Arsenal 0 - Liverpool FC 2
Arsenal: Kiwior 80’
Liverpool: Diaz 90’+5’
It was a tale of two clubs headed in divergent directions: Arsenal reeling from wobbles during the Festive Fixture Crunch and Liverpool feeling in full flight after navigating the period well. While this wasn’t a league clash, it certainly already had a lot of spice and intrigue going in, with Arsenal seeking to assert themselves as at the same level as the Reds, and Jurgen’s New Look Liverpool eager to force the pundit class to acknowledge that they are true title challengers.
When the teamsheets were released, one notable absence was Virgil Van Dijk. The Dutchman is unavailable due to illness.
Arsenal start off fast as Aaron Ramsdale releases Reiss Nelson with a peach of a long ball but the Reds do just enough to close the angle. The Gunners don’t let up and inside of the first 15 minutes force the Reds into panic stations as a well-worked passage of play ends with Martin Ødegaard rattling one off the crossbar. Kai Havertz also had a decent curling shot saved in between those two moments.
Liverpool, meanwhile have looked a bit disjointed as Arsenal’s press seems to be doing the job of putting the Reds off. Aside from that scramble, Liverpool have mostly managed to absorb Arsenal’s pressure. Ibrahima Konate in particular has done great work mopping up in the back.
Just as I typed that, Konate goes down after running into Bukayo Saka. Luckily, it looks a minimal injury and the Frenchman is back up and running. Which is important because he looks at the moment to be the biggest reason thing as are still level.
Alexis Mac Allister steps up to intercept a pass and looks to release Curtis Jones in what ought to be a decent opportunity. But much like most of the match, Jones is quickly surrounded by Arsenal defenders and it comes to nothing. Arteta’s defensive scheme is annoyingly effective.
Jarell Quansah goes down with about 5 minutes left and provides a scare to all Reds, especially given the thin bench when it comes to defenders. But it looks like he’ll be able to finish out the match, much to our relief.
Arsenal’s press (have we mentioned it yet?) forces the Liverpool defense into a mistake as Quansah turns the ball over just outside the box. It leads to a Havertz shot that is smothered by Alisson Becker.
And almost immediately after that, captain Trent Alexander-Arnold rattles the Arsenal crossbar with a rocket of a shot. Trent looks incredulous at it not having gone in and we can’t say we disagree.
The first half ends with the teams at nil-nil, with both clubs feeling just inches off from breaking the deadlock. Given Arsenal’s energy and ability to create chances, though, I imagine that they’ll feel a little better about how that half played out.
No changes to either side to start the half, but Liverpool do start brightly. Inside the first 10 minutes, Liverpool find themselves in the Arsenal half a bit more and with more intent than they did in the first half with Luis Díaz heavily involved in two of them. Then, Darwin Nuñez flashes it across the face of goal on what is about the brightest stretch of attacking play for the Reds all match thus far.
Almost immediately after, Saka has another chance that goes wide off of a well-worked Arsenal free kick. This half is much more open.
Ryan Gravenberch and Diogo Jota are brought on for Cody Gakpo and Alexis Mac Allister. A few minutes later, Kai Havertz puts a looping shot on goal that Alisson Becker palms it clear. Saka tries to volley the rebound in and sends it wide. Arsenal then make their first substition as they bring on Gabriel Martinelli for Reiss Nelson.
Liverpool have a nearly moment in what feels like a match of nearly moments as Darwin Nuñez is released on a 2-v-1 with Luis Díaz. Darwin tries to square the ball but puts it behind the Colombian winger, which nullifies the threat.
At the 75 minute mark, Klopp decides to bring on some youth as midfielder Bobby Clark and full-back Conor Bradley for Curtis Jones and Harvey Elliott. This moves Trent into midfield with Bobby Clark and Ryan Gravenberch. And not even two minutes after, the Reds head into transition with Diogo Jota playing Díaz in and forcing a save. The resulting corner kick sees Jota putting it off the crossbar and then Darwin flashing the rebound high. It’s a much improved second half for the Reds.
GOAL!!! A foul by Martin Ødegaard gives the Reds a free-kick in a decent area. Trent sends the ball into the area and Arsenal left-back Jakub Kiwior puts it into his own net. Reds up one with about 10 minutes left to play in normal time.
GOAL!!! Darwin Nuñez combines with Diogo Jota to find Luis Díaz in the penalty area. The Colombian takes a touch and makes no mistake, putting Liverpool up 2 in what proves to be the last meaningful action in the match.
Liverpool win! Against title rivals! And there’s no replay! No complaints really on the day as Liverpool outlast a stubborn and feisty Arsenal side, away. Bonus points for getting meaningful minutes to youth players Conor Bradley and Bobby Clark. The Reds now move on and look towards the first leg of their tie against Fulham in the League Cup.