Arsenal showed that the revival under Unai Emery is no false dawn, as a spirited performance saw a point gained against Liverpool.
Alexandre Lacazette’s 82nd minute leveller was compensation for a display that showed our defensive shakiness may cost a few points, but it isn’t as severe as the media portray it to be. It certainly wasn’t too weak to largely contain the likes of Salah, Mane and Firmino, and Mustafi, Holding and their cohorts can hold their heads high after doing themselves proud - and perhaps silencing a few doubters.
Unai Emery went with a strong attacking lineup, as Lacazette and Aubameyang both started, alongside Ozil. A surprise inclusion was Henrikh Mkhitaryan, especially in the face of Alex Iwobi’s stellar form.
There was good news before kickoff as Hector Bellerin and Sead Kolasinac passed fitness tests and were included in the backline, and it really made a difference.
The first half was an open affair, as both sides were intent on attacking with pace, There were early half chances and some narrow offside calls, but the clearest opportunity came to Xhaka after a corner, but Allison saved comfortably. That was the 14th minute, and the first half had plenty left to offer.
A lofted ball sprung the Liverpool offside trap, and it was a straight race between Mkhitaryan and Allison. The Armenian won the race as the goalkeeper made contact with thin air, but his header went wide with the goal begging.
It was a promising start though, especially as the first forty five minutes usually brings scant reward for us.
Then, there was a let-off. A tight offside call was given in our favour after Mane was flagged, although replays suggested it was touch and go. We got away with it perhaps, but then we came even closer to conceding, as Firmino hit the bar with a shot from inside the area.
Liverpool were flexing their muscles, and it was Virgil Van Dijk that tested us next, but Bernd Leno was his equal on this occasion. The game was flowing well though, and the excitement was palpable. No one knew which way this game would go.
Hector Bellerin was next to try his luck, but his long ranger was well held by Allison. We were on the up though, and soon after, Lacazette and Aubameyang had both gone close - both assisted by Ozil.
Just before half time though, we were nearly rocked, as Van Dijk again troubled us, a header whacked the post with Leno beaten.
We went into the dressing room with parity though, which is a real rarity for us so far this campaign, and we had given as good as we got. Lucas Torreira had been superb in breaking up play, Mustafi had stopped nearly everything, Xhaka had been busy, Ozil had been industrious - all we had missed was a goal.
The start of the second half wasn’t as cavalier as the first, but there was plenty of effort on show. There were some niggly fouls too, Fabinho especially was guilty of a shocker.
Then, Liverpool scored.
There was a touch of fortune in it, as Leno’s intervention came off Holding, and the loose ball found Milner lurking, who smashed it home. The goal left us just shy of thirty minutes to find an equaliser.
Emery decided to shuffle the pack, with Iwobi replacing Mkhitaryan on the 68th minute, and five minutes later, Ramsey came on for Aubameyang. the Gabon man wasn’t happy with the decision, but it showed that emery isn’t afraid to upset the bigger players for the good of the club.
Liverpool wanted to kill the game off and earned a few corners, but we held firm. Time was ticking though. Could we find the leveller?
Welbeck came on for Kolasinac in the 81st minute, and we had the goal a minute later. A great through ball by Iwobi found Lacazette bursting through, and his touch took it away from Allison, who had sprung off his line. Laca looked like he took it too far, but he checked back in and curled a delicious effort into the far corner, and it was what we had deserved.
Both teams had efforts to win the game late on, but Bellerin, Salah and Mane all couldn’t find the magic to get the points.
In hindsight, it was probably the right result for both teams. We showed we can keep up with the title contenders, and we also showed that we know how to defend when we need to.
Thirteen unbeaten, long may it continue. Well done lads.