Arsenal and Liverpool clashed in the Premier League last night, with the Gunners overcoming by a goal deficit to beat the Reds at the Emirates Stadium. Still smarting from the North London derby loss at the weekend where the Gunners bossed possession, had chances but were heartbroken by a Toby Alderwierld’s goal from a set piece. The loss put paid to their top 4 hopes and severely dented their chances of even making it to the Europa League via the league.
With Liverpool set to visit the Emirates, few bookmakers gave the Gunners a chance, the Reds were high on confidence having won their first title in 30 years and fully motivated with their chase of a record total points ever in the league. Arsenal on the other hand were low on confidence having just lost the derby to their less illustrious neighbors and with little or no hope of making top 4, what was there to play for?
Arteta rang changes probably with the Emirates FA Cup semi-final date in mind, while Klopp went full throttle with his stars, drew the first blood through Mane but the Gunners hit back with a quick fire double through Lacazette and Nelson.
Bookmakers might be quick to say Arsenal won because Liverpool were not “serious” about the match but I dare to say nothing could be farther from the truth. Liverpool gave the match their all with the line up Klopp pushed out and with the intensity they played with. The Reds just met a resilient, organized and resolute Arsenal team that were not ready to cave in.
Arsenal’s season might have fallen to all time low as this looks like the very first time in a long while that with just 2 games to go, the Gunners would still be far from an European place. To some, what the Gunners are playing now is mere pre-season matches but I make bold to say that the match was more than that. It is preparing Arteta for the big job ahead.
In his first meeting with Klopp, he has conquered, handling Klopp his first loss against Arsenal as a Liverpool manager. Containing the rampaging Liverpool with their intense pressing style means Arteta has a plan and it is working. This season is just a dress rehearsal, the real performance starts next season.
The victory over Liverpool also puts the Gunners in good stead going into the FA Cup semi final clash against holders, Manchester City. The confidence of beating the rampaging Premier League champions chasing a record and looking to set another is a much needed confidence booster to confront a team that has already beaten them twice in both fixtures in the league this season.
Since taking over, Arteta has shown his man-management skills. It is a known fact amongst football buffs that the Arsenal squad is bereft of top quality players especially in defence and midfield but the Spaniard has been able to put together a team that has kept clean sheets on tough grounds (Molineux and Saint Mary) and keeping Liverpool at bay is a further testament to this fact. With what has been shown so far, if Arteta has his kind of players, a full pre-season under his belt, title fight next season might still be tall order but a top 4 finish might just be a stroll in the park.