EPL

Flashy Pepe fluffs his lines to encapsulate predictable 'big six' issues for Arsenal

By Sports Desk August 24, 2019

Almost everything about Arsenal's 3-1 defeat to Liverpool at Anfield on Saturday was predictable.

It was vintage Arsenal, but for all the wrong reasons.

The Gunners made a fist of it for 41 minutes – by which point they were 3-0 down on their last visit to Anfield - yet once Liverpool were ahead through Joel Matip, it just looked a matter of how many they would score.

Ultimately the Reds made do with a comfortable two-goal cushion, with Lucas Torreira getting a late consolation after coming on as a substitute.

But Arsenal found themselves clinging on at times in the second half, with the match affirming many pre-match expectations.

 

Pepe's party tricks undermined when it mattered

No doubt supporters will have been excited by the prospect of seeing club-record signing Nicolas Pepe line up for the first time since his £72million move from Lille.

The Ivory coast international joined Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in attack and he cannot be accused of going missing.

After all, he became the first player in 50 matches to dribble past Virgil van Dijk in the first half, before going on a brilliant run that saw him make a mockery of Andrew Robertson's attempt at defending.

However, the latter situation also presented him with a glorious chance to score in a one-on-one situation. His lack of composure was alarming for a player who scored 22 Ligue 1 goals last term, as he took his shot too early and fired straight at Adrian.

There's no doubt he has ability and some of his touches proved as much, though the performance was closer to impersonating former Gunner Gervinho, rather than the legendary Thierry Henry.

 

Arsenal's recruitment issues laid bare

It was Pepe's first Premier League start – he should improve with time.

But that does not change the perception Arsenal would have been wiser splashing £72m on other areas of the squad, rather than on an attack that already includes Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette.

David Luiz's hapless showing is the case in point.

The Brazilian, brought in as Laurent Koscielny's replacement, was presumably supposed to add the knowledge provided by 'experience', but signing a centre-back with his track record when trying to shore up a leaky defence is akin to using paper to cover a burst pipe.

He was all over the place at Anfield, conceding a penalty by pulling Mohamed Salah's shirt before being left for dead by the Egyptian for his second goal.

 

Aubameyang a flat-track bully?

Arsenal fans generally consider themselves lucky to have Aubameyang. After all, he has been an excellent signing in terms of his output.

However, there have certainly been doubts raised about his effectiveness against the top sides. The Gabon striker has managed just three goals in 14 games against the Premier League's so-called 'big six'.

Against the rest of the teams he has played against in the top flight, Aubameyang has netted 31 in 38 matches, averaging a goal every 94 minutes.

He threatened a few times at Anfield but was nowhere near ruthless enough, letting Adrian get away with a poor clearance when he sent a lobbed effort wide of an open goal in the first period.

He then took an age to make a decision after the break when played through on goal, allowing Joel Matip to make a last-ditch tackle. Aubameyang's blushes were spared somewhat by the flag eventually going up for offside.

 

Reds silence Gunners… Again

Perhaps most predictable of all was that Arsenal simply lost against Liverpool.

The Gunners have not won at Anfield since 2012, their barren streak including losing 4-0, 4-1 and 5-1 (twice).

Before this weekend, Arsenal had won just three games against the 'big six' under Unai Emery. While Saturday was technically an improvement on the 5-1 battering last season from Arsenal's perspective, that's hardly a ringing endorsement of the Spaniard's side.

Next up: Tottenham in the north London derby.

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