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Liverpool 3, Arsenal 3: As Exhilarating as a Draw Can Be

Liverpool display defensive frailties as they share the spoils with Arsenal in another classic showdown between the two teams.

Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Liverpool 3 Firmino 9', 19', Allen 90'

Arsenal 3 Ramsey 13', Giroud 25', 54'

Liverpool and Arsenal played out a an absolute back and forth barnburner in the rain and sleet at Anfield on Wednesday night.

The Reds came out in a 4-2-3-1 that looked like it was designed to press, but defensively suspect. and so it would prove over the course of 90 minutes. Emre Can and Jordan Henderson formed a double pivot behind an attacking quartet of James Milner, Adam Lallana, Jordon Ibe and Roberto Firmino, while the backline comprised of Nathaniel Clyne, Kolo Toure, Mamadou Sakho and Alberto Moreno.

At the sound of the opening whistle, the home team's intentions were made clear: press Arsenal's backline and deep midfielders at all times. It paid dividends almost instantly, as Theo Walcott was dispossessed following a Liverpool corner. Can's shot was saved by Petr Cech, but Firmino was at hand to smash the rebound home through the legs of Laurent Koscielny.

It wouldn't last though, and the visitors equalised immediately. Olivier Giroud went down after an aerial duel and as the Reds' defenders seemed to switch off expecting the ref to stop the game, Joel Campbell played in Aaron Ramsay, who tucked the ball into the near corner. It looked too easy, and lax defending was compounded by poor positioning by Simon Mignolet.

The roller coaster continued and Firmino sent the Reds in front again five minutes later, this time with an exquisite 20-yard curler into the top corner. It was the kind of £29m finish Liverpool fans were expecting when the Brazilian signed in the summer, and it put the home team in the driving seat once more.

A spell of Arsenal pressure followed, with a Sakho headed clearance off the line and a preposterous-looking prone backheel from Mignolet bookending another Gunner equaliser. Predictably, it came off a corner, and Giroud's faint touch was enough for the ball to sneak through Mignolet's legs. Positioning, marking and goalkeeping were all dubious on the play, to the surprise of absolutely no-one.

The momentum of the match swung back and forth, as Arsenal once more went close on a corner, and Firmino smashed a left-footed volley off the bar as half-time drew near.

The second half kept the tempo turned to 11, and Moreno smashed a volley miles over after being set-up by a Milner cross and Firmino flick. Then things fell apart, as a deflected pass and a world-class turn undid the home defense, Giroud curling the ball into the far corner.

A period of sloppy Liverpool play followed, with both teams struggling to put together passages of quality play, but Arsenal looking more likely to make something happen. Christian Benteke came on for a flagging Milner, and was infuriatingly stationary when Firmino released Ibe down the channel, and the Belgian was posted 20 yards from goal as the ball fizzed across the box.

The visitors were visibly tiring now, and The Reds looked to take advantage, with Lallana twice going close in dangerous situations. Joe Allen came on for an increasingly inaccurate and indecisive Can, before Jürgen Klopp pulled out the B-est of plans, fresh centre-back signing Steven Caulker at striker, prompting a barrage of long balls and crosses.

The substitutes ended up making all the difference just before the ninety minutes were up, as Benteke knocked down a Henderson cross, and an onrushing Allen tucked the ball into the near corner, securing a point for the Reds.

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In a breathtaking advert for the sport, a draw seemed a fair result in the end, and it was predictable that it would be a high-scoring one, with Liverpool's side always looking like it was set up to be on the front foot and vulnerable on defense. The double pivot of Henderson and Can was terrific at closing down, but didn't offer much protection for its backline beyond that, Can in particular becoming less and less effective as the game went on and the accumulation of game time started taking its toll. The centre-backs were left on an island by their midfield, and thus looked shaky at times. Mignolet had another poor showing, and didn't look like a goalkeeper you offer a five-year extension. Jordon Ibe did his best Aly Cissokho impersonation, offering absolutely nothing on the ball.

On the bright side, Roberto Firmino was excellent in all phases of the game, covering ground, harrying defenders, setting up teammates and scoring goals, while Adam Lallana did all the same things, only lacking the end product. Joe Allen continues his renaissance under Klopp, Caulker displayed his height and stuff, and our manager has the very best celebrations. A win would've been nice, but one can rarely complain too loudly about a point against league leaders and title contenders Arsenal.

A short turnaround again this week, as Manchester United visit Anfield on Sunday. Klopp will hope for similar intensity and application in the pressing game, but more discipline and solidity in the defensive third.

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