Liverpool 1 - Arsenal 1
Liverpool: Milner 61’
Arsenal: Lacazette 82’
Liverpool weren't at the races in their 1-1 draw with Arsenal this evening, but that should’ve been good enough to squeak out a win. A familiar Reds performance where things weren’t just clicking was finally caught up to by the fine margins of football. Arsenal are a good side, no doubt, but Liverpool head home with a shared point with the brunt of responsibility. Andre Marriner and his assistant referees surely take some blame as they leave the Emirates, but Jurgen Klopp will need an introspective Liverpool team to figure themselves out. After all, the law of averages provides you joy and distress.
Crowned as the next Game of the Season™ as the final whistle blew at Wembley on Monday Night, this one started brightly. Given the amount of defenders on the training table, Unai Emery only choice was to hope to have a vicious attacking side against Liverpool. That came through in his team selection, starting Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette, Mesut Özil, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan all together for the first time this season. The Gunners got after Liverpool in the first 15 minutes, attacking down their left hand side, with some good chances in the box from Aubameyang and Lacazette. Liverpool regained their footing, seemingly looking to play over the top of Arsenal’s high defensive line and thusly creating the first moment of controversy in the match.
Mohamed Salah collects a throw in and is given all the space in the world to pick out a pass into the box, having Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino to choose from. Mane is initially offside as the ball falls to Firmino, who dinks it over the keeper only to have the bounce off the crossbar then gently fall to the trailing Mane who taps it home. 1-0 Liverpool, right? Nope. The confused assistant referee flags Mane offside and, in that moment, Liverpool fans world-wide knew exactly the type of evening they were about to have.
The rest of the first half actually plays out in Liverpool’s favor, as they create chance after chance. Shortly after the wrongfully disallowed goal, Virgil van Dijk found himself 1 on 1 with the Arsenal keeper, but kicks it right at him. A half dozen other chances go awry for the Reds and they enter the half 0-0. It was a particularly frustrating first half for Fabinho and James Milner, who both looked off the pace in a midfield that lacked drive from the middle.
The second half starts as the first, as Emery and the Gunners set out to try to knick a goal quickly (a la 2016 Europa League Final), but Liverpool absorb the pressure well and regain their composure. Liverpool finally take the lead when Milner rockets home a goal from a rebound in the box. It’s a deserved lead, it should double the lead, but the following 5 minutes show a worrying sign for Liverpool.
Time and time again this season Liverpool have let up on the gas when they go up 1-0. Perhaps its due to spending over £100m on a keeper and a defender in the last two transfer windows, or perhaps its due to the sheer exhaustion it takes to score a goal on a team as good as Arsenal. I’m not sure. But what I am sure of is that this is something that needs to be address if Jurgen Klopp has any hope of catching Manchester City by May.
Last week? They still won 4-1 despite lacking the ruthlessness to step on the throat of a weak Cardiff City. Tonight? A brilliant strike from Lacazette and a daft referee error sees it end 1-1.
Up the Can Do Better Reds.