It’s one of the many football truisms that people don’t miss absent players until they are. And this was the afternoon Liverpool and its unavailability issues finally caught up with them.
Much was made for several weeks of the potential impact of Mohamed Salah being out, first on Africa Cup of Nations duty and then through injury suffered while at the tournament.
And while Liverpool can consider the breach to have been successfully filled, this defeat to Arsenal was arguably the first time Salah’s brand of magic – the Egyptian, don’t forget, had struck the equaliser in the Anfield fixture between the teams in December – could have made an obvious difference.
Diogo Jota, so impressive against Chelsea in midweek, struggled to make an impact on the right. Jurgen Klopp later expressing frustration at the lack of combinations down the flank.
That was partly due to an anonymous performance from Ryan Gravenberch. He, having taken steps forward in recent performances, regressed in alarming fashion when attempting to replace the again-crocked Dominik Szoboszlai. The learning curve remains steep for the young Dutchman.
But there shouldn’t be any panic after this loss. Instead, it can serve as a reminder of just how well the Reds squad has coped with a demanding few months.
Liverpool had lack of defense against Arsenal:
The Emirates has been something of a mixed bag for Trent Alexander-Arnold in recent visits. The Premier League clash last season saw the right-back have a defensive shocker before departing injured. While in January even an outstanding display was ultimately stymied by picking up a knee problem during the closing stages.
Debate over whether the vice-captain should start here was rendered redundant by the absence of in-form Conor Bradley.
That was for compassionate reasons following the death of his father.
And on his first start in the month since that injury, Alexander-Arnold appeared very much a player who hadn’t seen much action of late.
He was slow to react to Arsenal attacks and not quite attuned to the pace of the game. It was telling that Liverpool’s plan was never for him to last the full duration.
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