Photo via Jason Cairnduff/Reuters
Arsenal came into Anfield looking for their first win over a top-six club on the road in six years. They came into the match with momentum after winning their first two matches of the season. Despite taking the early lead, the drought continues as the defending champions took care of business as Liverpool defeated Arsenal 3-1.
Manager Mikel Arteta made two key changes to the lineup as he replaced winger Bukayo Saka with Ainsley Maitland-Niles and defender Gabriel Magalhaes with David Luiz. Early in the match, Liverpool dominated possession and set up many promising attacks. Luiz showed why Arteta inserted him into the lineup as he cleared away several chances, including clearing a dangerous header from Virgil Van Dijk.
In the 15th minute, Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno saved a smashing shot from Sadio Mane. Two minutes later, Trent Alexander-Arnold’s volley deflected off the cross bar. After more clearances, Arsenal set themselves up for a counterattack set up by Maitland-Niles. Inside the penalty box, his cross took a bad deflection off Liverpool leftack Andy Robertson, landing into the lap of Arsenal striker Alexandre Lacazette who put it away to give Arsenal a 1-0 lead in the 25th minute.
The lead didn’t last long as Luiz fouled Liverpool midfielder Naby Keita but the referees played the advantage, allowing winger Mohamed Salah to shoot it toward Leno. Leno saved it but the ball deflected right to Mane who tapped it in to even the score.
Six minutes later, Alexander-Arnold placed a perfect cross for the unmarked Robertson, who put the ball past Leno to give Liverpool a 2-1 lead.
Arsenal would attempt to even the score but their two best chances at the end of the first half were stopped by offsides calls. Liverpool headed into halftime with a 2-1 lead.
The second half saw Arsenal control possession, pushing for an equalizer. Their best chance would come in the 63rd minute as Lacazette found space behind the Liverpool, setting up a one-on-one chance against Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker. Alisson would win as he saved Lacazette’s on the edge of the penalty box, maintaining Liverpool’s lead.
Liverpool put the nailed in the coffin in the 88th minute as Diego Jota, who made his debut for the club, smashed a shot past Leno to give Liverpool the 3-1 lead, which they held for the victory
This was business as usual for the defending Premier League champions. Their passing was crisp when it needed to be and they took advantage of their opportunities to score. Their full-back pairing of Robertson and Alexander-Arnold are fantastic, making their attack even more lethal. They look like the best club so far this season.
As for Arsenal, they competed against the best club in the Premier League, even holding the lead at one point. The defense did their best to keep Arsenal in the match but great passing from Liverpool proved to be too much to contain. The biggest takeaway from the match is Arsenal lacks the midfield to compete against the top clubs of the Premier League. Arsenal were dominated in the possession battle, especially in the first half, and their best chances mostly were set up on counterattacks. Liverpool won in large part due to their superior midfield.
Arsenal’s two remaining transfer targets are midfielders Thomas Partey and Houssem Aouar. This match shows how badly Arteta needs to sign these players before the transfer window expires on October 5 as the midfield needs reinforcements. Until this happens, Arsenal will continue to be a second-tier Premier League club.