Lately Arsenal’s run against Liverpool has been poor especially at Anfield, the Gunners have been put to the sword too many times.
In 2017/2018 season, Arsenal lost 5-1. The following season, it was a deja vu of the scoreline. Ditto for last season too but at the twilight of last season, Arsenal under new manager, Mikel Arteta were able to turn the tide as they won the match 2-1 though at the Emirates.
The jury argued that Arsenal were fortunate to have posed that result no thanks to the fact that the Reds had already wrapped up the title, hence no reason for them to go for the jugular but they forgot to add that Liverpool were chasing the record of the highest points haul in a Premier League season and that loss at the Emirates went a long way in putting paid to that ambition.
Arteta showed the victory was no fluke as he masterminded another win over Jurgen Klopp side, this time in the Community Shield with a largely inferior side. This time the lottery of penalties was given as the excuse.
The footballing world knew the jury would be out again on the bigger stage which is the Premier League match at Anfield. There, Arsenal were expected to show they had come of age and ready to put an end to the run of embarrassing defeats against the Reds. The task was daunting but at the end of it, it was not business as usual. Result was the similar but scoreline utterly different.
That match was the first between the sides in a long while that results could have been different if Arsenal took their chances. The Gunners were outplayed with respect to possession but in the case of clear cut chances, the Gunners had their fair share, ample chances to score 3 goals but scoring just one and spurning the other two.
Liverpool on their part had the lion share of possession, good chances to score but were fortuitous to have had those three goals, they had the erratic and generous officiating to thank. The game could have been markedly different if Sadio Mane had been sent off very early in the game for his violent conduct on Kieran Tierney.
Liverpool’s third goal which all but ended Arsenal’s chances of a comeback could have been chalked off for handball after Diogo Jota handled the ball before volleying it in. If only VAR had been more vigilant.
It is not surprising that Arsenal manager, Mikel Arteta praised his team’s efforts, playing down Alexander Lacazette’s miss.
“Obviously he had the best chance in the game to make it 2-2, and then again put us in a really strong position, but he had a great game.
“He put in another incredible performance and I’m pleased with him. I want to see my players upset and angry when we lose a game.
“It is a really tough place to come, they are a really good side. We stayed in the game for almost the whole match.
Having took the lead, we should have held that situation a bit better. We conceded the goal too early.
“We competed well knowing the difficult moments you will have when you come to Anfield; when we had the clear chances to make it 2-2 we didn’t take them.
“They want to win and this is what they are like, the mindset of the team. They go to any ground and want to win. They really believed we could come here and do it and for large periods of the game we were there.”
Though the loss of three points was painful, the performance showed marked improvement. Defensively, the Gunners showed they could defend stoutly despite huge pressure heaped on them. Offensively, they also showed they could create chances from quick breakaway and momentary flashes against the run of play.
The biggest comfort comes from the fact that the Arsenal team despite being short of some top players, were able to put up a resolute and spirited display. It stands to be seen how they would have fared with a midfield enforcer in the mould of Thomas Partey and a creative attacking midfielder like Houssem Aouar?
They definitely would have caused more problems for Liverpool. The good news is that the Arsenal hierarchy are hellbent on both players and reports have it that they have advanced in discussions for both as the transfer window draws to a close.
Arsenal are definitely not there yet but signs are that they are not faraway.