Arsenal 3-3 Liverpool: Three talking points from the Emirates Stadium

Arsenal scored three goals in just 388 second-half seconds but Roberto Firmino’s strike earnt Liverpool a deserved point in a pulsating encounter at the Emirates Stadium on Friday evening.

The Gunners struggled to assert themselves during the first-half and Liverpool took an early lead when Philippe Coutinho’s deft header – his first headed Premier League goal – lifted over Petr Cech.

Jurgen Klopp’s side had numerous chances to double their lead before the break, with Cech denying Mohamed Salah’s shot when clean through before Sadio Mane’s acrobatic effort flew over the crossbar with the net gaping, but Salah made no mistake to slot into the far corner after 52 minutes.

This merely sparked a remarkable passage of play though, and Arsenal hit back straight away when Alexis Sanchez ghosted in at the far-post to reduce the deficit with the hosts’ opening shot on target.

Three minutes later and the scores were level, with Granit Xhaka’s fierce strike from 25-yards only being parried into his own net by Simon Mignolet, before Mesut Ozil capped off an astonishing period of play when he latched onto Alexandre Lacazette’s deft back-heel and clipped over Mignolet.

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The game wasn’t done there though, and it was Liverpool who had the last say when Roberto Firmino’s powerful effort could only be parried up into the air and into the net from Cech’s dive.

Both teams pushed late on but neither could muster a dramatic winner, and the result sees Liverpool remain in fourth in the Premier League. Arsenal stay in fifth, a point behind the Reds.

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And that’s why we all love football.

There may be an awful lot of top-flight action to come over the next few weeks but there won’t be many – if any – matches that come close to providing the entertainment and drama from last night.

At 2-0 Liverpool were cruising against an insipid and uninspiring Arsenal, and it seemed that it was nothing more than a question of how many goals Jurgen Klopp’s team would score at the Emirates.

But in the space of 388 seconds the whole evening was turned on its head and football fans across the country were left with mouths wide open as Mesut Ozil provided a scarcely believable third goal in so little time.

There was always likely to be another twist though and Roberto Firmino’s strike earnt the visitors a deserved point on balance of play – although neither manager will be happy to leave without a win.

For Arsene Wenger, he had seen his side turn things around in the blink of an eye and with both momentum and the home crowd on his side he would have expected his side to see the game out.

But likewise, Jurgen Klopp oversaw his side spurn chance after chance in the first-half before they fell apart after the break. Although from suddenly being 3-2 down he will no doubt take the point.

It was a game that did little to prove either side’s top four credentials but, for the footballing neutral, it was the perfect way to whet the appetite for all of the football to come over Christmas.

Klopp’s defensive issues continue to hamper progress

So much has been said this season about the frightening options that Liverpool have in attack with the likes of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho and sudden sensation Mohamed Salah.

The quartet have led Liverpool to 41 Premier League goals this season – only second to runaway leaders Manchester City – all of a sudden adding a clinical end product to some quite blistering counter-attacking football, and true to form the latter three all found the back of the net on Friday.

Yet it doesn’t matter how many goals Jurgen Klopp’s side can manage to score at one end of the pitch if they can’t hold onto a lead, and the same old problems surfaced once again for the German.

It’s become common knowledge that Liverpool are harbouring an unbalanced team, with their defence nowhere near the required quality for a team that have ambitions of winning the league.

But the way in which they capitulated in those 388 seconds was a new low and the visitors simply crumbled under the pressure from Arsenal, who found the net with their first three shots on target.

Joe Gomez allowed Alexis Sanchez to nip in front of him to immediately reduce the deficit after Liverpool’s second and it sparked a period of what can only be called frantic defending, with goalkeeper Simon Mignolet putting the icing on the cake by making a complete hash for the second.

Granit Xhaka’s shot, despite being powerful, was straight at the Belgian international and his attempt to push the ball away with just one fist went horribly wrong and ended up behind him.

Compare this to David de Gea’s showing against the Gunners merely a fortnight ago and the need for a top-class goalkeeper is evident, and Klopp needs to start his recruitment right from the back.

Until he sorts his back five out, it’s hard to see Liverpool sustaining a challenge on those above them.

Arsenal’s squad is in need of a major overhaul

Whilst all of the talk from Friday’s thrilling encounter will revolve around a simply astounding five-minute spell of football, it will do little more than paper over the glaring cracks over in north London.

Their miraculous burst undeniably showed character when it seemed for all the world that they were down and out following Mohamed Salah’s second goal but, aside from that unruly passage of football, the hosts struggled to get a foothold in the game and were outplayed by a smart Liverpool.

The Gunners had clearly learnt from their mistakes against Manchester United a fortnight ago when they were two goals down inside the opening ten minutes but their tactic of sitting deeper only invited pressure, and they were happy to allow the away team to have the lion’s share of possession.

With the so-called ‘Fab Four’ at Jurgen Klopp’s disposal this was always going to be a recipe for disaster, and the Reds should have been out of sight by half-time after spurning two great chances.

Part of that was down to poor individual performances on the home side’s behalf though, and the match merely showed just how many deadwood players currently reside in Arsene Wenger’s squad.

Both Laurent Koscielny and Petr Cech – two great servants in the Premier League – are well past their best, with both having their worst games in an Arsenal shirt for a while, whilst the likes of Hector Bellerin and Alex Iwobi are nowhere near the calibre of player required for a top-four side that posses higher ambitions.

Signing Alexandre Lacazette for a club-record deal during the summer was met with a great reception from Arsenal fans, showing signs that the club is going in the right direction, but the frank reality is that far more investment is needed until the Gunners can be considered title challengers once again.

There were positives to take however, namely in the way that their 20-year-old academy product Ainsley Maitland-Niles stood up and dealt with the unstoppable threats of both Salah and Coutinho.

The duo may have found the net, and Arsenal may have conceded three, but the youngster wasn’t the one to blame and for someone so inexperienced he kept a calm and composed head throughout.

It was a game that will live long in the memory for years to come but more pressing matters are at hand for Wenger now, and he needs to create a long-term blueprint for his side or face years of mediocrity.

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