Liverpool Away does not define our Season
By Alfie Cairns Culshaw (Chief Editor)
Anfield trips have become synonymous with embarrassment for Arsenal in recent times. Being blown away by the intense gegenpressing machine that is Jurgen Klopp's side, in the hostile, ferocious atmosphere driven by the Kop, is what the fanbase has become accustomed to at the notorious old ground in Liverpool. Avoiding another battering was the aim- not because that's where we want to be but it is, in reality, where we are.
For 45 minutes, it looked like we might manage this. The team stuck to the evident game plan of sitting in a mid block, attempting to play through their press and catching them in the transition with quick breaks. Aside from a few moments where we were caught out with the ball when trying to play out, we managed to limit them to just a handful of shots in the first 35, whilst also looking somewhat threatening ourselves when we did manage to negotiate our way into their final third. The persistence with this style, even when things went wrong in the second period, must be admired for such a young team.
And things did go wrong in the second half. Very wrong. Following Nuno Tavares' unfortunate error- which in a way encapsulated the inexperience of the side in one moment- the team collapsed. Liverpool ruthlessly pressed our deeper players into submission as they cut through us in the turnovers. It was brutal.
4-0 is an ugly scoreline and ultimately determined the narrative that we failed in our objective of not getting battered, but those opening 45 minutes were progress. Not once have an Arsenal side gone to Anfield in the last 5 years and been competitive for an entire half. It's a low bar, but it is a bar that we just about catapulted over.
We did fail in our aim- we were eventually battered and weren't competitive for the duration of the 90 minutes. However, this annual Anfield annihilation feels different. The players that suffered weren't the same players we've seen suffer over and over again. They also weren't in their prime- at the peak of their powers. These were players at the start of their journey, in their first experience in front of this famous atmosphere against this relentless Liverpool side.
The likes of Aaron Ramsdale, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Gabriel Magalhaes, Ben White, Tavares, Sambi Lokonga, Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe are all going to learn from this. Learn what they did wrong in this arena and learn how to put in a better account of themselves as a collective when they next travel to Anfield. It was something of a humiliation, but at least a humiliation that we know will probably not be repeated again.
As well documented, we are the youngest team in the league and expecting this team to go toe to toe with Liverpool at Anfield is unrealistic. Games against the Merseyside reds, Chelsea and Manchester City will not define our season. Those three sides are in a league of their own and we're trying to be the best of the rest. What we do in upcoming games against Manchester United, Everton and West Ham will be a much bigger indicator of where we are.
Fans will point to the likes of West Ham and Brighton, who were able to take points off Liverpool in recent weeks. Well, variance is a thing in football. They were single games where they were able to take points off the best, but the general trend of results has them on par with the rest. Brighton lost against Villa this weekend and West Ham lost at Wolves. Results aren't linear in this sport, particularly in a league as unpredictable as the Premier League.
People will say this is a pathetic outlook for a club of Arsenal's stature, but it's all about rationalising things in the context of our season. Don't lose it after this result. We'll be back.