Liverpool welcome Arsenal on Sunday with neither side anywhere close to top form. Two of the biggest powerhouses in England have waged war over silverware more often than not whenever they've met, but the only thing up for grabs this weekend is the chance to close the gap on Premier League pacesetters Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United. It's a predicament neither side could have foresaw when the season commenced. The always reliable North Londoners had only strengthened further with the acquisition of marksman Alexis Sanchez (coincidentally snatched from under Brendan Rodgers' nose) and Liverpool were seemingly prepared to consolidate their position as title challengers, but even the best-laid plans often go astray.
In spite of the two sides' recent fortunes, there's every reason to get excited about the upcoming clash. In Brendan Rodgers and Arsene Wenger, despite the criticisms levied against them, the Premier League boasts two of the more pragmatic and forward thinking coaches in the game. Never content with just winning, both men are determined to approach football The Right Way™ which, at least on paper, means crisp passing and fluid attacking football. As a matter of fact, no Premier League fixture has seen more hat-tricks (5), which probably means we're due a bore draw. Until then, make sure to whet your appetite, as we take a trip down memory lane.
THE FIRST DEGREE: LIVERPOOL 4 - 0 ARSENAL (23rd december 2000)
Between them, Arsene Wenger and Gerard Houllier had brought some French flavour to the Premier League title race. The Liverpool manager, fresh from a victory at Old Trafford, had spent the preceding days playing down talk of a title tilt, but his side were very much in the mix. First, though, he had to take care of the runners-up elect. The irresistible Steven Gerrard had already outplayed Roy Keane and, determined to do the same to Patrick Viera, opened the scoring with a stunning volley.
Arsenal threatened to mount a comeback in the second half and, if not for the goalkeeping heroics of Sander Westervelt, may well have found an equalizer through Dennis Bergkamp. As tensions grew, Arsenal found themselves lackadaisical at the back and, although Emile Heskey's 61st minute shot was parried, the opportunistic Michael Owen was ready to pounce on the rebound to double his side's lead. This was the moment that Arsene Wenger knew the game was over, later accusing his side of lacking the mental fortitude to react.
The rout was later completed with goals from Nick Barmby and Robbie Fowler. Arsene Wenger's side went on to finish second only to Manchester United, and while Liverpool's title hopes were eventually dashed, they did bring home three cups for the Kop.
THE SECOND DEGREE: LIVERPOOL 4 - 2 ARSENAL (8th april 2008)
The second leg of the Champions League quarter-final saw Arsenal travel to Merseyside in an effort to progress to the competition's final four. Rafael Benitez had earned a 1-1 draw at the Emirates, and his high flying Reds just needed a result on home soil. Things didn't quite go to plan, however, as Abou Diaby fired the Gunners into an early lead and left Liverpool looking jaded. A towering header from Sami Hyypia granted the equalizer they were looking for, and Fernando Torres soon combined with Peter Crouch to give the Merseyside outfit the lead.
Liverpool were well on their way to yet another semi-final showdown with Chelsea, but Emmanuel Adebayor, poised to break Kopites' hearts, struck in the 84th minute. With just four minutes left on the clock, and inspired by the magic of a European night at Anfield, Ryan Babel was adjudged to have been brought down in the box by Kolo Toure. With the weight of the world on his shoulders, Captain Fantastic stepped up to the penalty spot and calmly found the top corner to put his boyhood club back on track, and Ryan Babel added his name to the score sheet in extra time. Rafa's resilient Reds had overcome the odds, but ultimately bowed out of the competition to Chelsea.
THE THIRD DEGREE: LIVERPOOL 5 - 1 ARSENAL (8th FEBRUARY 2014)
In a result that will be fresh in our minds, the final inclusion on this list took place earlier this year. Arsenal arrived as table toppers and few could have predicted the spanking that awaited them. Brendan Rodgers masterminded a 20 minute assault that put the game beyond doubt without even breaking a sweat. Martin Skrtel, of all people, struck twice within the opening ten minutes, while Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge added a couple of exclamation points.
The work was already done, partly in thanks to the tireless and relentless pressing of Jordan Henderson and Philippe Coutinho. Arsenal's renowned midfield were left flat-footed and overawed in the trail of their counterparts. In truth, Liverpool could have scored more, but Arsenal were already on damage limitation. Sterling notched a second to his name in the second half before Liverpool finally showed mercy. Arsenal's sole consolation came from the Mikel Arteta's penalty after Steven Gerrard clumsily hacked down Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
It was the be the start of an eleven-game winning streak for Rodgers' Reds, a feat which almost guided them to the Premier League title, if not for an untimely slip from the skipper. While things haven't been going swimmingly for Brendan Rodgers this term, he will arrive at Anfield on Sunday hoping to replicate the performance that set the benchmark for Liverpool's unlikely title challenge.
It's hard to predict which way the upcoming game will go, but to say that this is a must win for Liverpool would be an understatement. A loss would see the Reds fall eight points behind their opponents, and effectively kill their top four hopes before the sleigh bells even start to ring. But before the winter blues take hold, take a moment to share your own personal memories of Arsenal's Anfield exploits. You never know, there may even an early stocking filler come Sunday.