Liverpool lost to Arsenal in the Community Shield on Saturday after a penalty shoot-out. Here are five things we learned from the season’s opening fixture.
Neco Williams didn’t look entirely assured. There are questions over his work for Arsenal’s opener, for one – should he have dealt with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang better?
The full-back had a difficult situation with the overlapping Keiron Tierney and probably chose the wrong option. Williams backed off Aubameyang and allowed him the space to work a shot on his stronger foot. In hindsight, stopping that should have been the priority.
But it was a tough task for a 19-year-old without a senior season under his belt. The youngster needs time and it’s experiences like these that will turn him into a better player.
Function over finesse
Liverpool started the Community Shield with a very functional midfield. There was no Jordan Henderson or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain thanks to injuries, while Curtis Jones and Naby Keita sat on the bench. The result was a midfield that Liverpool struggled to play through.
Instead, James Milner, Gini Wijnaldum and Fabinho rarely got involved going forward. Or defensively for that matter. Arsenal played very directly to their front-three, while Liverpool did the same on the counter.
Without Henderson there to lead things or Keita driving with the ball, Liverpool lacked a foothold. They really could have used more of a playmaker in there – now where could we find one of those?
In the first half, Sadio Mane touched the ball around 30 times. Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino couldn’t match that – combined. It was the same in midfield as Milner, playing on the left, had twice as many touches as Wijnaldum on the other side.
Similarly, Andy Robertson found the ball far more than Williams. Liverpool gravitated towards the left far too often and it came at a price.
Not getting Firmino and Salah into the game is disastrous. Firmino, in particular, thrives against teams who play without a holding midfielder but Liverpool barely got him the ball. As a result, the Reds struggled to threaten as they played so predictably down the left.
It’s unclear who’s to blame for this one. The gameplan? The midfield? The forwards themselves? All we do know is that this wasn’t good enough.
Willing to change
How did Klopp react to the problems we’ve mentioned? By shifting things around. Fabinho to centre-half, Joe Gomez to right-back, Keita into midfield – and a whole new attack.
Mane drifted right, while Firmino played the no.10 role. Salah became a striker and Takumi Minamino came off the bench to play from the left. This was quite the change, given Liverpool played almost exclusively 4-3-3 last season.
But Minamino could be a game-changer there, as shown with his goal. The Japanese international is versatile enough that Klopp can confidently try new things. That might be how Liverpool freshen things up this season.
What to do with Brewster?
Jurgen Klopp simultaneously trusted Brewster and didn’t trust Brewster. He didn’t put him on to try and find a winner – despite playing with a no.9 – but he did want him to take a penalty (even if he did miss).
It’s hard to tell, then, what the plan is. The new formation does suit the player but does Klopp have him down as reliable on the pitch? We think there’s no better place than Liverpool to learn the rest of his game, as long as he gets minutes.
We hoped to learn a bit more from the Community Shield in regards to Brewster. It’s more wait and see than ever now, though.