Disappointing Performance in a Crucial Clash
Well, that one really stung, didn’t it? All week, Liverpool supporters knew the significance of their trip to Arsenal, both in terms of knocking one rival out of the Premier League title race and cranking up the pressure on another.
Instead, the Reds flopped spectacularly in north London on Sunday afternoon, waiting for arguably their biggest game of the season to produce their most limp performance.
Early Signs of Trouble for Liverpool
From the early minutes at the Emirates, you immediately felt that Liverpool weren’t at the top of their game, with Arsenal first to every second ball and Virgil van Dijk’s sloppiness in possession summing up a lackadaisical approach by Jurgen Klopp’s team.
The Gunners didn’t want it more than the Reds, because we know how much these players care about ending Klopp’s stay at Anfield in style in the coming months, but it certainly felt that way.
Tactical Missteps and Individual Errors
Ultimately, the manager’s decision to start Ryan Gravenberch and Cody Gakpo didn’t pay off at all, with the pair both poor down Liverpool’s right-hand, alongside below-their-best Trent Alexander-Arnold and Ibrahima Konate.
The mix-up between Alisson and Van Dijk epitomised a dim performance by a team that went into the game purring with confidence and rhythm, and it is a match that must be forgotten as a blip as soon as possible.
Looking Beyond the Loss
That’s the key here: the loss shouldn’t be over-analysed.
Of course, any defeat hurts, especially one in a game that could feel defining come the end of the season, but there were mitigating circumstances that made it easier to accept.
For starters, Arsenal are an excellent team who are the third-best in the country, at worst, and the Emirates was always going to be fizzing with atmosphere, given how much was on the line for Mike Arteta and his side.
Losing was a far bigger disaster for them than Liverpool, and in the end, their intensity was greater and the Reds were undone by an inspired team with some elite players in their ranks.
Not only that, but the north Londoners were far more well-rested than the Merseysiders, only played three matches in the past 34 days, compared to seven for Liverpool.
There is some fatigue on show, which is a worry, but six days without a game should benefit them greatly.
This is also a Reds team still without Mohamed Salah, who is always going to make a difference in a massive fixture, while the absence of Dominik Szoboszlai was a big blow, too.
The Road Ahead for Liverpool
The key now is for Liverpool to win all three Premier League matches before the vital visit of Manchester City in early March, with Burnley (home), Brentford (away) and Nottingham Forest (away) all representing must-win fixtures.
Do that, and the Reds will be in a great position when Pep Guardiola’s champions come to town, with League Cup glory also hopefully achieved in that period.
Dropped points in any of those games, or defeat to Chelsea at Wembley, will lead to more understandable concern, but for now, the Arsenal game has to be seen as ‘one of those’ where Liverpool just weren’t at their freshest.
Not every defeat has to be painted as the end of the world, and Klopp’s men remain in a wonderful position this season.