Liverpool are still the reigning Premier League champions, and by no means are they an easy opponent at any given moment despite having their first three centre-backs ruled out for the season, together with their captain. There is much quality in that team even so, and getting outplayed by them is no tragedy. Nonetheless, the overwhelming feeling after the 0-3 defeat at the Emirates on Saturday is disappointment.
Not so much at the defeat itself, but rather at how it came about. The Gunners were reduced to just 35% possession and a total of two shots, compared to Liverpool’s 13. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Nicolas Pepe, Alexandre Lacezette and Martin Odegaard are all very good dribblers, and yet, not one of the four members of the makeshift Liverpool defence was dribbled past even once. Odegaard and Dani Ceballos, the two Real Madrid loanees who were supposed to be the main sources of creativity in the absence of Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe, were practically invisible. Aubameyang and Pepe were being repeatedly pushed back by Liverpool’s marauding fullbacks and very rarely got a feel of the ball in the opposition half.
The back line, although a makeshift one as well with no David Luiz available, didn’t do its job too well either. Gabriel Mahalhaes allowed Diogo Jota to come into the space between them to score the opener, Gabriel’s attempt at defending just before Mohamed Salah scored Liverpool’s second was far too feeble, and then Jota outwitted them again for the third, with help from Sadio Mane. Apart from the three goals, there were a few moments when sheer luck and Bernd Leno prevented the visitors from walking away with an even more convincing win.
Thomas Partey and Lacazette seemed to be putting in superhuman efforts for a while, but it was nowhere near enough from the whole team.
To make matters worse, it seems that the knee problem which forced Kieran Tierney off just before halftime is serious.
“He felt something with his knee,” said Mikel Arteta. “He was in pain. It looks like he will be injured but we don’t know for how long.”
The situation is even less clear with David Luiz.
“There a few possibilities on that, being a little more conservative with the treatment or having to go for a surgery. We are talking with the doctors at the moment to make the right decision on that but we’ll see. He could be out for a few weeks at least. It will depend what the decision we take is. If it’s more conservative, it will be short-term. If it’s a bit more radical with what he needs, it will take longer.”
The boss took full responsibility for the result and apologized for it. It is to be hoped that the rectification of the problems this match revealed will be swift and thorough, and that Slavia Prague will be facing a team highly determined to make things right on Thursday.