Player ratings: Liverpool 3-1 Arsenal

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Many fans, myself included, were slightly apprehensive going into this game against the gunners but our fears were unfounded as we put in by far our best display of the fledgling season and outright destroyed Arsenal for the vast majority of the game. Let’s see how the lads got on.

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Adrian (5) - Had practically nothing to do and still managed to make a mess of it. Inexplicably comes charging off his line to intercept a ball that Van Dijk was in complete control of, despite Virgil screaming at him to leave it. All he succeeds in doing is passing straight to Aubameyang who arguably should have done better. I’m not having that he made a good save to deny Pepe either, as is being reported. It was an extremely tame strike that was straight at him. He’d have had to jump out the way of it not to save it. Dodgy. He’s already cost us goals, it’s only a matter of time before he costs us points. Keeping everything crossed Alisson will be back after the international break.

TAA (7) - Eventually got his assist from a corner but I actually didn’t think Trent’s crossing was up to his usual high standards yesterday, as he and Robbo were allowed the freedom of Anfield due to Arsenal’s tactical setup. I thought he looked better defensively however and was constantly involved in our build up play and pressing. Overall, can be happy enough with his performance but this kid has much more in his locker, which should be a worry to our opposition.

Matip (9) - Man of the match for me. Salah was also in with a shout of it but Matip nicked it in my opinion. This guy has developed into an absolute beast of a centre back. Aubameyang got absolutely no change out of Matip the whole game and it was his all important opening goal that got the ball rolling for the victory. We’d been so dominant in the first half that had we gone in level at the break, it would have given Arsenal a much needed moral boost. As it was, Matip powered home from Trent’s corner to score his second of the season - already doubling last season’s tally. Rock solid defensively, excellent technical ability and an attacking threat. There can surely be no doubt now as to who our first choice CB pairing should be.

Van Dijk (7.5) - You could see Virgil was worried by Pepe’s pace as he showed him way more respect than you normally see him show attackers and Pepe was causing our defence some problems in the first half. As the game went on however, we began to dominate more and more and Pepe became less and less effective. Some fans also questioned Van Dijk’s reaction after the first goal. We'll give him the benefit of the doubt this time but not something we particularly want to see.

Robertson (7) - Busy and industrious as always. Unlucky not to get an assist as he put a number of good crosses in, including one that gave Salah a free header and another that was just agonisingly ahead of Bobby. Like Van Dijk however, found Pepe to be a bit of a handful, especially first half. Solid enough display from Robbo however and I’m telling you now, it’s only a matter of time before one of his shots fly in. He scores goals for Scotland and he’s now attempting a shot or two every game. If he adds goals to his game, he’ll pretty much be the perfect left back.

Fabinho (7.5) - Some sloppy play in the opening twenty minutes but that may have had something to do with the nasty kick he took. I forget the culprit but the Arsenal player stood in his foot and rolled his ankle. Looked a sore one and may have explained his slow start to the game. What a pass to Salah however for the third goal and for the first half hour of the second half, he totally dominated Arsenal’s midfield any time they tried to break out. Great player and another who still has plenty development left in him.

Henderson (8) - Got a lucky escape after squandering possession, allowing Pepe to run clean through before tamely striking the ball straight at Adrian. Deserved his slice of luck however, as our captain was excellent from start to finish yesterday. He was everywhere, I lost count of how many times he nicked back possession and his pressing was superb. In the first half, all three of Trent, Robbo and Hendo were possibly guilty of their crossing becoming a bit predictable but there was a big change second half as Hendo displayed a fine passing range. There was a point I liked as well when he ran past Guendouzi and shoved him over. The kid looked like a rabbit. Bit harsh maybe but I want teams to leave Anfield and have nightmares about it that night. We’ve got Arsenal over a barrel psychologically these days, they’re beaten at Anfield before a ball is kicked and little things like that just help to increase the dread for their next visit.

Wijnaldum (7) -  Gini’s much vaunted dirty work was undeniably on display here. Uncharacteristically sloppy in possession in the opening stages but grew into the game and was the first one of our players to just go and deal with Pepe. Out muscled him and just took the ball off him twice and that pushed Pepe into his shell. I suspect it was upon instruction at half time, as for the entire second half until subbed, Gini shadowed Pepe and simply smothered him. Gini’s becoming something of a Lucas Leiva in this team. You don’t really notice what he does until he's not playing. Good display yesterday though. Totally selfless player.

Salah (8.5) - Unlucky to miss out on man of the match to Matip. Had it been purely on second half display, he would have been a shoe in. Won a penalty after a moment of madness from David Luiz and then promptly converted it, smashing it into the top corner with as good a penalty as you’ll see. His second however, was masterful. After receiving an excellent forward pass from Fabinho, Salah absolutely skinned Luiz before showing great pace and power to shrug off Monreal and finish effortlessly. Superb goal and once again a demonstration of Salah’s improved footwork this season. I’ve mentioned it in my last couple of ratings but I’m genuinely seeing an improvement technically when he has the ball at his feet. Long may it last.

Firmino (8) - As tends to be the way for Bobby, Salah and Mane invariably steal the headlines but make no mistake, no player is more important to our attack than Bobby. He’s started this season like a train and looks to be right in the mood. Some of his footwork yesterday was outrageous and his touch to put Salah through for what would result in the penalty, was absolutely sublime. It’s so rare to have such a skilful player that also has such hunger to do the defensive side of the game but there he is, time and again, racing back to the edge of his own box to dispossess an opposition player. In an interview this week, Van Dijk named Firmino as the greatest player he’s played with. I think that’s very telling. A real player’s player.

Mane (7) - Not at his swashbuckling best but remained a threat throughout and kept Arsenal’s defence honest. Perhaps slightly fatigued given nobody in the squad has had less of a break this summer than Mane. Still oozes quality however and his presence alone keeps an opposing team on edge defensively. Will be annoyed with himself he didn’t score after a free header from a corner.

Subs:

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Milner (6) - Came on and provided the huff and puff we needed to make sure there was no drop in intensity in our midfield. Snapped into tackles and a nice cool head to come into proceedings and calm things down, especially after they scored.

Ox (6) - Much like Milner, buzzed about and made a nuisance of himself. Difficult to impose himself at that stage of the game when they were rallying and we were seeing the game out. More important minutes though, to remind him of the speed of competitive matches.

Lallana (N/A) - Still exists.

Klopp-watch (10) - I said on a thread last week that we needed time on the training ground to polish up our play. We had that this week and the results were there for all to see. Klopp was quoted this week as saying ‘I believe in training’ and I do too, when you have a coach as skilled as Jurgen. There can be no doubt that we play one of the most technical systems in world football. Our counter pressing is a thing to behold but so is our fullback play, as well as the ever interchanging front three. It’s only natural that we need time to polish that every now and again but the mark of a good coach is when a week on the training pitch pays real dividends and Klopp really is a master at delivering that. Arsenal had no answer to this beast of a team Klopp has built at Anfield as we out thought, outfought and outplayed a more than decent Arsenal team. All credit to the manager.

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Summary:

Be under no illusion, this was a world class display. Arsenal are a team boasting some of the most feared forwards in Europe, a team full of internationals, used to playing at a high level. We destroyed them.

They simply could not handle our movement or our pressing. We had them pinned in their own half for at least two thirds of the game and 3-1 flattered them in the end. Even Gary Neville was forced to admit in commentary that ‘This is just a really good team’ and he’s right.  I think we often still underestimate ourselves, mental scarring from decades of mediocrity that is still stopping us from allowing ourselves to truly believe that we are one of the top three teams in world football today. In fact, right at this moment, ourselves and City are probably out on our own.

On the game itself, I had a conversation with someone - I think it was DBM, on a thread the day Arsenal signed Luiz. I was scathing of him as a defender and ridiculed Arsenal for believing him to be the answer to their defensive woes and yesterday was the perfect example why. Gave away a ridiculous penalty and then has the audacity to question it. You had his shirt stretched out like a parachute David, there was no need for VAR on that one. Then with the third goal, he makes the naive mistake of getting touch tight on Salah and ends up getting done like a kipper. The commentators were somewhat critical of Van Dijk standing off Pepe at times in the first half but what Virgil was doing was making sure Pepe couldn’t do to him, what Salah did to Luiz. The one time Pepe skipped away from Virgil he had enough distance between them to close the angle and catch him up. This game demonstrated a massive gulf in class between ourselves and Arsenal and I think dismissed any idea that they may mount a credible challenge to ourselves or City this season.

After a somewhat shaky start to the season then, I think we all needed a display like this - Klopp included. Under pressure after not making any signings in the summer, this kind of performance against a supposed rival, shuts many a critical mouth, especially when Klopp can point to the kind of talent that didn’t start the game - Ox, Keita, Gomez, Origi, Shaqiri to name but a few as well as the likes of Lovren and Lallana - hugely experienced international players and the young gun in Brewster, chomping at the bit for his chance. This kind of display helps the fan base believe we didn’t need any signings, we are good enough already.

Time will tell if that’s the case but yesterday was a demolition job on a team that will win most of their games this season and a performance like that gives immense belief to players and fans alike, along with a strong message to our rivals. Last season was no one off, this team is here to stay.

All positives this week then folks, as we take our place comfortably top of the league after three
games, plus the trophy we’ve already bagged this season. Football is all about momentum and we’re building ours nicely. Let’s keep it up until the international break, which will hopefully give Alisson sufficient time to recover and then the assault on the Premier League and Europe truly begins. One thing is for sure, on the evidence of yesterday, there isn’t a team in Europe that will be looking forward to playing us. Let’s go invincible this season. Walk on.
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