When Martin Atkinson blew his full-time whistle in the hot Sunday sunshine at Anfield, Liverpool weren’t the topic of conversation amongst journalists at the stadium or those typing furiously on Twitter. The abject nature of Arsenal’s performance feel like they’ve been video looped on the front page of a website such is the painful familiarity in the manner of their defeat.
The post-mortems will have made grim reading for Arsene Wenger and one can’t help but think that – even three games into the new season – it would have benefited all concerned if the evergreen Frenchman departed triumphantly after winning the FA Cup in May. Instead, he was again woefully out-thought by one of the Premier League’s superstar coaches and did little to dispel the idea that his methods are a relic from the past.
Arsenal’s wretchedness understandably drew the ire of Sky’s pundits – Jamie Carragher repeated his assertion that their players were cowards – and in a sense, Liverpool were never going to gain credit regardless of the decisiveness of their victory. Still, Jurgen Klopp’s side have a clarity and structure to how they play unlike their opponent at the weekend, and they mercilessly exploited Arsenal’s vulnerabilities.
Sunday’s outcome shouldn’t be too surprising given that Liverpool have only lost once at home to a top-six rival (when Louis Van Gaal’s Manchester United snatched a late winner) in Klopp’s two years at the club. They rise to the occasion against the elite sides, but have invariably found their downfall when faced with inferior opposition. Last season, there was an over-reliance on Sadio Mane to provide vertical pace and off the cuff skill to break down deep defences, but it appears as if they’ve relieved some of that pressure with the addition of Mo Salah.
Salah’s spell at Chelsea arrived too early in his career for him to fully grasp the cutthroat attitude at that club, yet that led to much skepticism when Liverpool brought him back to the Premier League from Roma. Those who have watched the Egyptian closely during his time in Italy will know that he is a vastly different player to the one who warmed the Stamford Bridge bench in Jose Mourinho’s return. He was the only player in Serie A to register double figures in goals and assists last season and theorised defences with his blistering pace.
In a red shirt, Salah’s picked up where he left off in Rome. He scored on his debut against Watford and his second half introduction against Crystal Palace helped turn the tide and earn Liverpool the three points. He underlined his importance in the Champions League against Hoffenheim and at the weekend, he put Arsenal to the sword.
Salah isn’t the most technically smooth footballer, but his electric speed and eye for goal should prove invaluable. Klopp employs his wide men more so as inside forwards rotating fluidly, which suits the 25 year-old as he thrives in the spaces between centre-halves and fullbacks.
Roma’s new sporting director Monchi is rightly lauded for his expertise in the transfer market, but the man behind Sevilla’s success in recent times made a rare lapse of judgement by grossly undervaluing their prized asset and allowing him leave for a relatively modest fee in the context of the current market. Salah moved for less than £40 million and Giallorossi supporters could be forgiven for wondering why their new transfer honcho didn’t take a page out of RB Leipzig’s book and drive a harder bargain.
The German club repeatedly refused to part with Naby Keita this summer, and in agreeing to sell him to Liverpool next year instead, they’ve pocketed more than the player’s buyout clause was initially worth. Given Salah’s contribution in recent years and the money awash in the English game, Roma should have provided a sterner resistance in the currently inflated market. It feeds into the idea that they are lacking ambition. After finishing second behind Juventus last season, this should have been the year they finally made the final step and conquered the Scudetto for the first time since 2001.
For Liverpool, they already look to have pulled off a shrewd piece of business. Salah is ready made for the English game and looks the archetypical Klopp forward. Between himself, Mane and Roberto Firmino, Premier League defenders will have their hands full every week.