Liverpool’s 4-3 win at Arsenal might have been the highlight of the opening weekend of the Premier League in terms of drama, but there were plenty of deficiencies for the managers to ponder.
Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger, bemoaning the ill effects of the European championship on his pre-season, will hope returning players give his squad a lift, even as he was given new injury headaches.
Wenger had to field an inexperienced centre-back pairing of Calum Chambers and debutant Rob Holding, with Laurent Koscielny given an extended rest after reaching Euro 2016 final with France little more than a month ago.
While the makeshift defence conceded four goals, the decision to play Euro 2016 semi-finalist Aaron Ramsey also backfired, as the Wales midfielder was substituted early with a hamstring injury. Alex Iwobi also left with an injury.
Ramsey succumbed to exactly the sort of injury that Wenger had sought to avoid in leaving out Koscielny, midfielder Mesut Ozil and striker Olivier Giroud, and Wenger admitted the squad was undercooked for the season.
“Physically, we are not ready. You are in a catch 22 situation with the Euros,” Wenger told reporters.
“When they are not ready and they play this kind of game, they get injured, like Ramsey today. Or you give them a needed rest and you start the season without many of your players.”
Wenger has been working to get new players in to solidify the defence. But he also pointed to bad luck after Per Mertesacker and Gabriel, two other options in the centre of defence, were injured in pre-season training.
Despite coming out on top of the seven-goal thriller, Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp also said there was room for improvement.
He would not be drawn on questions over the implications of the result for two of the biggest contenders for the title and focused on his team’s tactical shortcomings.
While he did not rule out a foray into the transfer market to improve the team, Klopp said he would look to get more out of the players he already had.
“Improvement in my understanding is about training and using the quality you have. We were far away today from showing our whole quality,” he said.
“We showed a few nice signs, a few not so nice signs, that’s all.”