Gabriel Martinelli put in a coming-of-age performance against Liverpool on Sunday at the Emirates that has effectively ruined the Red’s title dreams, as they find themselves 14 points behind league-leaders Arsenal. Furthermore, the Brazilian may have also ruined Trent Alexander Arnold’s World Cup hopes after he ran the right-back ragged for large parts of the game.
Liverpool’s poor start to the season has led to the Club having to adjust their objectives. They undoubtedly started this season with the aim of Premier League success this year, off the back of the last campaign where they were two matches short of winning the quadruple.
However, two wins from their opening eight league games has forced the Reds to re-evaluate their targets, and turn their focus onto securing a spot in the top 4 and UEFA Champions League qualification.
Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp admitted after the game that his side are no longer in the title race, and stated that this Sunday’s fixture against Man City is not what they need to boost their confidence.
“Yeah, not in the title race. Imagine if I would sit here and think we are nearly there. Of course, in a situation like ours, we play Arsenal, now we play Rangers obviously and then we play Man City, is that the perfect opponent for finding confidence back? Probably not,” said Klopp in his post-match press conference.
“But it is always like this, in a situation like this: you can ask all the questions, but my answers, I cannot change really a lot. If you are winning, there are five million things we could talk about, ‘He’s great, he’s great and he’s super, and the goals were outstanding.’ Losing is always the same, the conversations are a bit more rusty. I cannot change that, I couldn’t be bothered about it, to be honest. But what you build with your hand you knock down with your backside, that’s not helpful and that’s what we did.”
Klopp made a massive decision in the 69th minute, taking off star man Mohamed Salah despite the score being 2-2. The Egyptian had a tough time against Arsenal fullback Takehiro Tomiyasu, who did superbly well against last season’s PL top-scorer.
However, Klopp has since defended his player and explained why he was taken off.
“We had to defend again on a high level and we tried to put Hendo on that side there,” said Klopp (via the Liverpool website).
“Mo did unbelievable, a lot, really big, big workload. He put in a real shift and sometimes that’s very intense and that’s why we thought we can do it with Hendo. We still wanted to win even when we took a striker off.”
Another player who came under immense scrutiny following his performance against Arsenal was Trent Alexander-Arnold, who was substituted at half-time with an apparent injury. Although many believe the fullback was hooked off due to not being able to deal with the constant threat posed by Gunners winger Gabriel Martinelli, who had Trent on toast for much of the game.
Despite having Henderson and Matip on top of Trent constantly marking him, Martinelli got the better of the entire right-hand side of the Liverpool team, resulting in both Trent and Matip being hauled off, as well as Fabinho being thrown on to help stop the Arsenal number 11.
Trent’s performance highlighted his defensive deficiencies as the right-back’s body positioning and awareness was caught lacking once again this season. Given the performances of Reece James and Kieran Trippier this season, as well as the experienced class of Kyle Walker, Trent’s spot in England’s World Cup squad is further in jeopardy, and understandably so.
Former Spurs midfielder Jamie O’Hara ripped into the Liverpool right-back after the game, saying his defending is of the standard of England’s lower leagues.
“If I was playing now against Liverpool, the first thing the manager would be saying is, ‘Get the ball out left, get one-on-one with Trent’, because defensively… he’s a League One defender,” said O’Hara on talkSPORT.
“It’s League One defending, but he’s Champions League going forwards. [Jurgen] Klopp knows that, he loves his attacking abilities, but defensively he’s all over the place.
“The second goal, where’s he going? He’s Bambi on ice! I love Trent, he’s a fantastic player at a young age, won more than me in one season, but as a defender he is not good enough.
“He needs to work on his game, get a one-on-one coach and he needs to sort it out.”
It doesn’t get any easier for Liverpool after it was confirmed that both Trent and Luís Diaz picked up injuries after the game, with the latter reportedly ruled out for the next 6-8 weeks.
Jürgen Klopp’s men travel to Scotland to take on Rangers in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday before welcoming Premier League champions Man City to Anfield on Sunday.