Arsenal stunned Liverpool on Wednesday night by capitalising on two glaring errors to record a 2-1 Premier League win over the champions, boosting their European hopes.
The visitors nearly took the lead in comical fashion, as Emiliano Martinez’s attempted clearance was charged down by Roberto Firmino but, fortunately for the goalkeeper, clipped the post and away to safety. Sadio Mane made no mistake after 20 minutes, latching on to Andrew Robertson’s cut back to fire home the opener.
Having bee in complete control of the game, Virgil van Dijk – yes, the Virgil van Dijk – invited Arsenal into the game with a woeful back pass, one that Alexandre Lacazette capitalised on to draw the hosts level. And then another mistake, this time from Alisson, presented Lacazette with the opportunity to feed Reiss Nelson, who made no such mistake of his own.
Liverpool utterly dominated the second half, staying camped in the Arsenal half and banging repeatedly on the door in search of a route back into the game. But…it never came, and Arsenal won, somehow.
Key Talking Point
It’s gotten to the point where Europa League football is essential to Arsenal’s plans for next season. The club don’t want to be there, but they have to. Money is tighter than ever, and with any additional funding from another competition welcome, they simply can’t go without European football.
Some big wins would be needed to secure that prize (if you can call it that anymore), as well as a few helping hands along the way. Was this the game to claw their way back into contention? No it wasn’t. So, ermm, why did they win? How did they win?
Having been under the cosh for sooo long, two woeful errors granted them the opportunities to score, which is why it was a shame no home supporters were there to see them happen in their favour for a change. Arsenal were second best for the entire game. A simple case of taking their chances when they came. That ruthlessness will please Arteta greatly.
Starting XI: Martinez (7); Cedric (5), Holding (7), Luiz (5), Tierney (7); Xhaka (7), Torreira (6), Saka (); Nelson (7), Lacazette (8*), Pepe (6).
Substitutes: Aubameyang (6), Willock (6), Ceballos (6), Maitland-Niles (N/A), Kolasinac (N/A).
Arteta spotted that his front three had to press Liverpool to stand any chance, with Alexandre Lacazette following his manager’s notes to a tee. He took his chance when it came, and set Nelson up for the second with a composed pass.
Who says hard work doesn’t pay off sometimes?
Key Talking Point
Accusations were being made from some corners of the football spectrum that Liverpool…well, aren’t that bothered anymore. The title was all that mattered, regardless of method, so taking the proverbial foot off the pedal was both expected and understandable.
Mistakes, however, are not what we have come to be familiar with over the past two seasons. They may – very occasionally – be off their game, but to see both fortune-changing signings make errors as they did, the shock was ground trembling. Alisson and van Dijk fluffing up as badly as they did? That just doesn’t happen.
Nor does Liverpool losing football matches, or even drawing matches for that matter. They beat on the Arsenal door for pretty much the entire game, limiting their hosts to just three lowly efforts. So how did they lose this? An inquest will occur, and the above statement will crop up again, but it boils down to two glaring mistakes. Still, doesn’t make it any less of a shock, does it?
Starting XI: Alisson (5); Alexander-Arnold (7), Gomez (7), Van Dijk (6), Robertson (7*); Oxlade-Chamberlain (6), Fabinho (6), Wijnaldum (6); Salah (5), Firmino (6), Mane (7)
Substitutes: Minamino (6), Keita (6), Shaqiri (5), Origi (5)
He’s been one of the key creators all season for Liverpool, and Andrew Robertson was causing all sorts of problems to Arsenal down the left hand side.
His link up with Mane was the most dangerous outlet for the visitors, and the Gunners struggled to deal with him all afternoon.
Arsenal are off to Wembley next for their FA Cup semi-final with Manchester City, while Liverpool host European chasing Chelsea in the Premier League.