ARSENAL 3-1 LIVERPOOL: Goals from Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli, and Leandro Trossard handed Arsenal a crucial win over the Premier League leaders as they hauled themselves back into the title race
The hosts started the day five points behind the Reds, who are looking to make a dream farewell to manager Jurgen Klopp. But the Gunners looked to have handed their hopes of winning the division a major boost when Bukayo Saka scored early on, converting after Alisson had saved from Kai Havertz.
The hosts were made the pay for missing a litany of chances though when Liverpool netted a bizarre equaliser after a defensive mix-up between William Saliba and David Raya. The Reds looked to have lifted themselves out of their slumber in the second period, but they too were left shellshocked.
Van Dijk could not deal with a long ball forward, instead crashing into Alisson to allow Martinelli to roll in a second goal for the Gunners. Ibrahima Konate’s red card for blocking Havertz two minutes remaining stifled Liverpool’s fightback, with Leandro Trossard scoring a brilliant solo goal to wrap up the three points. Here, Mirror Football looks at the biggest talking points from a huge game at the top of the table.
Gunners bid boosted
Some pundits warned that this game was already a must-win for Arsenal, who started the day five points behind Liverpool at the top of the table. That gap has now crucially been cut down to two points.
It means that the Gunners are still well in the title race, with a defeat likely to have taken them all but out of it. Instead, Mikel Arteta’s side have much-needed momentum for the second half of the season.
The manner of this win, as they were forced to recover from a sucker-punch of an equaliser, will also boost their confidence given what happened last season. A run of draws saw them miss out on the title last term, with Sunday’s win a sign that their mentality is changing.
Havertz’s gamble pays off
With Gabriel Jesus injured with a knee problem, Arteta surprisingly selected Kai Havertz to lead the line. Eddie Nketiah, a natural striker, was instead left to watch on from the bench.
The gamble paid off though, with Havertz racing clear before seeing his shot saved by Alisson, with Saka converting the rebound. The German picked up positions that opened gaps in the Liverpool defence, frequently dropping deep.
Havertz also worked well when pressing, joining in with a team-mate, usually Martin Odegaard or Gabriel Martinelli, to harry the visitors’ defence into making errors. Having played much of the season in midfield, a role leading the attack may suit him better.
Joe Gomez has operated as an emergency left-back ever since Kostas Tsimikas was injured during the reverse fixture of this game. While the Englishman has been solid in that period, he endured a nightmare at the Emirates.
Bukayo Saka was dominant against the Liverpool fullback, who did not seem to have a handle on the Arsenal star. Gomez was forced to come inside when Havertz burst through in the build-up to the Gunners’ goal, but that meant Saka was free to score from the rebound.
His dreadful day was summed up when he picked up a needless booking for bringing down Havertz just 24 minutes into the game. The sooner Andy Robertson is back to full fitness, the better, judging by Gomez’s difficult evening.
A tale of two midfields
It was a dominant display from Arsenal despite the narrow scoreline, which was highlighted most in the midfield battle. The Gunners were totally on top in the middle third of the pitch, led by all-action displays from Declan Rice and Martin Odegaard.
Rice and Odegaared were everywhere, with the Englishman protecting his side in defence and his captain orchestrating the hosts in attack. By contrast, Liverpool’s midfielders were more or less invisible.
Curtis Jones, Alexis Mac Allister and Ryan Gravenberch all struggled to stamp themselves on the game, with Arsenal’s press affording them little time on the ball. The trio also left their defence exposed, with Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka enjoying stellar games.
Liverpool’s suckerpunch equaliser
It was all going so well for Arsenal as the game reached the end of stoppage time in the first half. But the life was sucked out of the Emirates Stadium on the stroke of half-time.
A long ball over the top confused the Gunners’ defence, with William Saliba attempting to shield the ball from Luis Diaz and into David Raya’s hands. But the Arsenal keeper didn’t get the message and took an age to get off his line.
Diaz hadn’t given up and Raya’s hesitation allowed the Colombian to poke the ball away from the Spaniard. The Colombian’s kick hit Gabriel on the hand and was diverted into the net, leaving Arsenal dejected.