therefore, the road ahead can only be made smoother by sorting out the defensive issues which are clear to see.
Alberto Moreno had an absolute nightmare against Arsenal with the Spaniard giving away a penalty, which Simon Mignolet brilliantly saved, and allowing Theo Walcott to get in behind and score all in the space of 69 seconds. The picture below shows just how far Moreno was out of position before it was even clear that a break was on.
This sort of positioning isn’t something that we haven’t seen before. When Liverpool crumbled against Sevilla in last season’s Europa League final it was hugely impacted by Moreno rushing into challenges and then allowing attackers in behind him.
The margin that Moreno was out of position by meant that after regaining position, Arsenal only needed to make one pass before Walcott redeemed himself and superbly found the far corner. Being split open by a pass like that usually means that something has gone wrong and sadly it’s not the first time Moreno has been caught out of position like that and it certainly won’t be the last.
Liverpool recovered superbly to turn the tables on Arsenal. Just before half-time Philippe Coutinho struck a free-kick which reminded me a lot of Luis Suarez and the way he takes set pieces. After the midway-break the Reds continued the fightback as Lallana and then Coutinho again made the score line 3-1 to Liverpool. Sadio Mané added a fourth and by God did he do well to curl into the net after running with the ball and beating two defenders.
The issue with going three goals up is that a certain amount of complacency tends to creep in and players relax as it seems as if the job is done and dusted. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain took full advantage of Liverpool’s relaxed demeanour.
However skillful Chamberlain may be, the goal that he scored was preventable as far as Liverpool are concerned. Lallana and Nathaniel Clyne both allowed the winger to come inside when it was obvious that was what he wanted. Then, when the shot came in from Chamberlain both Lovren and Mignolet set themselves too early and a deflection off Lovren beat Mignolet who was rooted to the spot as a result of his poor positioning. Yet another goal conceded at the front post for the Belgian ‘keeper.
Liverpool’s arch nemesis; set pieces. I can’t remember the last time that I felt secure when an opposition team had a free kick in a dangerous area. Calum Chambers was one Arsenal’s poorest performers on the park with his short passing constantly playing into Liverpool’s hands, or rather Liverpool’s feet.
Regardless of how poor Chambers had been all afternoon he was allowed to score a headed goal from a free kick in a wide position. It’s an indictment on how poor Liverpool are at defending set pieces. The goal turned the game on its head and allowed Arsenal to think there was a chance for the game’s second comeback.
Last seasons woes seem like they’ll plague the 2016/17 season as well. Alberto Moreno’s poor positioning, Simon Mignolet’s tendency to conceded at the front post and the seeming inability to defend a set-piece will curtail any hopes of success that Liverpool may harbour unless they’re dealt with.
Moreno cannot be the club’s only left-back but if this is the case then it will continue to haunt the club. Luckily for us and our blood pressure levels, Loris Karius will be returning from injury in a few weeks and then Mignolet will be banished – hopefully. The only seriously worrying issue is defending set-pieces. All the teams in the league are aware that it’s the club’s Achilles heal and this needs to be addressed if success is really on the club’s agenda this season.