Liverpool v Arsenal always guarantees goals.
With Liverpool hoping for a repeat of the 5-1 drubbing they handed out to the Gunners a few seasons ago and Arsenal hoping to maintain their increasing grip on the top of the Premier League table, this game promised to be an interesting one.
All the Liverpool boys I know were expecting an Arsenal win and, to be fair, so was I. The demons of the last few years seem to have been put to bed this season. Games that the North London club would have drawn, or lost, last season are turning into wins. Liverpool, whilst improving under Jurgen Klopp, are still far from a top four team. Taking all this into account I was expecting a fairly routine win for my beloved Arsenal.
How wrong was I?
Liverpool came right out of the blocks from the off. Arsenal barely knew how to contain the ridiculous amount of Liverpool pressure and that pressure paid off after 10 minutes as Roberto Firmino stroked home through Laurent Koscielny’s legs and into the net. Four minutes later, totally against the run of play, Aaron Ramsey latched onto a Joel Campbell pass and put the ball past Simon Mignolet at his near post.
Go back up the other end and on the 19th minute Firmino showed his Brazilian heritage with a screamer of a strike into the top corner, beating the stretching Petr Cech. So we’re not even 20 minutes in and it’s already 2-1. I was slumped in my seat but the neutral would have been loving it. Despite Liverpool having the lead Arsenal started to come back into the game. A few corners later and Mesut Özil whipped in a wicked ball at the near post which Olivier Giroud dutifully flicked on and the ball ricocheted in off a helpless Mignolet. 2-2.
I still at a bit of a loss as to why people don’t rate Giroud, especially when you see his second goal. He picked up the ball in the box, did a cheeky Cruyff Turn to beat his man and smashed the ball inside the far post. The technique shown, desire and strength to beat his man and the vision to find the net means he is as good as anyone in Europe right now. Surely his stats alone make him world class, but when you see the type of goals he scores that is even more impressive.
Arsenal were now in the lead and could kick on and kill off the game. It seemed that this would be the case. Özil was running the midfield, Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal were bombing forward at will, Giroud and Campbell had a few efforts. I would have been happy if a fourth went in but overall Arsenal were fairly comfortable. Then Jurgen Klopp threw a huge spanner in the works by bringing on target man Christian Benteke.
It was an inspired substitution as Benteke caused the Arsenal defence no end of problems. Koscielny and defensive partner Per Mertesacker were fairly assured until the big man started to put himself about. Another substitution in the shape of loanee Steven Caulker, normally a defender but chucked up front to cause issues, really put the cat amongst the pigeons.
Arsenal’s increasing grip on the game began to slip and Liverpool, playing towards the Kop, started to get their second wind. Ball after ball came into the Arsenal box and, as the rain and snow started to fall, it was inevitable that something would go in. Joe Allen duly obliged and deftly slipped the ball past Cech to make it 3-3.
When the ref blew up for full time I was a little deflated but, on reflection, the result was a fair one. Both teams made errors at the back, both teams were irresistible going forward, both teams had gilt-edged chances and both teams deserved something from the game.
In the context of the title it didn’t really add much as, apart from Leicester, the top four all drew so no one really lost out. No one really seems to be able to gain any really traction at the top but it is all just a great advert for the English game.
Whilst the points were shared in this game, the real winner were the fans and the Premier League who were treated to another edge of your seat 3-3 draw after Manchester United and Newcastle’s effort the night previously.