Result: Arsenal 0-2 Liverpool
Competition: Premier League
Date: 16 March 2022
Venue: Emirates Stadium
Arsenal: Ramsdale, Cedric, White, Gabriel, Tierney, Partey, Xhaka, Ødegaard, Saka, Martinelli, Lacazette
Subs: Leno, Holding, Tavares, Swanson, Lokonga, Elneny, Pepe, Smith-Rowe, Nketiah
Arsenal were beaten 2-0 at home by a motivated Liverpool side, who took matters into their own hands as they closed the gap to Manchester City at the top of the Premier League table. Arsenal frustrated Liverpool for the first half, looking pretty competitive against Jurgen Klopp’s side. But quality shone through in the second period as Liverpool scored two goals in quick succession to take the game away from the Gunners.
Arsenal put on a valiant, competitive display in the first half. Containing Liverpool is no mean task, but they did it well and even carved out some chances of their own. Arteta’s team worked hard to match Liverpool, but you did feel there was more to come from the title-challengers come the second period.
Liverpool did indeed go up a gear in the second half and by 55 minutes in, they were ahead through Diogo Jota, after Ramsdale was beaten at his near post. Then less than 10 minutes later, Klopp’s men doubled their lead through substitute Roberto Firmino, who snuck the ball in smartly from an Andrew Robertson cross.
Arsenal welcomed Liverpool to the Emirates having won five games on the bounce, but Jurgen Klopp’s side are on an eight-game winning streak themselves. The last time two teams met with as many consecutive wins in the Premier League was the famous 4-4 at Anfiels in 2008. The match felt like a bigger occasion than recent meetings with the Gunners one of the front-runners for the top four, whilst Liverpool had been given a huge boost in the title race following Manchester City being held to a draw at Crystal Palace on Monday.
Mikel Arteta followed the old adage that ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ and named an unchanged side from the 2-0 victory against Leicester on the weekend. Meanwhile, Klopp was forced to drop Mohamed Salah to the bench after he picked up a knock on the weekend at Brighton. Otherwise, it was a strong Liverpool side, that included new boy Luis Diaz and Arsenal’s kryptonite – Diogo Jota.
Liverpool started the stronger of the two teams, pushing high up the pitch and forcing a succession of early corners. Ramsdale made an impressive save from a Van Dijk header to deny the visitors a dream start. Soon after, Arsenal showed their threat on the counter when a slightly under-hit Ødegaard through ball denied Saka a run on Allison in the Liverpool. Both teams appeared hungry to show they mean business.
As the game approached the 15 minute mark, the two sides settled into more of rhythm – with Liverpool having more possession and Arsenal looking to stretch them on the break using Saka and Martinelli’s pace from the flanks. And its was the young Brazilian who asked a real question of Liverpool’s defence when he broke in behind Alexander-Arnold to the byline and fizzed a low ball across the six-yard box, only for it to be cleared away in the nick of time.
Arteta’s men grew in confidence as the game went on, getting a foothold in game as they kept Liverpool’s attacks to the edge of the area with their compact shape off the ball. What may have come as a surprise to Liverpool was just how physical Arsenal were, going toe-to-toe with one of the toughest. The crowd were right behind the Gunners as they frustrated Klopp to the point of the German screaming in the fourth officials ear over trivial incidents, at best.
However, as half time drew near, Liverpool began to assert themselves again – pinning Arsenal back into their own half and enjoying some sustained pressure. But Arsenal remained compact, weathering the storm, until Liverpool came close after a beautifully weighted ball from Alexander-Arnold found Mane in behind, but he fluffed his lines and fired high over the bar.
The visitors had the ball in the net early in the second half, as Mane took up a similar position as his chance before the break. This time fed by Henderson, Mane went through one-on-one with Ramsdale and chipped the ball over him, but the flag went up soon after and the goal was ruled out. Arsenal then had a chance when Martinelli nutmegged Alexander-Arnold and went on a trademark run, going past two and finding a ball across goal, but there was no-one there to finish it.
Arsenal were then gifted a golden opportunity as Thiago’s back pass was intercepted by Lacazette, who teed it up for Ødegaard but Alisson did extremely well to recover and get an arm to it. And it was from one goalkeeper’s heroics, to another’s mistake as Ramsdale was caught cold at his near post after Jota was left unchecked by a lazy Cedric and finished to make it 1-0 Liverpool. Not good enough from a man who was being talked about as England’s new number 1.
Somewhere amongst the commotion of the first goal, Klopp made a double substitution to bring on Salah and Firmino and not long after, after just over an hour, it was double trouble for the Gunners. Again, Cedric’s side of defence was left open and Robertson had all the time in the world to find a low cross for Firmino’s fresh legs to latch onto and deftly toed the ball under Ramsdale into the net. 2-0 Liverpool.
The stuffing seemed knocked out of Arsenal by this point, and although they had moments of inspiration –namely through Martinelli– they generally struggled to find the confidence they showed before Liverpool scored. However, with 2 minutes to go, Martinelli found himself in space just inside the corner of the box, but fired a finessed effort agonisingly wide of the far post.
In the end, Liverpool showed why they’re chasing the title and why Arsenal’s best hope still remains sneaking into the Champions League places come May. The Gunners can take heart from an impressive first half and a competitiveness they haven’t shown in previous fixtures, but ultimately they didn’t have the legs nor experience to really make it stick. It’s a tough away trip to Aston Villa next, and another must-win game in the hunt for a place in the top four.