Given their excellent form, Arsenal fans could still be forgiven for feeling a little apprehensive in the build-up to their match with Liverpool.
After an impressive run of form, both were the team to beat at that point and neither showed any signs of letting up. But there is the rather undeniable sense that Liverpool, arguably one of, if not the best team in the world at the moment, would still have the edge over Mikel Arteta’s side.
Despite this, Arsenal started well. An unchanged side works best and Mikel Arteta seemed to reap the benefits of an in-form Thomas Partey (fresh off the back of his goal in the 2-0 home win over Leicester City on Sunday) and Gabriel Martinelli. Both were wreaking havoc on the Liverpool midfield and left-flank.
Partey would recycle possession immediately, whereas Martinelli would keep his head down and charge at Trent Alexander-Arnold, with the fullback at real pains to stop him.
Liverpool had the best chances of the half, however – though Arsenal created a myriad of chances, none ever really led to attempts on goal, though Virgil van Dijk tested Aaron Ramsdale early on from a corner and Sadio Mané failed to take his chance at the end of the half.
Up to this point, Arsenal had arguably been the better team or, at the very least, had been toe-to-toe with the visitors for large portions of the match.
However, the difference between the two teams showed through in the second half.
Liverpool gifted Arsenal a reasonably easy chance. A poor backpass was pounced on immediately by Alexandre Lacazette, who found Martin Ødegaard, but the Norweigian’s effort was spectacularly well-saved by Alisson. Arsenal knew how big a chance it was and just how costly it could prove to be.
And, unfortunately, it was…
Arsenal failed to appropriately close down the formidable Thiago Alcântara, whose slide-rule pass found Diogo Jota, whose shot crept in at the near-post to give the visitor’s the lead.
Arguably, Aaron Ramsdale should have done better there. A near-post shot is always the keeper’s favourite, yet the England international, though he got a hand to it, allowed it to creep in and left Arsenal a goal down.
It didn’t take long for Liverpool to add a second either.
Comical defending from the backline allowed Andy Robertson to creep past Bukayo Saka with Cédric Soares nowhere to be seen, the Scottish fullback played in a perfect cross to the substitute Roberto Firmino, who flicked it beyond Ramsdale to double Liverpool’s lead and seal the points.
It was a hammer-blow to Arsenal’s efforts and though they fought bravely until the end of the match and arguably deserved a goal or two fo their own, Liverpool were perhaps deserved victors in the end.
The final whistle blew and Arsenal were left to marinade in their unfortunate loss, one they arguably should have come away with something from, not too dissimilar to their 1-2 defeat to Manchester City two months previously.
Despite the result, it was a hugely promising display from Arsenal. Had they played that way against anyone else, they likely would have emerged victorious. You need something special to beat the best and Arsenal seemed to lack the star power that Liverpool or Manchester City can suitably rely on.
Despite the performance, two players stood out higher than the rest. The first being Thomas Partey. The Ghanian midfielder seems to have really found his groove in this new-look Arsenal side, linking up well with Granit Xhaka as a midfield pivot and generally protecting or shielding the back four better than ever.
Though he had a rough start to his Arsenal career, the former-Atlético man has been one of the first names on the teamsheet of late and was essential in breaking up Liverpool’s midfield presence.
The other was Gabriel Martinelli. It seems as though the young Brazilian winger is able to reach stratospheric heights whenever he plays Liverpool, with Jürgen Klopp once again singling the talented youngster out for praise, as he so often does.
Martinelli had the beating of Alexander-Arnold all evening and the fullback struggled to contain the Arsenal man whenever he went near him. Martinelli almost added one of his own at the end of the game, but his Thierry Henry-esque finish towards the far-post just inched wide. Martinelli looks for a bright future in the game and Wednesday’s performance only highlighted how important it is that Arsenal tie him down to a new deal sooner, rather than later.
It was a disappointing result and given that Tottenham Hotspur romped to a 0-2 victory over Brighton, it was also a very unwelcome result, but Arsenal must dust themselves off and focus on their next game, a very tough away trip to Aston Villa, managed by former-Liverpool midfielder Steven Gerrard.
32.) Aaron Ramsdale
17.) Cédric Soares
4.) Benjamin White
6.) Gabriel Magalhães
3.) Kieran Tierney
5.) Thomas Partey
34.) Granit Xhaka
7.) Bukayo Saka (Pépé 74’)
8.) Martin Ødegaard (Smith Rowe 67’)
35.) Gabriel Martinelli
9.) Alexandre Lacazette (c) (Nketiah 80’)
1.) Bernd Leno
16.) Rob Holding
69.) Zak Swanson
20.) Nuno Tavares
25.) Mohamed Elneny
23.) Albert Sambi Lokonga
10.) Emile Smith Rowe
19.) Nicolas Pépé
30.) Eddie Nketiah
66.) Trent Alexander-Arnold
32.) Joël Matip
4.) Virgil van Dijk
26.) Andy Robertson
14.) Jordan Henderson
6.) Thiago Alcântara (Jones 90’)
10.) Sadio Mané
23.) Luis Díaz (Salah 56’)
20.) Diogo Jota (Firmino 56’)
62.) Caoimhin Kelleher
12.) Joe Gomez
5.) Ibrahima Konaté
17.) Curtis Jones
8.) Naby Keïta
15.) Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
18.) Takumi Minamino
11.) Mohamed Salah
9.) Roberto Firmino