The Gunners held the Merseyside team in an intense draw at the Emirates.
It is an unsaid rule that Arsenal and Liverpool always produce some of the most intensive games when they meet in the Premier League, whether at the Emirates Stadium or at Liverpool’s backyard, Anfield. The two sides played each other on Saturday and ensured the spectators left for home enthralled. The game ended a 1-1 draw at the Emirates as Alexandre Lacazette struck late for the Gunners to cancel out James Milner’s strike in the 61st minute.
The game started with a bang as the home side attacked relentlessly against a resilient Reds defence led by Virgil van Dijk. That followed a fightback from the visitors as the game continued to shift from end to end until the very end to keep the spectators engaged.
Nevertheless, the two sides shared the spoils of the game as they both continue to extend their respective unbeaten runs in the League and Liverpool now stand top of the table for the time being. Here are the five talking points of the game that are worth the discussion-
5. Unai Emery the key behind Arsenal’s resurgence
The Spanish head coach replaced the veteran Arsene Wenger last summer and has been an influence behind the Gunners’ exceptional performances of late. The Londoners had a rough start to the Premier League campaign under Emery as they fell short against this season’s title challengers Chelsea and Manchester City. However, they have, since, never looked back as they went on to produce a 12-game winning streak and an equally impressive 14-game unbeaten streak including Saturday’s game.
The 4-2-3-1 system has been working perfectly for the former Sevilla and PSG boss as Lacazette, Pierre Emerick Aubameyang, Ozil and Henrikh Mkhitaryan have been flourishing in their positions. Arsenal are looking pretty strong at the moment although it would be too early to deem them title challengers.
4. James Milner- Liverpool’s unsung hero this season
Vice-captain Milner has been a key man for Liverpool this season as he continues to influence the midfield with his huge experience over the years. The 32 year-old was at the right place at the right time against Arsenal as he made everything out of a dangerous Liverpool attacking move by lashing home a rebound off Bernd Leno from Sadio Mane’s cross to put the visitors in front.
Wearing the captain’s armband in place of the ailing Jordan Henderson, Milner is a good leader on the pitch stepping up at most crucial times. His ability of pressing and making dangerous runs to create chances for the front three must be of much pleasure to Jurgen Klopp. The Englishman has a superb work rate too which suits well for the German’s philosophy. It is really good to see Milner match the speed of Liverpool’s high intensity football considering his age.
3. Liverpool’s front three not the same as last season
The attacking trio of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane seems to be running low on fuel this season which is evident from their lacklustre performances this season. They certainly were misfiring against Arsenal despite few great chances and a goal ruled out due to an offside decision. The trio had combined to score 57 goals last campaign for Liverpool proving to be one of the deadliest attacks in Europe.
Mohamed Salah, in particular, has been shy in front of goal as he missed a couple of good chances that the Red created against Arsenal which adds to the 6 big chances missed by him this season. Although he has managed to score 5 goals till now, had he been at the level of last season’s form, it wouldn’t have been a surprise to see him at the top of goalscoring list. Roberto Firmino has been underperforming too, although he was unlucky on Saturday as his lobbed effort past Bernd Leno came back off the post. The Brazilian is admired for his unbelievable work rate however, that ability of his has not been observed of much this season.
Liverpool will be hoping that the trio pull their socks up sooner rather than later as they face a stiff competition for the title from Chelsea and Manchester City who have been raining goals this season.
2. Emery’s substitutions crucial behind Arsenal’s second half revivals
As discussed before, Arsenal’s attack has been excellent this season with 25 goals scored this season, second-most in the League behind Manchester City. However, the peculiarity behind the goals is that 20 of them have been scored in the second half. This shows that despite a quality attack, it takes time for the Gunners to step up and produce goals. And what is even more interesting to know is that, the substitutes always have a role to play behind majority of the goals scored in the second half.
Unai Emery, thus, seems to have great intuitive skills as he sometimes makes crucial changes and brings up the right players at the right time. This was evident in the Liverpool game as the Gunners had become slightly slow after the Reds scored. Understanding the situation, Emery brought in Alex Iwobi, Aaron Ramsey and Danny Welbeck to revive Arsenal’s pace from the first half. And it worked perfectly for him as in the later stages, Lacazette turned the ball in from an Iwobi pass.
1. Sadio Mane incident makes case for implementation of VAR again
Several times in the Premier League before, have there been cases where the need for the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) was sensed. Following the incident from Saturday’s game, involving Sadio Mane being wrongly called offside after scoring a goal, questions regarding the implementation of the technology in the Premier League were raised again.
The dsicussion came into light when, Trent Alexander Arnold put a good lob over the Arsenal defence, to which Firmino was the first to react. However, Mane also ran for the ball and he was offside. But he didn’t make any attempt as the Brazilian tried to lob the ball again over Leno which came back off the post. The ball landed straight into Mane’s feet who turned it in and he was definitely not offside at that time.
Yet the linesman raised the flag and the goal was disallowed. Jurgen Klopp also expressed discontentment as that goal would have earned the Reds all three points.