In pictures: Liverpool v Arsenal
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Liverpool put an end to Arsenal’s ten-game unbeaten run with a 4-0 win at Anfield. There is no shame in losing to a club like the Reds, but it did highlight a major issue in the squad – its lack of experience.
Sadio Mane opened the scoring in the 39th minute when he nodded a great header past Aaron Ramsdale following a teasing delivery from Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Diogo Jota then doubled the Reds lead in the 52nd minute when the Portugal international intercepted a loose pass from Nuno Tavares before jinking past Ben White and Aaron Ramsdale before tapping into an empty net.
Mohamed Salah finally got his well-deserved goal in the 73rd minute when Sadio Mane beat Ben White in a foot race before crossing to the unmarked Egyptian at the back post to convert.
Three became four just three just minutes later when Takumi Minamino popped up at the back post to convert a drilled cross from Alexander-Arnold, just seconds after entering the fray.
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Up against a Liverpool side who are in flying form, the result won’t come as a shock to too many Gunners fans, but they have every right to feel disappointed by the second-half collapse.
Arsenal spent £150million in the summer as part of a major rebuild to become the club they once were.
Arteta brought in six players all aged 24 and under in a bid to freshen up his squad but also lay the foundations for future success.
The acquisitions of Ramsdale, Nuno Tavares, White, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Martin Odegaard and Albert Sambi Lokonga has given the Gunners a fresh feel, but there may be an underlying issue amongst those signings.
With a younger side out on display, the team is worryingly in need of experience and paid the price for having a lineup with an average age of 24 – and without forwards Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette the team would have had an average of just 22.
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Up against Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, the squad needed several experienced heads in and amongst the side to iron out and silly mistakes – but that wasn’t the case.
The second goal by Jota put the game to bed for the Reds, and it came from Tavares dispossessing Alexander-Arnold out wide before cutting inside and playing a blind pass straight to the feet of the former Wolves forward.
After that, the third goal felt inevitable, namely due to the overly-attacking positioning and runs by right-back Tomiyasu, which left White exposed against both Mane and Jota on several occasions.
The England international formerly played in a back-three at Brighton which earned him his £50m price tag, but in a back four, the defender has looked quite shaky when left to compete alone with natural no.9’s.
A more experienced fullback may have refrained from bombing forward so regularly knowing that his teammate would be left one-on-one against one of the best wingers in the world, but, again, the Japanese defender didn’t make that call.
Arteta is in danger of having a very young squad to work with as well if he doesn’t keep Lacazette and Aubameyang amongst his ranks, who were both linked with moves away from north London over the summer.
Lacazette has been a great focal point for the Gunners since his arrival from Lyon in 2017 but his contract expires at the end of the season and there has been no decision on whether to keep the Frenchman on the books.
Speaking on Friday, Arteta spoke of the lack of negotiations, he said: “I don’t know there is so much stuff on his contract, what I can say is I’m really happy with what Lacazette is doing.
“We’re not going to be talking about any of that until the end of the season.”
It remains to be seen how much Arteta’s young side will struggle against some of the Premier League’s best teams, but the manager will be hoping that they mature and progress quickly to avoid another embarrassing defeat of this nature.
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