Arsenal took advantage of Liverpool’s uncharacteristic defensive errors to secure an unlikely 2-1 victory over the Premier League champions on Wednesday night.
The Reds looked on course for a routine victory when Sadio Mane gave them a deserved lead from an Andy Robertson cutback in the 20th minute.
However, a riveting spell of high-pressing from the Gunners, coupled with unexpected mistakes from Virgil van Dijk and Alisson, saw the hosts take the lead with goals from Alexandre Lacazette and Reiss Nelson just before the break.
The Merseysiders unsurprisingly laid siege to the Arsenal goal in the second half but the London giants showed a compelling display of defensive astuteness and resilience to prevent any lapse that could result in the loss of their hard-earned lead.
Without further ado, here are five talking points from the encounter.
#1 Arsenal shatter Liverpool’s hopes of creating record Premier League points tally
Having been crowned Premier League champions last month, Liverpool headed into Wednesday night’s encounter with a different goal in mind: to secure a win that will ultimately help them break Manchester City’s record for the most points recorded (100) in a single Premier League campaign.
Jurgen Klopp’s men looked well on course to break the record when the Citizens’ defeat to Chelsea confirmed that the coveted trophy was heading to Anfield.
The Merseyside giants could have recorded a maximum total of 107 points from that point but their 4-0 defeat at the Etihad earlier this month and their 1-1 draw with Burnley last weekend meant that they could not afford to lose any more points if they want to set the new record.
Liverpool, therefore, needed to win all their remaining games- against Arsenal, Chelsea and Newcastle- to achieve the feat.
Unfortunately for them, the surprising defeat at the Emirates means their pursuit of the Premier League points record has come to an end.
#2 A reversal of roles at defence
Arsenal have long suffered the merciless consequences of a fragile defence to the point that their frailties at the back have become a subject of mockery in both bar-room and online debates.
Mikel Arteta must have certainly been wary of these shortcomings ahead of Wednesday’s encounter, especially as they lost the north London derby last weekend through routine defensive mistakes.
Meanwhile, Liverpool have firmly stood at the other end of the spectrum in the last two seasons as they boast of having one of the meanest defences in Europe, commanded by Virgil van Dijk.
However, these cemented perceptions went for a toss at the Emirates as the Reds suffered from farcical lapses in their back-line, while the Gunners ended up becoming the defensively resolute team.
The reckless blunders that cost the Merseysiders the game ironically came from Virgil van Dijk and Alisson Becker, who were the players that Jurgen Klopp used as foundational figures of his solid defence in the first place.
The Dutchman made his first individual error leading to a goal since March 2019 when he – under slight pressure from Reiss Nelson – played a terrible backpass which was intercepted Alexandre Lacazette, who slotted home the equaliser.
This was soon followed by an equally bizarre mistake by Alisson, whose poor clearance was capitalised by Lacazette who, in turn, set up Nelson for the second goal.
Arsenal’s tragicomic defenders, on the other hand, were seen admirably throwing their bodies into the line to stifle Liverpool’s overwhelming and repetitive attacks.
It may be said that it was the Gunners’ purposeful defensive performance and the Reds’ unusual errors that ultimately saw the game end in such a peculiar result.
#3 Arsenal’s squad rotation means Arteta has one eye on the FA Cup semi-finals
Mikel Arteta’s decision to make specific changes to his squad against Liverpool suggest that he has one eye on the FA Cup semi-final.
The Spaniard made four changes to the team that suffered the loss to Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday, with the likes of Reiss Nelson, Bukayo Saka, Lucas Torreira and Cedric Soares all getting a start.
While Alexandre Lacazette and Nelson both found themselves on the scoresheet, the duo remains behind Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Saka in the pecking order at the Emirates and for obvious reasons.
The former had significantly influenced the proceedings on both ends of the pitch but does not have the Arsenal skipper’s pace and consistency.
The latter, on the other hand, still has ways to go to prove his worth to Arteta, although scoring his first Premier League goal against the champions is certainly a start.
As the Gunners currently sit at ninth place on the league standings, they are aware that their route to the upcoming season’s Europa League lies in the FA Cup and not the English top flight.
Their intentions were clear in the changes that Arteta made to the squad on Wednesday and the subsequent result will undoubtedly give them much-needed confidence ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City.
#4 Liverpool were far from being their clinical selves
One look at the statistics from the game is enough to highlight Liverpool’s dominance over Arsenal and the sheer gulf in class between the two teams.
The Reds had a staggering 24 attempts at goal to the Gunners’ three, 13 corners to the hosts’ three, and even forced Emiliano Martinez into eight saves.
Furthermore, they completed 517 passes- which is almost three times more than the Gunners’ 173- and boasted 69 per cent of possession to the north Londoners’ 31 per cent.
Despite their dominance, however, the Premier League champions did not display the ruthless streak that they have become so famous for and struggled to even penetrate a highly-criticised Arsenal defence, with the likes of Mohamed Salah, Takumi Minamino and Gini Wijnaldum all attempting and failing to find the back of the net.
Salah, in particular, was one of the contenders in the race for the Premier League Golden Boot but it appears his work is now cut out for him with only two more games remaining.
#5 A gritty win for Arsenal but is it a little too late?
Liverpool’s defensive mistakes at the Emirates, no matter how bizarre, should not take away from the fact that Arsenal did a great job keeping their opponents at bay in the second half.
This result may be looked upon as a step in the right direction when it comes to their attitude- especially after going a goal down- and their resilience under pressure.
Despite condemning Liverpool to only their third Premier League defeat of the season, however, it’s hard to shake off the feeling that such a decisive result, over such a dominant team, has come a little too late for the Gunners.
The three points they secured from the fixture only consolidates their position in the ninth spot, which is three points away from the final Europa League spot and it seems quite obvious that their only hope of qualifying for the continental competition is by winning the FA Cup.