Arsenal and Liverpool had a wild battle at my Gunners House Emirates. When the smoke cleared the Reds Arsenal three all.
The Guardians David Hytner wrote:” Sometimes it is better simply to glory in the madness of it all. Arsenal had been abject in the first half. They trailed to Philippe Coutinho’s header and the damage ought to have been heavier. The boos at half-time were loud and angry. Liverpoolhad been excellent.
To say that the game was turned upside down inside five second-half minutes would be the understatement of the season. Out of nowhere Arsenal scored three times. Simon Mignolet was horribly culpable on Granit Xhaka’s equaliser but he was merely the lead character in the latest defensive horror show from Liverpool against a leading club.
The mood inside the Emirates Stadium went from poisonous to party time. Mesut Özil’s third for Arsenal was a cracker. How had this happened? Jürgen Klopp stared into space. It would have been a crime if his Liverpool team had left empty-handed and, mercifully for them, they did not. Emre Can played in Roberto Firmino and, amid more shoddy marking, his shot looped up off Petr Cech’s fingertips before dropping down and in.
Klopp lost it. The Liverpool manager hurled his water bottle down and, eyes bulging, yelled in the direction of the Arsenal supporters in his vicinity. It drew a furious response from them and somebody threw a water bottle towards the manager. Klopp would walk over to those fans moments later to hold his hands up in apology. He need not have done. It was an occasion when everybody was dragged through the wringer.
Arsène Wenger said he was disappointed not to have won and he managed to keep a straight face while doing so. The flaws in his team were there for all to see until Alexis Sánchez scored to drag them back into it, and he could be thankful to a higher power for those crazy five minutes. Without them it would have been easy to imagine the latest outbreak of mutiny.
This Wenger team is prone to crashes. Think of the 4-0 defeat at Anfield in August. But they are equally famed for their recoveries. They managed to cram both of the traits into a single 90 minutes.
That said, this is a time for celebration and it would be churlish not to acknowledge the attacking brio on display – particularly from Liverpool. Firmino set the tone with his energy at the tip of Klopp’s formation but he was ably supported by Mohamed Salah. Coutinho, as usual, was a joy to watch. From an Arsenal point of view Özil’s clipped finish rounded off a lovely team move, which was ignited by Alexandre Lacazette’s beautiful back-heel, and they would doubtless argue they forced the errors from Joe Gomez and Mignolet for their first two goals.
Liverpool had arrived on the back of four straight Premier League wins – in which they had scored 16 times – and it seemed as though Arsenal showed them too much respect in the first half. Playing this Liverpool team can resemble a walk in the park with a lion on the loose – generally fine and then, suddenly, not fine at all. They have regularly mauled their opponents on the counterattack and they did so again.
Firmino had twice gone close before James Milner, who had come on for the injured Jordan Henderson, started the move for the opening goal with a ball up the right for Salah. Rather abruptly Liverpool had two on two. Salah’s cross deflected up off Laurent Koscielny and Coutinho, who had burst forward to make the extra man, looped his header over Cech.
The mood among the home supporters darkened and the remainder of the first half was an ordeal for them. Liverpool could have made the points safe. Firmino curled inches over; Dejan Lovren should have found a team-mate following Coutinho’s chipped free-kick and Cech denied Salah one-on-one after a slip from Koscielny. Sadio Mané scissor-kicked the rebound just over, with Cech grounded.
The Arsenal fans jeered Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who would come on as a late substitute, on his first return to the club but they turned on their own players when the half-time whistle went. They had not threatened Mignolet’s goal up to that point. It was all too tangled and easy to telegraph from them.
It would get worse for Arsenal before it got better. Salah had worked Cech on the break before he set off on a run from deep inside his own half, swapped passes with Firmino and curled a trademark finish from outside the area into the bottom corner.
Game over? It certainly looked that way. Instead Arsenal launched their fightback. It was aided and abetted by some dreadful individual errors, the first from Gomez. He did not see Sánchez stealing in behind him to meet Héctor Bellerín’s cross and, when he froze, the Chilean headed home.
Worse was to come. Xhaka’s shot from distance packed a punch but it did not seem to swerve too sharply. Mignolet stuck out a weak hand and he succeeded only in tipping the ball into the corner of his net. The home crowd lost their senses when Özil scored but the last word would go to Firmino.