Arsenal’s surprising 1-0 loss to Liverpool at the Emirates Stadium raises questions and sparks debate among fans and pundits.

The match, which set a new WSL attendance record, had some fans questioning the management despite the season having only just begun.

Arsenal lineup before Liverpool game (via Arsenal)
Arsenal lineup before Liverpool game (via Arsenal)

Arsenal surprisingly lost at 1-0 home to Liverpool in their season opener at the Emirates Stadium where they established a new WSL attendance record.

As always when there is a defeat, knives are coming out and I have seen a certain number of fans asking for the manager to be sacked. Something that makes no sense at all. I cannot see the board entertaining that option yet. There’s no need to panic after one league game, and as long as the manager retains the players’ support and the results improve, there is no problem.

There are multiple parameters that explain the defeat.

The first one is Liverpool defending well, and two of their players putting in an outstanding performance. Goalkeeper Rachel Laws and centre-back Gemma Bonner were both exceptional on the day, earning a clean sheet.

On the Arsenal side, there was no lack of trying and a lot of energy was deployed in attack to try to score. The statistics are telling. Interestingly, the xG numbers are 1.7 for Arsenal and 1.0 for Liverpool. 18 shots for Arsenal but only three on target. 19 corners, 39 crosses but no end product.

It was a quality-on-the-day problem, not quantity.

When the starting XI was named, we were all wondering if it was a back four with McCabe at right-back. There were first some interesting choices to be made about who would not make the matchday squad. Naomi Williams and Gio Queiroz missed out as expected, but Beth Mead not making the squad was a surprise, with Kyra Cooney-Cross making the bench.

So, in the end, Arsenal set up as a 3-4-1-2, switching in defence to 5-3-2.

The attacking system was asymmetrical with the team heavily loaded towards the left side of the pitch, and some players actually occupying the same space on that side.

Jonas Eidevall selected Zinsberger; Wubben-Moy, Beattie, Catley; Lacasse, Little, Walti, McCabe; Maanum; Russo, Foord.

Codina and Ilestedt were left out at centre-back with Beattie and Wubben-Moy given the nod, while there was no surprise in midfield or in attack.

What was bizarre, and caused some problems, was Maanum’s position as an inside forward.

In the normal set-up, Arsenal play her up top alongside Blackstenius in a 4-4-2 system where she excels. She is a fantastic finisher from long range with a powerful shot and she is also excellent as a high press leader.

But what she did not do is support Lacasse on the right-wing, who was isolated in one v one against Hinds, especially when Liverpool pushed Hinds forward and Lacasse started defending deep.

Maanum stayed central in an area where she could do maximum damage with her shooting ability. It certainly makes sense to use her and maximise her strengths.

While the left-side was overloaded with players, with Catley, McCabe and Foord all fighting for the same space in a congested area, no one was attacking the space behind Hinds.

We also have Pelova and Kühl with excellent through-ball passing skills who could unlock defences. You need a number 10 who can thread the needle, someone capable of delivering the final ball or the last-before-final ball in tight, congested spaces. That’s why, at some points, we saw Little in a more advanced position.

The team pass map shows the team heavily moving towards the left and also Maanum receiving the ball higher than Russo, who had to drop deep to get the ball. Some obvious malfunction there.

We spoke to Cloe Lacasse post-game about her unusual role as the right-wing back. “I have played there before, we have a team of world-class players who can adapt and change formations. We want to be able to do different formations against different opponents, today it did not work out, but going forward I am sure it will,” she said

We found out that Arsenal have the same problem as last season against teams that defend well and very compact, as Arsenal have trouble unlocking those defences.

Obviously, Miedema returning at 10 and Mead on the right wing will have a positive impact, but until they are back, Jonas Eidevall will have to find solutions and work on the training ground to improve the passing and off-the-ball movement in the final third.

With 23 players available to him, he can definitely mix and match if needed. Manchester United away on Friday will definitely bring a different challenge than Liverpool, in what is already a must-not-lose game.

In conclusion, Arsenal’s season opener against Liverpool raised questions about the squad’s depth, tactical flexibility, and the manager’s decision-making.

The team will need to address these issues quickly as they look to rebound in their upcoming fixture against Manchester United.