This match was a game of two halves, with two teams, each playing at entirely different speeds. Liverpool was more intelligent in the first 45 minutes and could easily have had more goals than Coutinho’s lovely header, which saw us leading 1-0 by halftime. We were the better team for almost an hour, stifling an Arsenal side who were all over the place while lacking any form of team spirit.
Then, the second half happened. For the neutral supporter, this match will likely be a candidate for the game of the season. However, most Liverpool supporters will be wringing their hands in frustration, as once again, our defensive frailties let us down. However, it’s worth noting that had our Fab Four delivered at their attacking best, this match could easily have been over by half-time.
Arsenal were lacking arsenal, and other than counter-attacks, were defensively vulnerable, with Jack Wilshere and Granit Xhaka in midfield and Wenger opting for Ainsley Maitland-Niles at left-back ahead of Sead Kolasinac.
After an impressive first half from the Reds (and an Arsenal side booed by their fanbase at the break), the second half picked up where the first had left off. The sublime Mohamed Salah, added a second goal to our tally with a fantastic shot diverted beyond Cech by a deflection off Shkodran Mustafi.
The match appeared to be heading down the same route as our home game earlier this season, but courtesy of a Christmas miracle, the Gunners managed to come to life and change the game. A minute after Salah’s 21st goal (in all-season competitions), Alexis Sanchez found the back of the net with a header, followed by a Granit Xhaka smash, and a lovely finish from Mesut Ozil – dinking his shot over Mignolet (who went down early at the near post). And just like that, within the ludicrous space of five minutes, the score suddenly read Arsenal 3, Liverpool 2.
Xhaka and Wilshere were on their way to combining for a fourth goal, while our defence was utterly lacking once again. Thankfully, neither side had much composure or control of the match, and the tide turned in our favor when Firmino scored at the 71st minute.
The final 20 minutes was pure pandemonium as both sides went out guns blazing for all three points. But, as we have come to expect from this fixture, a deliciously high scoring draw was all she wrote as the final whistle blew.
Jürgen Klopp’s post-match comments summed the match up nicely:
“It’s difficult then, and that’s why you have to avoid these situations – and five minutes can be enough to learn from the game, but in these five minutes, they scored three times, so that then makes it even more difficult. They could have scored once, and we are still in the lead, and everything is fine. We should have scored [more], and we all know that – we don’t have to talk too much about defense because it was not about the defense. Individually it is possible [to make mistakes], but usually not in one night. But we should have scored another four, and that’s a big compliment to our team because coming here, playing this kind of football, creating these kind of chances is not easy, but we did it. That’s why everyone in this room thinks if there would have been a winner tonight, it should have been Liverpool. Now we have a point, so okay, that’s it.”
Alexis Sánchez 53', Granit Xhaka 56', Mesut Özil 58’
Philippe Coutinho 26', Mohamed Salah 52', Roberto Firmino 71’
Man of the Match
So. Okay. That’s it.