Arsenal beat Liverpool 3-2 at the Emirates on Sunday in a scintillating game of football that confirmed what we’re all thinking but too afraid to say: The Gunners are really the real deal this campaign.
Mikel Arteta’s men have now recorded back-to-back wins against rival ‘big six’ teams after Sunday’s win followed on from last weekend’s victory over North London rivals Spurs. The result takes them back into top spot in the Premier League with 8 wins from the opening 9 games putting them a point ahead of current champions Man City.
The last two victories have sent statements to the rest of the league after many doubted whether the Gunners had actually gone up a level given the lack of quality opposition they faced in the opening few games. Now those claims can be thoroughly dismissed as Arsenal have played more ‘big six’ teams than any other ‘big six’ side and are still sitting pretty at the top of the league.
However, what makes this victory even more important and impressive is that, besides the mental block Arsenal had against Liverpool having only beaten them once in the previous 14 PL encounters, Jürgen Klopp’s men played better than they have been in recent weeks.
The Reds set up with two in midfield and four attackers which caused Arsenal a fair few problems in the first half as Liverpool dominated possession before the break. Thiago had a good first 45 minutes pulling the strings in midfield, and there was a sense Liverpool would get back into the game after conceding in the first minute.
But Arsenal stepped up in the second half and put in a really mature performance, dominating large parts of the half and nullifying Liverpool’s attacking threat, despite Firmino grabbing the goal to make it 2-2 soon after the restart. Other than that, Aaron Ramsdale didn’t have much to do as the Gunners ran out deserving winners.
Mikel Arteta was full of praise for his young side after the game, lauding their desire. “I’m really happy, really proud of the team and really satisfied with the way we played,” he said (quotes via Arsenal official website).
“We showed real desire, composure, quality and courage to play and win the game the way we won it.
“Physically what we have done, and what the players have produced individually was phenomenal. There’s not another way. Against Liverpool you have to match or be better than them at that.”
Arsenal look best poised to take on Man City in a title race this season, although this is still being played down by many fans. However, Sunday’s win puts 14 points between them and Liverpool, who were two matches away from winning the quadruple last season, and does place the Gunners as City’s biggest contender.
Former Arsenal captain and current Crystal Palace manager Patrick Vieira has tipped the Gunners to be up there close to the title come the end of the season.
“When you look at the way they have been playing I think they will be really close to winning the title,” said Vieira at the Best of Africa awards in London.
“I think Mikel has made some changes and has brought in some really good players and they play at the moment with a lot of confidence and belief.
“What I will say is that they look like this can be the year for them.”
Even Man United legend Gary Neville, who’s found it very hard to say anything positive about Arsenal over the years, can’t help but praise the Gunners. He was heard saying Arsenal overcame a big test on Sunday against the Reds.
“It’s a huge day for Arsenal,” said Neville on Sky Sports.
“I said before the game that it was a big test and they have come through it. In the second-half, they outran Liverpool, they outplayed them, and he (Arteta) is so relieved.
“I was worried about him at the end of last season, I thought not qualifying for the Champions League could be fateful for him at Arsenal in terms of his job – but the recruitment in the summer has been good and the start to the season has been electric.
“They are going neck-to-neck with Manchester City at this moment in time, which is some achievement in itself.”
Arsenal are in Europa League action next, as they travel to Norway to take on Bodø/Glimt on Thursday, before a trip to Elland Road to take on Leeds in the Premier League on Sunday.