Can Gunners shoot down Kop dream once more?
Rarely has a cliché found a more suitable home than in espousing how “football has won” in some of the more memorable matches between Arsenal and Liverpool.
Jürgen Klopp has assembled a squad that has grabbed the Premier League’s collective attention and established itself as a title contender that can’t be ignored. Although this party is too early to be crashed, Unai Emery and company have a chance to gatecrash and knock some of that smooth German ale on to the carpet.
It harkens back to the day the Gunners last shot down the aspirations of a Liverpool side with the glint of a league title in their eye.
In 2009, as now, the Reds were chasing down the indomitable giant of Manchester.
Three points at Anfield were non-negotiable to keep up with a United side that had begun to dust off a name plaque on the trophy. Even looking back now with the calm rationality of hindsight, we can’t deny that what followed was one of the most incredible matches in this competition’s history. That game encapsulates much of what both clubs have stood for in recent years — the silly, the gorgeous and the troubles.
Despite back-up goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski fumbling his way through 45 minutes, it was his side that took the lead. Andrey Arshavin started a once-in-a-lifetime game by smashing home after Cesc Fàbregas squared the ball to the penalty. The impish Russian pressed his finger to his lips demanding the Kop to be quiet — the stadium’s hostility had undoubtedly lit something inside him.
In the second half it was the turn of Fernando Torres (the real one, not the cheap imitation we would see in his later days at the club and at Chelsea). Watching him glide past Kolo Touré as though he were a papier-mâché signpost was a highlight. Either side of a Yossi Benayoun header, he showed why he was one of Europe’s best and ensured the win stayed in sight. His second, a beautiful turn and then fake in the box, l-evelled matters at 3-3 after the cheeky Arshavin got a hat-trick.
Liverpool were forced to push for the winner and that’s when the seams ripped. Theo Walcott put his ability to use and tore down the right on the counter from a corner. Arshavin kept pace and was found free on the edge of the box in the 90th-minute. Four fingers went up as though he was afraid the rest of us weren’t keeping track of his tally.
Benayoun levelled it two minutes later but neither team looked bothered by what in a vacuum would have been a last-gasp equaliser. It didn’t matter all that much after all: aside from the -exasperation, the home side knew two points lost were a strike against their dreams.
It makes you wonder how the dynamics will play out over the weekend. The same level of urgency is not there, but Klopp has shown no signs of content when -presented with the prospect of a draw. Then perhaps Emery would rather his Arsenal did not play the role of fickle variable in the title race and decide to take a few risks of intent himself. Either way, boring is a word unlikely to warrant a place in the post-game review.