If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result, what was this – other than just another whirlwind Liverpool win? Unai Emery at least tried something new in Arsenal’s latest trip to Anfield by actually looking to contain the European champions, only to suffer the same sort of humiliation as ever: a 3-1 that often felt like another 5-1.
The club have now conceded 25 goals in their last seven visits here, as if they are suffering some sort of karmic payback for their greatest ever night here in 1989.
These are certainly numbers – and some performances – that could drive coaching staff to insanity. There will be other descriptions of some of David Luiz’s decisions. That was something else that just doesn’t change, just as Liverpool keep winning, to maintain their 100% start.
It’s not quite been a 100 per cent start for David Luiz.
Anyone that believes he can be the centre-half Arsenal so badly need – at least in a two – certainly needs to re-assess their thinking. Mohamed Salah, who scored twice, seemed to scramble the Brazilian’s brain. Albeit more belatedly than usual.
There was at least one difference to this defeat, that Arsenal can maybe see as some kind of meagre progress. They were still at least in the game at half-time, something that very much hadn’t been the case on most of their last few visits here, when Liverpool have usually blitzed them with so many goals by the 20th minute. That was because Emery did at least try something seemingly novel to his club at Anfield: defending. And not just defending, but ultra-defending, as they often had eight men around the box in what the coaching manuals would describe as the lowest of low blocks.
Rather than that keeping Liverpool out, though, it really just served to keep them at bay that bit longer. There was still an inevitability about the European champions scoring, such was the typical intensity of their play; such was the basic nature of Arsenal’s negative approach.
As early as a fourth-minute goal kick, Liverpool already had four players in Bernd Leno’s box, ready to hunt the ball down. Talk about hunger. Arsenal were never going to be able to live with it, and there were many times when those eight men around Leno really just resembled pinball flippers, for Liverpool to pound the ball off.
A goal was a matter of time, even if it didn’t come as quickly as usual.
And there was a similar inevitability to the source of it, even if that was more from a narrative sense.
David Luiz had been specifically signed to take command of that central defensive area, but could barely take his man as Joel Matip was left with the freedom of the box to head in the opener. And, really, the winner – even if it just happened to be much later than usual in this fixture.
The pattern had now been set. The game had been set.
Arsenal were going to have to open out, and that just meant Liverpool were going to close out the game.
It was all vintage stuff in that way, and especially from David Luiz. He of course had the kind of brainfreeze that has characterised a sometime brilliant career, making it so blatant he was grabbing Salah’s shirt for that penalty.
If there was almost an element of slow-motion farce to that, that couldn’t be said for the third goal. Salah just zipped past the same player, to surge through and sweep the ball into the corner.
David Luiz, already on a booking for the penalty, could literally only stand aside and watch as the Liverpool star scored.
We’ve seen that before between these teams.
Arsenal did at least ensure it wasn’t a fourth defeat in seven by three goals or more, as substitute Lucas Torreira scored late on. It still didn’t feel that much less deflating, or like it minimised the sense of a vast difference between these teams.
That is why there is entire sane logic to the repetitiveness of this fixture: Liverpool remain a much better team, with a much better idea of themselves, and how they want to play.
Emery still has so much work to do.
One team is so much closer to their manager’s idea of perfection, which is why only one still has a perfect record.
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