EPL

Arsenal fail to calm madness in Anfield 'jungle' but cling to potentially massive point

By Sports Desk April 09, 2023

Liverpool know better than most just how fine the margins are when it comes to Premier League success.

In missing out on the Premier League title to Manchester City by one point last season, Jurgen Klopp's men were given a fairly brutal lesson in that regard.

A year on, it's Arsenal hoping to do what the Reds couldn't and beat City to the title, and whichever way their season ends, there is a huge possibility they will look back on Sunday's 2-2 draw at Liverpool as decisive.

You would have been forgiven for predicting an impressively comfortable away win, such were the two teams' respective performances in the first half.

Arsenal resembled the Liverpool of 12 months ago. They were furious in their pressing, electric and incisive on the ball.

Even if you'd seen Arsenal on a regular basis this season, the swagger with which they were playing at such a famously vociferous arena was outstanding, particularly when you also consider their dreadful record at Anfield.

Arsenal had lost each of their previous six away games against the Reds in the Premier League, while they had not won at Anfield since September 2012.

Liverpool, on the other hand, looked lost, confused, almost as if they were suffering from an identity crisis.

Of course, this certainly wasn't an isolated example of such a display, but this was the kind of occasion one expects to bring the best out of Anfield and the Reds.

Diogo Jota looked every inch a player without a goal in over a year as he failed to influence proceedings. Curtis Jones was similarly unconvincing, while Trent Alexander-Arnold was all over the place, struggling in his usual role and then taking up central positions that left gaping holes at the back.

The England right-back was left for dead by Gabriel Martinelli early on and then failed to track Gabriel Jesus at the back post as the striker failed to convert a Bukayo Saka cross.

Of course, by that point Arsenal were already ahead thanks to the lively Martinelli, who made the most of a kind ricochet to dart into the box and prod beyond Alisson in the eighth minute.

It was then 2-0 just before the half-hour mark. Jesus did apply the finish this time, heading in from Martinelli's cross as the Liverpool defence were out of sync once again.

But the contest seemed to flip in the 41st minute, Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta's fears of what he described as the Anfield "jungle" becoming reality.

Granit Xhaka was rather innocuously bundled over by Ibrahima Konate, but no free-kick followed, and he reacted with a forceful barge into the back of Alexander-Arnold, appearing to whack him with his forearm.

Alexander-Arnold retaliated with a shove of his own and the two went head-to-head. Referee Paul Tierney issued both a yellow card, but more significantly the incident appeared to get the home crowd engaged finally.

Suddenly there was also fire in the Liverpool ranks, and a minute later Salah nudged home from close range to breathe life into the contest, with Arsenal presumably delighted by the half-time whistle soon after.

That was followed by a downright bizarre incident that could have even helped Liverpool's siege mentality. Assistant referee Constantine Hatzidakis appeared to elbow Andy Robertson in the face after being approached aggressively by the left-back, with the Reds left furious.

That fury was channelled well by Liverpool after the break, spending much of the second half in the ascendancy as they sought an equaliser.

Mohamed Salah failed to score it from the spot after a clumsy foul by Rob Holding on Jota, but there was unquestionably a hint of predictability above the leveller three minutes from time as Roberto Firmino headed in from Alexander-Arnold's excellent cross.

An incredible finale was ushered in.

Liverpool piled on the pressure. Aaron Ramsdale denied Darwin Nunez when one-on-one, and then the goalkeeper somehow saved Arsenal as Konate inexplicably failed to chest the ball over the line.

Had it not been for Ramsdale's heroics, Arsenal would have been on the end of a potentially crippling defeat. Not necessarily crippling in terms of a huge deficit, but rather in relation to their mentality and the pressure being applied by City.

Of course, it's easy to look at the result as two points dropped. Considering Arsenal were 2-0 up, many fans – and players – will believe that to be the most apt appraisal of the situation.

But in the end, with an optimist's spin on it, Arsenal should feel happy to get away from Anfield with a point. After all, that's more than they managed in any of their previous six Premier League visits.

To understand the potential value of that point, all they need to do is look at Liverpool.

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