Liverpool started their season in triumphant fashion on Sunday with a 4-3 win at the Emirates that included two amazing goals from Philippe Coutinho (if we think he meant to score the second off his shin), a stunning strike from Sadio Mané and some, shall we say, inconsistent defending by the left-back Alberto Moreno.
Considering Moreno had an uneven end to last season – including a horror show against Sevilla in the Europa League final – it begs the question: why he is still Liverpool’s first-choice left-back? Jürgen Klopp has spent roughly £70m on seven new signings but not a single full-back among them (Wijnaldum, Mané, Loris Karius, Alex Manninger, Ragnar Klavan, Joël Matip and Marko Grujic). In addition, Jon Flanagan (on loan) and Brad Smith (sold) have left the club in the summer.
It seems an odd strategy when there seems to be an obvious gap to fill, or at least it would have made sense to provide some competition for the Spaniard. True, Klopp may see James Milner as a future left-back and the former England international played there during pre-season but he is not the quickest and he too is prone to the odd rash challenge.
There is also the talented but injured Joe Gomez in the squad and Klavan has played at left-back before. It is also true that Liverpool tried – and failed – to sign the Leicester reserve left-back Ben Chilwell and that Klopp still has time to sign a new defender before the transfer window closes. However, when it came down to it at Arsenal, Moreno lined up and gave away a penalty in the first half with a very rash challenge before losing Theo Walcott who went on to score.
On Sky, the commentators all had a go at the Spaniard. “You might as well start a goal down with Moreno at left-back,” said Gary Neville, who should know a thing or two about going a goal down from his spell in charge of Valencia, while Graeme Souness added: “He’s a winger playing left-back – he doesn’t sense danger early enough.”
There were other players to blame as well – Adam Lallana giving away the ball in midfield unnecessarily when Moreno had started his run forward – and it is true that the Spaniard is good going forward, but teams are likely to target him throughout the season.
Liverpool are far from the only team to have started the season with what would appear an obvious weakness in their squad. Arsenal, as always, seem short up front and in central defence yet with Arsène Wenger’s stubbornness seemingly increasing by the year, one would suspect that he will attempt to go through the season with the players currently available to him.
It was also interesting to see Manchester City’s tactics against Sunderland with Pep Guardiola asking his full-backs to help out in midfield whenever necessary. Maybe that is what happens when you have had Philipp Lahm in your squad for the past three years. Either way it does not seem that Gaël Clichy and Bacary Sagna would be the most obvious choices to perform those duties, yet City have signed players for other areas of the team.
Other teams have strengthened where appropriate, it would seem, with Chelsea bringing energy to their midfield in N’Golo Kanté and speed up front with Michy Batshuayi and Manchester United adding in every area – Eric Bailly in defence, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba in midfield and Zlatan Ibrahimovic in attack.
That, of course, does not mean either of those teams will win the title. One game into the season is far too early to make any calls on which teams will do well – Aston Villa won their first game of last season, at Bournemouth after a majestic Rudy Gestede header for example – and who will not.
And, who knows, Moreno may be able to cut out the mistakes in his game, under the tutelage of Klopp and his coaching staff, and have a storming season. It seems unlikely after a display of such inconsistency as the one on Sunday but stranger things have happened. Much stranger.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010