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Arsenal 0, Liverpool 0: Goalkeeping Heroics Ensure Draw

Liverpool and Arsenal somehow conspire to record their first goalless draw since 1998, despite both teams creating plenty of chances.

Julian Finney/Getty Images
Arsenal 0
Liverpool 0

Returning to a ground they have had very little luck in, Liverpool came out in the narrow 4-3-3 we saw through most of pre-season, with Lucas deep, flanked by Emre Can and James Milner, captaining the side on the day in Henderson's injury absence, and Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho floating behind lone striker Christan Benteke.

The away side came out firing and within a few minutes of play had already had their first big chances, Benteke first slicing wide with his left, followed by Coutinho smashing a shot off the crossbar after some high pressing released Benteke down the right channel.

On the other end of the pitch, hesitant defending from Milner and Martin Skrtel forced Simon Mignolet into a save at his near post, before the linesman made it two good goals disallowed in two weeks, taking away Ramsay's well taken shot after Cazorla's sumptuous through ball.

Throughout the first half, Liverpool mixed up their press, occasionally dropping deep, allowing Arsenal to play around them, but more often pushing their runners high up the middle of the pitch, forcing Arsenal to play it wide, where the visitors would spring their pressing trap on the opposition's defenders and counter. This approach denied the home side any meaningful looks after Ramsay's disallowed goal, and provided Liverpool with ample opportunities to counter, leading to a number of chances and half-chances, and culminating in a flurry of activity in front of Arsenal's goal in the final 8 minutes of the half. First, the recently maligned Petr Cech somehow saved Benteke's finish from 5 yards after Firmino's inch-perfect cross, then the Czech international came up aces again minutes later, fingertipping a curled Coutinho effort onto the post after the Brazilian had embarrassed right back Hector Bellerin.

If Liverpool were dynamic and tactically on point in the first half, they were equally off the pace in the second. Arsenal spent the first 15 minutes of the half passing the ball around the visitors' box, and as legs tired from chasing shadows, started producing opportunities. First Cazorla and Giroud combined to play Sanchez in, only for the Chilean to whack the ball off Mignolet's near post. A Lucas tackle-cum-pass gave Coutinho an opportunity from 20 yards, before the siege continued. Jordon Ibe came on for a fading Firmino, and Ramsay got around the right side much too easily, his flat pass across the six yard box finding no-one.

In the 70th minute, MIgnolet earned his clean sheet with a sensational save from point blank as Giroud was allowed to turn and shoot. Liverpool were looking, and rarely succeeding, to counter, but a 70-yard Joe Gomez run ended in a Milner shot from distance, well held by Cech. 18 year old Jordan Rossiter came on for Lucas, with Milner dropping into the deep role, and Liverpool remained pegged back.

In the 83rd minute, a powerful cross from Oxlade-Chamberlain was turned inches wide of his own goal by Martin Skrtel as the Slovak stretched to prevent the ball from reaching Walcott who had made a good run in behind him. Alberto Moreno was given another cameo on the left wing, coming on for Coutinho and providing some pace on the counter, but his one purposeful run came to nothing as he took a touch too many instead of playing in Can. Simon Mignolet made a good save in injury time and secured his third clean sheet in a row.

As disappointed as Liverpool might be for going into half-time without a lead, they should count themselves very lucky they didn't throw their solitary point away in the second half. Arsenal had a perfectly good goal disallowed and pressed furiously for the win in the final 30 minutes.

As for individual performers, Coutinho remains the creative force of the side, does obscene things with the ball, and should have been rewarded with a goal if not for Petr Cech having a bit of a worldie. Benteke looked the best he has in a Liverpool shirt and did everything a lone striker can be expected to do, despite being left isolated for long stretched in the second half, but really should have scored. The midfield trio worked wonderfully in the first half, and were well organised, setting pressing traps and making life difficult for Arsenal's creative players, but were clearly running out of steam quickly as the game wore on. Firmino was excellent in the first half and Clyne did very well against a left-leaning Arsenal team that kept overloading his side of the pitch. Meanwhile, the CBs looked confused at times, struggling to control Giroud, and they can thank the steady Mignolet for the clean sheet, while Jordon Ibe had his worst performance in a Liverpool shirt.

A point and a clean sheet at the Emirates is nothing to turn your nose up at, and if Liverpool can replicate this result in the tough away fixtures coming up in the next few months, while improving their offense for the more winnable home games, they should remain in and around the CL places as the season starts settling.

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