Arsenal scored an unlikely victory over the new Premier League champions - and a first since 2015 - as two first half goals from Alexandre Lacazette and Reiss Nelson earned the Gunners the points. It also kept us in with a long shot for Europa League qualification.
Mikel Arteta swapped a few for this game after our loss to our North London rivals. Lucas Torreira made his first start since recovering from injury and his first start since the lockdown measures began. He was in at the expense of Dani Ceballos. Cedric took the place of Hector Bellerin and Rob Holding was in the backline for Shkodran Mustafi.
Bukayo Saka was back in too, and he took the spot of Aubameyang, who was on the bench. Nicolas Pepe retained his spot and Reiss Nelson made a long-awaited start after appearing on the bench for the last few.
It was a shuffled pack but the first half showed that Arteta had made the right decision. Liverpool were bossing possession but our pressing was evident and we weren’t allowing too much space. The only save Martinez had to make in the first twenty minutes was a regulation collection from an Alexander-Arnold ball.
Then, Mane struck. Roberto Firmino picked out the wide forward, who did the rest from 6 yards.
From nowhere we were a goal down. We had been on the back foot but in terms of creating opportunities, Liverpool had done very little. Still, we had work to do, and ten minutes later, we had equalised.
Alexandre Lacazette has hit some form of late and he struck once again. A rare slip by Virgil Van Dijk, pressed by Nelson, allowed the Frenchman room to round Allisson and plant into the empty net. It was our first real chance and we had regained parity.
It got even better with a minute to play in the first half. Reiss Nelson made Arteta’s decision to recall him look like a wise one, as he curled round Allisson, leaving him no chance. We had the lead, could we hold onto it? It hasn’t exactly been a strong point of ours and Liverpool had a strong side out.
The second half began like the first did – with Liverpool on the hunt. Again though, they were getting nowhere really. In fact, we were fighting harder than we did at the start of the first. It resulted in a booking for Torreira, as well as one for Alexander-Arnold too. It was getting scrappy. We were not buckling.
Around the 55th minute mark, Arteta made some changes. Lacazette, Torreira and Nelson made way, and Aubameyang, Ceballos and Willock came on for us. It was pretty much like for like, with Willock moving a little further forward. Or at least that was the plan, but with Liverpool on the front foot – Willock was part of the operation to pack the midfield.
Klopp’s side were starting to bypass this too easily though and soon enough, for the last twenty five minutes certainly, the away team were penning us in. They were probing and this caused Emi Martinez to command his box even more strongly than usual – he was claiming everything that came in. We needed it too. Little diagonal balls were starting to slip through and our keeper was on hand to hoover up the majority. The others were simply well defended.
With just a minute left, we had our chance to wrap things up though. Aubameyang lobbed a short pass to the centre of the box and Willock had time to pick his spot. He took it on the volley and screwed it just wide – would we pay for that?
There were five minutes of added time and we were taking every opportunity to waste precious seconds. Liverpool were trying to find that magic pass, but we were holding out. A flurry of crosses and corners were the subject of the dying minutes – but to no avail.
We had won. We had inflicted a rare defeat on the champions. It looked unlikely but there were plenty of reasons why we had deserved it.
When Leno dropped to the floor injured, we feared the worst. We needn’t have worried. Martinez has been sensational, commanding and a big reason why we have kept up decent form. Again in this game he kept Liverpool at bay and he inspires confidence – something that is the mark of quality for keepers.
Arteta changes were key
The hungry Saka and Nelson were snappy. Torreira was at his tigerish best. Rob Holding was firm, he didn’t budge an inch. These changes from our last game underpinned our win.
Holding Shows the Way
Uncompromising. This is why Tierney is so loved by us fans, and Holding toom a leaf from that same book. He made fouls when needed, he let Liverpool know he was breathing down their necks. Holding is old school but still can pass when he needs to. Why Arteta would drop him is beyond me – and Holding may well be playing for his future but he did his chances no harm.
Progress Is Being Made
If we look at the nature of this game, can we say with any certainty that any of our sides in the last two to three years would have gotten anything from the game? We had to be on it at the back and we had to be resolute, but we pushed Liverpool and we kept the spirit that made life difficult for the champions. We are getting there, but Arteta needs new blood.
Next up for Arteta and Arsenal is our FA Cup semi-final versus Man City. It gets no easier!
Who do you think was our key man? Rate the team here.