Ramsdale shines despite Arsenal struggles
Let’s try and focus on a positive to begin with as their are undoubtedly plenty of negatives to dig into.
It’s rare that a team loses 4-0 and their goalkeeper is still man of the match, but that shows how good Aaron Ramsdale was for Arsenal on the day.
The 23-year-old had already had a fantastic week by picking up his first England cap and clean sheet in the 10-0 win over San Marino on Monday, and despite a disappoiting result, he added to his own remarkable rise with a sensational performance.
Mo Salah probably would have had a hattrick if it weren’t for Ramsdale’s heroics, while his save from Diogo Jota was yet another world class stop.
The display was so impressive that even Virgil van Dijk was willing to single him out for praise after the game.
“Their goalie did quite well despite losing 4-0 in my opinion,” the Dutchman said, marking out the respect Ramsdale is quickly building in the game.
Aside from the saves though his character is something that continues to impress people around Arsenal.
After the game he sprinted from the opposite end of the pitch to go and applaud the travelling fans and even gained the acclaim of the Kop end as he came out for the second half, such was the quality of the outing.
In post-match interviews the 23-year-old also spoke with a realism about the situation far beyond a man of his years, giving plenty of optimism about the Gunners chances of quickly recovering from the result.
“I think it shows the quality that they’ve got and where we want to get to,” he told Arsenal.com after the game. “This game isn’t going to define our season.
“It’s possibly the toughest place to come in the Premier League. This is where we want to get to. We’re not going to hide away from the fact that they’ve won the Champions League and the Premier League in recent years.
“For the first 30 to 40 minutes, we did well – they might have had more possession and more shots, but we contained them.
“At the start of the second half, we gave them chances and from then on, it was a mountain to climb. It was one of those nights but it’s a marathon, not a sprint, and this team will go again. We’ll learn from tonight.”
If there was one thing that could be worked on it is perhaps his tendency to spill shots that he saved, which could perhaps have led to more goals were it not for the quick reactions of Takehiro Tomiyasu and Thomas Partey, but on balance it was a good performance from the England stopper who will surely be in possession of the international number one jersey sooner rather than later.
Tierney vs Tavares settled, for now
Going into the match arguably the biggest selection headache for Mikel Arteta to deal with was over who to pick at left back.
Kieran Tierney was arguably Arsenal’s best player last season and after singing a contract extension in the summer, is set to be a cornerstone of this Gunners side for years to come.
But after the inevitable time came that he was ruled out with an injury Nuno Tavares ‘ excellent displays in deputising him proved to be a surprise to pretty much everybody.
The Portuguese left back had been stuck with despite Tierney’s return for Watford, although fitness could be used as an excuse that time.
With the Scottish international back at 100% this was to be the first time we saw which left back Arteta would go for with both as genuine options.
It was Tavares who he went for, and in hindsight that was probably the wrong decision.
Going up against Mo Salah, absolutely everything had to perfect from the 21-year-old’s display. He would have to be defensively excellent, secure in possession and positionally sound, yet on the day he was none of those.
Of course the error for Diogo Jota’s goal is the glaring misdemeanour, but time and again he was caught out of position in the match leading Gabriel to show frustration with him and Takehiro Tomiyasu to have to fill in at left back on multiple occasions.
As the game went on after his mistake, Tavares looked more and more eager to make ammends individually than serving the best interests of the team by playing as best he could.
This was on full display in the third goal, where the former Benfica man left Mo Salah wide open in the six yard box to race across to try to block Sadio Mane, despite the fact that the Sengalese winger was already being tracked by Ben White and had to beat Aaron Ramsdale from a tight angle if he wanted to score.
It’s a classic example of the overexuberance of youth that perhaps meant going for the more experienced option of Tierney would have been the better choice.
You would expect the Scot to be back for Newcastle next week settling the debate between the two, for now.
Arteta vs Klopp shows best and worst of Arsenal boss
It’s impossible to avoid the altercation between Mikel Arteta and Jurgen Klopp when looking at the talking points from this game.
In fairness to the Spaniard, Sadio Mane had been going into challenges elbow first from literally the first minute on Saturday, and after getting away with one on Kieran Tierney last year, it’s easy to see why Arteta was keen to ensure the Liverpool forward was not so lucky this time around.
One of the best things Arteta has managed to instil in this Arsenal side is a sense of togetherness that was probably lacking in times gone by.
We’ve seen in games like Burnley away that the Gunners players are now willing to fight for each other and that was on full display again at Anfield as Aaron Ramsdale, Gabriel and Albert Sambi Lokonga sprinted from opposite ends of the pitch to remonstrate with Mane for another overly zealous tackle on Ben White that finally saw him put into the book
This attitude stems from the manager down. Having seen Mane try to use the dark arts against Takehiro Tomiyasu, Arteta was willing to go into battle to fight his player’s corner.
“He was trying to defend his side, I was trying to defend mine and that’s it,” said the Spaniard of the set to with his opposite number after the game.
While this incident shwoed the very best of what Arteta is as a manager it also showed perhaps some of the worst.
Arsenal had actually done a decent job of keeping the usually scorching Anfield atmosphere to timid ember with their stifling of the hosts, before the mangerial altercation poured gasoline on things to set the famous stadium ablaze.
On the touchline it’s easy to see that Arteta is a manager who lives and breathes the game, but as someone who is so big on what his players transmit, perhaps he could have paused to think about the frantic energy he was sending onto the pitch with his loss of control on a night where Arsenal needed to keep their heads.
Undoubtedly he was provoked by Klopp who often gets away with some garish antics on the touchline that regularly overstep the mark, but given that the Gunners went on to concede just minutes later, you wonder whether riling up the crowd was really that necessary.
Regardless of your views on that question, there is little doubting that the change in atmosphere had a detrimental impact on the Spaniard’s side.
Arsene Wenger described Anfield as the trickiest stadium he ever went to in his long career and it’s easy to see why.
No the atmosphere ramped up Arsenal seemed barely able to hear themselves think and began to wilt somewhat under the pressure.
Tavares obviously suffered, but the usually unflappable Ben White began diving into challenges, while Albert Sambi Lokonga had to be hooked just five minutes into the second half for consistently giving the ball away.
Inexperienced sides tend to struggle in such cauldrenous atmospheres and for Arsenal it is clearly a massive weakness. We’ll never know how they might have faired if the ambiance hadn’t been allowed to reach such a boiling point.
Like it or lump it, Arsenal cannot change the fact that they were well and truly humbled by a far superior side on Saturday night.
What’s important now is how they bounce back from the defeat.
With December fast approaching, games will soon be coming thick and fast, and it is essential that any negativity after this game is not allowed to snowball.
They have been dealt a relatively kind next opponent in the shape of a Newcastle side still in search of their first Premier League win of the season, and winning that one is essential.