Monday 16 September 2019

John Aldridge: 'This victory was mostly about Liverpool's hunger to be as good as they can be'

Liverpool's Mohamed Salah celebrates scoring their third goal. Photo: REUTERS/Phil Noble
Liverpool's Mohamed Salah celebrates scoring their third goal. Photo: REUTERS/Phil Noble

John Aldridge

Anyone supporting Liverpool had to be worried that what we saw last season just could not be sustained.

That there would be an almost understandable inability to continue the flowing football, the excellent organisation and the rampant attacking that won a European Cup and brought the team so close to a Premier League victory.

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Not a bit of it at Anfield as Liverpool carried on in their exciting vein and showed to Arsenal that they still have a gulf to close if they want to be a top team.

The London club have their troubles. They will finish the season seventh in the table, at worst, but Arsenal were put in their place here.

Their centre-forwards will score goals and I was impressed by what I saw of Pepe. He looks like a good player and will make goals and score them for the Gunners.

But their defence remains a weakness. For years and years now, they have hankered for the solidity of the old 'Arsenal back-four' and they seem to have no idea how to assemble a foursome who can live up to the deeds of Tony Adams, Steve Bould, Martin Keown, etc. 

However, this victory was mostly about Liverpool and their hunger to kick on as a team and be as good as they can be.

There is also a calmness about them now too that was evident in the first half when Liverpool had plenty of the ball and nothing much happened until Joel Matip's headed goal just before the break.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp celebrates after Mohamed Salah scores their third goal against Arsenal. Photo: REUTERS/Phil Noble
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp celebrates after Mohamed Salah scores their third goal against Arsenal. Photo: REUTERS/Phil Noble

Mo Salah topped it all off with a brace in the second half, the first of them from the penalty spot after the most blatant tug on a shirt you have ever seen from David Luiz.

I mean, what was the Brazilian thinking? In this age of VAR, holding on to your opponent's shirt for so long is simply going to be spotted all day long.

In my time, you always knew a defender was going to give a little pull on the shirt, you almost anticipated it and timed a run accordingly.

But they were more innocent times when referees hardly talked to linesmen during a match anyway.

Now they are all mic’d up and the cameras can see everything and the fourth official will help the referee too.

I know teams want their centre-backs to be able to bring out the ball – and that is very important in the modern game.

But all through his career, you’ve watched Luiz do just that and know that a mistake is just around the corner.

Whether it is a slip, a lack of concentration or a simply daft tug of a shirt, you know he is going to make a mess of something and it is up to your team to profit from it and Salah did just that.

Was there a downside to this win? Yes, once again Liverpool did not keep a clean sheet, something they did for fun last season.

Towards the end of the match, Jurgen Klopp seemed to want to get that win to nil above all.

He took off attackers and brought on defenders when Liverpool might have been able to go on and win this match far more decisively than the 3-1 scoreline.

It was a bit worrying how Liverpool fell back and eventually Lucas Torreira got in for the goal that spoiled the clean-sheet.

Of course, after last season, Klopp is in serious credit with the Kop, so there was no criticism when the manager basically took the decision to go with the squad from last season for the new campaign.

There has been one ‘new’ arrival in Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who missed practically all of last season through injury.

He is going to give the gang a big boost from midfield. And that's where I'd be playing him now.

I know Alex started out as a winger, but I don’t believe that is his game anymore.

Stick him in the middle of the pitch and let this lad do his thing. Good things will roll from there.

But if Liverpool did not buy anyone big during the summer, I believe it is important that they do not sell anyone now while the European window remains open for another ten days.

Dejan Lovren (centre-half) and Xherdan Shaqiri (midfield/attack) are the two players most linked with moves to the continent.

But if I was Klopp I'd not be selling anyone.

The Champions League is coming soon and there’s that relentless 38-game march to the Premier League, a road on which Manchester City are not going to give an inch.

Every advantage is going to have to be prised off the champions – the hard way.

So I’d be pleading with Lovren and Shaqiri to stay, until the end of the season, preferably.

But at least until January when a player or two can be brought in to keep the squad numbers up.

Liverpool do not want to be caught short in their playing squad when there is so much to be won this season if they play as they did against Arsenal at Anfield.

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