It is a sign of the success of Arsenal that until the 88th minute they remained in this contest with title retaining contender; it is a sign of just how superior Liverpool is that until then the side of Mikel Arteta was grimly holding on despite wasting chances.
This was absolutely brilliant from Liverpool who threatened to overpower Arsenal, who have their own goals to challenge this season, as they have often done at Anfield in recent years.
In reality, Liverpool was almost untouchable for 30 minutes in the first half.
Liverpool completely deserved their win and capped it with a goal from new signing Diogo Jota on his Premier League debut, although a sign of their desire was the way they celebrated blocking a late Arsenal chance that proved to be the game’s final kick.
Liverpool was wholly dominant, and yet it fell behind as Arsenal takes the lead. In fairness, it was Andrew Robertson’s calamitous and unusual error that contributed to it, in what seemed like the first true attack by Arsenal. 25 minutes after that. They all broke down with Ainsley Maitland-Niles finally crossing their right, trying to locate Alexandre Lacazette. It seemed to be a normal clearance, or was it a move attempt? — for Robertson, except that he miscued, and the ball spun to Lacazette behind him, swivelling and beating Alisson. In the Liverpool penalty area, it was Arsenal’s first touch and Lacazette could not quite believe it as he scored.
Liverpool rapidly equalised as Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane combined, as if affronted. Salah did the job as he pushed his way past Kieran Tierney to fire the ball from an angle with Bernd Leno palming it into the direction of Mane who touched it home.
Before half-time had even reached and, again, both Liverpool full-backs were involved, there would be consolation for Robertson. Until Trent Alexander-Arnold finally swung in a deep cross that flicked off the head of Rob Keeping, the ball was worked down the right. It landed at the feet of Robertson, but he still had to change before poking the ball past Leno to take control. Arteta would like to know exactly where Hector Bellerin has gone.
Clearly, the Arsenal manager had ordered even greater defensive discipline, but the strength of Liverpool’s assault and their ferocious pressure had undone his team. Also, Klopp ‘s players all won their individual fights.
Leno had replied sharply after Alexander-Arnold crossed and Mane met the ball on the half-volley before the flurry of goals, and Liverpool’s outstanding response to falling behind.
As Liverpool claimed more than three-quarters of possession and the visitors welcomed them on, Arsenal’s game plan was simple. Arteta knew they had a chance if they could defend doggedly and Luiz sent a long raking pass forward that picked out Maitland-Niles, and undid the high defensive line of Liverpool, only for the wing-back to struggle to control the ball. He would otherwise have been explicit about the target.
And that, along with just hanging on in there as they would have capitulated on previous occasions and been swept away by now, was the hope of Arsenal and while Klopp would have been delighted, considering the strength of Liverpool’s supremacy, he would have been nervous about the tightness of the score-line.
For once, at the beginning of the second half, Arsenal was caught on the counter with Georginio Wijnaldum releasing Mane only for the forward to shoot over while Liverpool’s desire was also seen when Alexander-Arnold sprinted to grab the ball for a throw in and Mane hustled Holding so he missed it.
Liverpool began to swarm around their rivals, moving in unison to deny space, but there was still a threat from Arsenal, and when Alexander-Arnold played on Lacazette and was picked out by substitute Dani Ceballos only for Alisson to rush and block his attempt, they should have drawn level. Soon after, the ball broke to Mane, who only twisted to narrowly send it past the post.
Arsenal definitely remained in the game, which was a testament to Arteta’s newly discovered resilience and confidence. It began to become more end to end with Ceballos again piercing the defense of Liverpool with only Alisson’s alertness preventing a run at goal from replacing Eddie Nketiah while Firmino fashioned a chance to shoot with his shot being deflected wide for a corner.
With Mane’s substitute Jota shooting wide from the area’s edge, further adjustments were made and Leno was lucky that Salah did not intercept his loose pass across the face of his target.