Signing Virgil van Dijk won't be enough to solve Liverpool's defensive issues and other things learned

Alex Rea 12/08/2017
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Miguel Britos scrambled home a controversial injury-time equaliser as Watford held Liverpool in a six-goal thriller at Vicarage Road.

The Reds looked as though they had put all speculation and uncertainty over Philippe Coutinho’s future to one side to win their opening Premier League clash – only for Britos to head home from point-black range in the dying moments to seal a 3-3 draw.

Here are three things learned from Vicarage Road.

STEREOTYPICAL LIVERPOOL

Brainless at the back, bold in attach and panic in the final 10 minutes. New season, same narrative and similar Liverpool deficiencies.

Their chaotic nature is incredibly predictable and the solution to solving their frailties stretch further than simply changing personnel.

Yes, signing Virgil van Dijk would represent a significant upgrade on the edgy Dejan Lovren but their problems are systemic. The defensive trepidation is as much apart of their identity as their ability to inflict the same feeling in the opposite direction.

Not since the tenure of Rafa Benitez has a Liverpool side looked organised on the back foot.

In the seven seasons after his departure they have conceded 44, 40, 43, 50, 48, 50 and 42 league goals respectively. They begin the new campaign with three already against their name, two from a corner and one emanating from a throw in.

It’s basic fundamentals which all of Benitez’s successors have failed to grasp.

Under the Spaniard the Reds did not concede more than 28 goals in a single league season. Granted the approach was to sit back and counter-punch rather than attack on the front foot, a total tactical contrast to Klopp, but the German has to take a slice of the past in order to take the club forward.

In attack they are frenetic but the Reds require balance, knowing when to sit in deep and protect a lead and having the confidence to execute that plan.

They don’t need to go ultra negative but a space somewhere in between might suit.

Dejan Lovren and Stefano Okaka

SALAH’S IS A THRILL BUT FINISHING DOESN’T KILL

Salah in the second half showed a fraction of the ability he will be bringing to the table this season.

The first 45 he was virtually anonymous as he was left deserted by a Liverpool midfield which failed to get a hold of the ball.

But as Watford’s stoic defence dissipated and the space opened up after the break, Salah showed the type of danger he will present this season.

It’s not just his speed but the application of his pace which impresses most. His intelligent movement on the right saw him repeatedly get in threatening positions but unfortunately for the Egpytian his finishing was untidy.

Still, a debut goal and an assist will immediately alleviate the pressure of a Premier League return.

The dynamism and trickery of Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Salah will terrorise defences this season as teams will struggle to shackle them for an entire 90 minutes, eventually they’ll figure it out, as they did against Watford with Mane dropping deeper and Firmino coming out wide to shake them out of their rigidity.

Salah will reap the rewards of playing alongside them.

Mohamed Salah celebrates

Mohamed Salah celebrates

DOUCOURE HAS A TOUCH OF TOURE ABOUT HIM

Abdoulaye Doucoure’s performances last season went largely unnoticed because of how poor Watford were but this campaign could be his breakout year.

It’s perhaps a lazy comparison to make but against Liverpool he had a touch of Yaya Toure about him. Marauding forward from deep, Emre Can and Jordan Henderson simply couldn’t get a hold of him.

No one took responsibility to track  him and ultimately the visitors were made to pay for it. Even when they did get a man on him he slalomed his way out of trouble with silky footwork.

The statistics tell the whole story; 100 percent take-ons completed, 100 percent aerial duels won, two chances created, two clearances and one goal – utter dominance.

Abdoulaye Doucoure

Abdoulaye Doucoure

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Jamie Vardy is man of the match but Arsene Wenger's second-half tactical tweak leaves Arsenal confused

Mark Bryans 12/08/2017
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Olivier Giroud came off the bench to head home a late winner and seal three points for Arsenal in a topsy-turvy Premier League opener against Leicester.

The Gunners had won just one of their last seven opening day fixtures and looked destined to start another campaign slowly as the 2015-16 champions took the lead twice only to lose 4-3.

The night started perfectly for Arsenal as new signing Alexandre Lacazette marked his league debut with a goal after just 94 seconds, only for Shinji Okazaki to cancel it out inside three minutes.

Jamie Vardy then capitalised on awful defending to twice put the Foxes ahead either side of Danny Welbeck’s equaliser before Arsene Wenger sent for the cavalry.

Substitute Aaron Ramsey rifled home from close range to level before Giroud – introduced alongside the Wales international – headed in an 85th-minute winner to settle a breathless encounter.

TWEET OF THE MATCH

@piersmorgan: “#WengerOUT (took 28 minutes)” – Television presenter and outspoken Arsenal fan Piers Morgan needed less than half an hour to turn on Arsene Wenger.

MOTM

Jamie Vardy. The England striker could have been turning out for the home side had he opted to accept a move to the Emirates Stadium last summer.

He decided to stay put and showed that he has the class to once again enjoy a fruitful season in the Premier League with a potential World Cup place up for grabs.

Jamie Vardy celebrates his first goal

Jamie Vardy celebrates his first goal

MOMENT

Lacazette’s header inside two minutes was the joint-fastest opening goal to a Premier League season.

The Frenchman can certainly find the back of the net and his effort here led to an entertaining game, although the former Lyon man will be worried by what he saw at the other end of the pitch.

Lacazette opens his Arsenal account

Lacazette opens his Arsenal account

VIEW FROM THE BENCH

Wenger had three first-choice central defenders missing and could do little to alter things as Nacho Monreal, Rob Holding and Sead Kolasinac struggled to co-ordinate.

The manager’s second-half tactical tweak left plenty confused as he shifted to a 4-2-3-1 system with a right-back playing on the left, two left-backs at centre-half and a midfielder at right-back – but it worked as his two substitutes scored the vital goals that turned the game on its head.

RATINGS

ARSENAL

Petr Cech: 5/10

Sead Kolasinac: 5

Nacho Monreal: 5

Rob Holding: 5

Hector Bellerin: 5

Mohamed Elneny: 6

Granit Xhaka: 6

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: 6

Mesut Ozil: 6

Danny Welbeck: 6

Alexandre Lacazette: 7

SUBSTITUTES

Olivier Giroud (for Holding, 67): 7

Aaron Ramsey (for Elneny, 67): 7

Theo Walcott (for Welbeck, 75): 6

Ramsey celebrates

Ramsey celebrates

LEICESTER

Kasper Schmeichel: 7

Danny Simpson: 6

Wes Morgan: 6

Harry Maguire: 7

Christian Fuchs: 6

Riyad Mahrez: 6

Wilfred Ndidi: 7

Matty James: 6

Marc Albrighton: 8

Shinji Okazaki: 7

Jamie Vardy: 9

SUBSTITUTES

Daniel Amartey (for Okazaki, 72): 5

Kelechi Iheanacho (for James, 82): 5

Demarai Gray (for Albrighton, 88): 5

Marc Albrighton

Marc Albrighton

WHO’S UP NEXT?

Arsenal v Stoke (Premier League, August 19 )

Leicester v Brighton (Premier League, August 19 )

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Analysis as Alexandre Lacazette begins Arsenal career in style while Jamie Vardy is at his ruthless best

Alex Rea 12/08/2017
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Olivier Giroud came off the bench to head home a late winner and seal three points for Arsenal in a topsy-turvy Premier League opener against Leicester.

The Gunners had won just one of their last seven opening-day fixtures and looked destined to start another campaign slowly as the 2015-16 champions took the lead twice only to lose 4-3.

The night started perfectly for Arsenal as new signing Alexandre Lacazette marked his league debut with a goal after just 94 seconds, only for Shinji Okazaki to cancel it out three minutes later.

Jamie Vardy then capitalised on awful defending to twice put the Foxes ahead either side of Danny Welbeck’s equaliser before Arsene Wenger sent on the cavalry.

Substitute Aaron Ramsey rifled home to level before Giroud – introduced alongside the Wales international – headed in an 85th-minute winner to settle a breathless encounter in Arsenal’s favour.

Here, we analyse the performance of two key protagonists, Lacazette and Vardy.

Basic stats

LACAZETTE

Goals – 1

Shots 3

Shots on target – 2

Touches – 40

Key passes – 3

Dribbles – 1

Dispossessed – 2

Aerials won – 1

Lacazette celebrates his Arsenal opener

Lacazette celebrates his Arsenal opener

VARDY

Goals – 2

Shots – 2

Shots on target – 2

Touches – 20

Key passes – 0

Dribbles – 0

Dispossessed – 0

Aerials won – 2

Jamie Vardy celebrates his first goal

Jamie Vardy celebrates his first goal

EFFECTIVENESS

LACAZETTE

Arsenal looked far more dynamic going forward with Lacazette’s fluidity making it incredibly difficult for Leicester to pick him up.

The visitors lost track of him when he drifted out onto the left and his movement dragged Wes Morgan out of position, opening space for midfield runners to get in behind.

He started the game in explosive fashion as he delightfully headed Arsenal in front with just his second touch of the game – the first of which was the kick off – but then hit a bit of a lull leading into and after the break.

The introduction of Giroud in the 67th minute saw him jolt back into life, though. Having a targetman alongside him to hold the ball up allowed him to link back up with Mesut Ozil and Ramsey and saw him get on the ball.

His talent is obvious but a little bit of a mixed evening in terms of impact.

Lacazette has this shot saved by Schmeichel

Lacazette has this shot saved by Schmeichel

VARDY

Sharp and smart, Leicester’s No9 terrorised Arsenal’s back three with his electric pace and direct running repeatedly penning them back.

He was either running at Arsenal’s defence or pulling into the space behind, floating in between all three and causing a nuisance.

His finishing for both goals was superb and his work rate, as it always is, was exemplary.

He’s now scored five goals in his last five Premier League appearances against Arsenal – clearly their bogeyman.

Continue in this storming form and Leicester won’t be exhibiting the troubles of last season.

Jamie Vardy scores his side's second

Jamie Vardy scores his side’s second

KEY MOMENTS

LACAZETTE

2nd min (GOAL) – A dream debut for Lacazette as the £52million summer signing headed in an elegant opener. Arsenal switched the ball from left-to-right and Hector Bellerin cut the ball back to the supporting Mohamed Elneny who chipped the ball into the box first time for Lacazette to head into the left-hand corner from six yards out.

47th min – Lacazette played a big part in Arsenal’s equaliser, although inadvertently, as Mesut Ozil fed the ball to the Frenchman inside Leicester’s box in first-half injury time and as he lost his footing, the ball squirmed to Sead Kolasinac who rolled the ball to Welbeck for a tap in.

83rd min – Kasper Schmeichel made a great save to deny Lacazette after he slalomed his way into the box and from the resulting corner Giroud’s towering header struck the bar and bounced over the line.

VARDY

29th min (GOAL) – Vardy damped Lacazette’s debut party as he put the visitors 2-1 ahead. Marc Albrighton, rampant on the left for the Foxes, surged forward in the space left by Arsenal’s compact back three and whipped a wicked ball across Arsenal’s six-yard box. Vardy adjusted his feet well to get in front of Kolasinac and nail the ball from close range.

53rd min – An incredible piece of goalkeeping from Petr Cech kept Vardy away from his second as Xhaka and Elneny lost possession and with Arsenal players committed forward, Riyad Mahrez put Vardy in behind. He looked clean through until Cech timed his sprint to perfection and to slide the ball off his toes.

56th min (GOAL) – Horrendous marking from Arsenal gave Vardy the space he needed to head past Cech and put Leicester 3-2 in front. Mahrez whipped in a delightful corner and without any real aerial presence, Vardy rose highest to apply the finish.

VERDICT

LACAZETTE

Ozil gave him pretty poor service which resulted in a bit of a mixed performance but he took his goal and looked a real danger in the first and final quarters of the game.

Questionable if he can hold the line on his own but with Giroud alongside him looked far more comfortable.

6.5/10

VARDY

A quintessential Vardy performance and he’ll be devastated not to be coming away on the winning side.

He’s picking up where he left last season off after a strong end to the 2016/17 campaign.

8/10

All statistics are compiled using whoscored.com

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