Liverpool show Arsenal the size of the task they face to bridge the gap to the Premier League’s elite | Football News

Perhaps Mikel Arteta will regret the timing of his touchline fracas with Jurgen Klopp. Within a few minutes of the incident, and with the Anfield crowd whipped into a frenzy, Liverpool were in front.

It was all the more galling for Arteta, of course, given the scorer of the goal was Sadio Mane, the man whose mastery of the dark arts had so enraged him. This is Liverpool. Streetwise and ruthless.

Arsenal, for all their youthful promise, remain a long, long way off.

By the end, Liverpool’s one-goal lead had become four, with Diogo Jota, Mohamed Salah and substitute Takumi Minamino ramming home their superiority in a painfully one-sided second half which left Arsenal and their manager bloodied and bruised.

The gap between the two sides may stand at only five points but in truth it is far greater than the Premier League table shows.

As in their meetings with Chelsea and Manchester City earlier this season, Arsenal never looked likely winners. Across the three games, they have conceded 11 goals and scored none.

The difference this time, of course, is that they came into it having put their early-season injury crisis behind them and embarked on a run of 10 games unbeaten in all competitions. The mood had been transformed. Angst had made way for optimism.

This defeat does not undo that progress and nor does it tell us anything particularly new about this Arsenal side. There is an exciting core of young players there. There is hope of a bright future. But the road is long and there will be bumps in it.

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At Anfield, as at the Etihad Stadium and against Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium, the gulf was apparent all over the pitch.

While Liverpool welcomed two-time Champions League-winner Thiago Alcantara back into their midfield, Arsenal started with a 22-year-old signing from Anderlecht in theirs.

While Liverpool could call on arguably the best offensive full-back in world football in Trent Alexander-Arnold, Arsenal fielded a 21-year-old starting only the 19th top-flight game of his career.

The errors made by Albert Sambi Lokonga and Nuno Tavares will stick in the memory – it was the latter’s errant pass which allowed Jota to score Liverpool’s second – but the hope for Arsenal is that experiences such as these will serve them well in the long-run.

“When they’ve come up against top opposition, they’ve been battered,” said Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher. “Is that good enough for Arsenal? They need to compete with the top teams. I get that.

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Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp and Arsenal’s Mikel Arteta had a heated discussion on the touchline at Anfield

“But this team you’re looking at now are young and they’re not ready to compete with the real top teams in this league. They need to use this as a learning experience and go on another run.”

These are two sides at very different stages of their development.

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Arsenal’s starting line-up featured seven players aged 23 or under and that was six more than Liverpool’s. In addition to Lokonga and Tavares, there was Aaron Ramsdale, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Gabriel Magalhaes, Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka.

All seven of those players have shown enough potential to suggest they can help take Arsenal in a more positive direction and the same could not be said of many of those who started in the same game last season, when a side containing David Luiz, Willian and Bernd Leno was beaten 3-1.

This was of course a heavier defeat but the bigger picture is far brighter.

Arteta’s team now contains players on the up instead of on the way down. This game was too much for them but there is hunger and potential in the squad. They will learn and improve.

Arsenal supporters can take encouragement from how they approached the game too. In the first half, they were aggressive out of possession and brave when they had it.

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Arteta says his Arsenal side ‘just crashed’ at the start of the second half in a game that saw them lose 4-0 to Liverpool

As early as the first minute, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette could be seen snapping at the heels of Liverpool players. Soon enough, the defenders behind them were attempting to build from the back.

Later, of course, Arsenal would be punished for that.

“We always have this debate,” added Carragher. “When you play out from the back against this Liverpool side, are you brave or are you stupid?”

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But Arteta knows that if he is serious about bringing Arsenal in line with opponents such as these, he must implement his ideas about how he wants them to play.

The other option, of course, would have been to set his side up to sit behind the ball, go long and absorb pressure. But in all likelihood, Arsenal still would have lost. At least this way they continue building towards something. At least this way they stuck to their principles.

The hope is that, over time, those principles will help them close the gap on the sides currently occupying the top three positions in the Premier League. For now, though, this was a reminder of just how much ground there is to make up.

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For over 8 years, Dave has been working in mainstream media and sports betting.

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