Liverpool fell to only their third Premier League defeat of the season after they suffered a frustrating 2-1 reversal at the Emirates Stadium.
Jürgen Klopp’s side produced a largely dominant display against Mikel Arteta’s men and took the lead in the 20th minute when Sadio Mané converted from close-range after a nice move. One rare error apiece from first Virgil van Dijk and then Alisson Becker in the 33rd and 44th minute respectively allowed the Gunners to turn the contest on its head.
Alexandre Lacazette latched onto the Dutch defender’s short backpass to get the equaliser before Reiss Nelson ruthlessly converted following a loose ball from the Brazilian goalkeeper shortly before half-time.
It ended the champions’ hopes of a record points tally of over 100, though the overall standings remained impressive reading for the Reds.
There were two changes for the Reds from the draw with Burnley, as youngsters Neco Williams and Curtis Jones made way for Trent Alexander-Arnold and ex-Gunner Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
The hosts, meanwhile, made five from their north London derby defeat last time out. Shkodran Mustafi, Sead Kolasinac, Héctor Bellerín, Dani Ceballos and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang went onto the bench, while Rob Holding, Bukayo Saka, Cédric Soares, Lucas Torreira and Reiss Nelson came in.
With eight goals in his nine games against them, Roberto Firmino has scored more goals against Arsenal than any other side during his career on Merseyside and, in the 12th minute, he almost had his ninth – and strangest.
Typically hard-working, the Brazilian closed down goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez, read his clearance, and blocked it back against the outside of the left-hand post.
Klopp’s men had started well, forcing the majority of the play into the home side’s half as they sustained their early attacks and moved the ball well.
That came to a head in the 20th minute, when Firmino continued his sharp start as he got on the ball between the lines in an inside-left position and slipped the ball into the path of Andy Robertson’s dart into the box. The Scot’s low first-time cross was excellent and Mané converted it on the slide from close-range.
The visitors maintained a good level of control in the minutes that followed, with Martínez holding first a deflected Mané effort and then a van Dijk header.
Football only requires a moment – or, in this case, two of them – to turn a game, of course.
The first arrived in the 33rd minute when van Dijk’s uncharacteristically loose backpass was swiftly latched onto by Lacazette, who rounded Alisson and fired into the empty net.Embed from Getty Images
Liverpool’s captain for the evening claimed a foul, having been pulled slightly off balance by Nelson as he played the ball, but there wasn’t enough in it for a free-kick.
Arsenal did look buoyed by that reprieve, but they’d capitalised impressively on it nonetheless. They did so again 11 minutes later.
Alisson, this time, didn’t quite get enough on a pass after he tried to send a throw-in back towards Robertson. Lacazette, again, capitalised as he raced onto the ball on the right-flank and intelligently pulled the ball back to Nelson who controlled before calmly sweeping a right-footed shot inside the left-hand post from 10-yards.
Oxlade-Chamberlain almost found an instant response with a well-struck 25-yard drive but Martínez gathered it well to ensure the Gunners went in ahead at the break.
Liverpool emerged from the dressing room early for the second half, with Klopp and his charges evidently keen to bring about a turnaround of their own to match their generally strong level of performance.
It was a standard which was maintained in the second-half. The champions were dominant and creating chances, but the goals didn’t come.
In the 54th minute, Mohamed Salah was well found by Trent Alexander-Arnold’s low cross and, after evading David Luiz superbly, saw his left-footed shot tipped over impressively by Martínez.
Takumi Minamino and Naby Keïta were introduced in place of Firmino and Oxlade-Chamberlain on the hour mark and, by the 63rd minute, they’d combined impressively. The Japanese cleverly used the weight of the midfielder’s pass to turn into the box and shoot, but his left-footed effort slid narrowly wide of the bottom-right corner.
Salah and van Dijk both came close with far-post headers in the next 15 minutes, while Mané raced through but shot wide under pressure in the 86th minute, as Arsenal saw things out with increasing assurance.
Never miss a thing
Get all of our content sent straight to your inbox — free of charge.