Arsenal have arrived. The Gunners rode a dominant second half to a 3-2 victory over Liverpool and back to the top of the Premier League table. The scoreline flatters the Reds, at least a little bit. Arsenal had far the better of the action. Liverpool converted their only two chances of the match. And really, what does it matter? Arsenal finally beat Liverpool in the Premier League after years of frustration.
I started to list all the Arsenal players who had good matches, but deleted it. Everybody played well. Gabriel Martinelli was a man possessed. He was so dominant in the first half that Trent Alexander-Arnold was substituted off at halftime. Gabriel Jesus was almost as good. Bukayo Saka was a problem for the Liverpool defense. Ben White and Takehiro Tomiyasu shut down Liverpool’s dangerous wide attackers. William Saliba handled Darwin Nunez. The only blemishes on the day were Thomas Partey’s weak first half, for which he more than atoned with a commanding performance in the second, and Gabriel Magalhaes’ “mistake” on the first Liverpool goal.
The scoreline through the match was a bit strange. The Gunners jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first minute of the contest. Arsenal went into halftime up 2-1, but Liverpool were slightly the better team for the final 30 minutes of the first stanza, helped by far too many sloppy giveaways and loose touches in the middle third. Arsenal were far the better team in the second half, but until Bukayo Saka’s penalty, only had a Liverpool equalizer to show for it.
How impressive is that quick counter attack from Arsenal? Liverpool had no answer for it. The Gunners cut them to shreds again and again, making both first half goals look like training ground exercises. They get the ball up the field so quickly and switch the point of attack from one side of the pitch to the other with devastating precision. It’s a joy to watch.
I also very much enjoy the bite this Arsenal side have. They don’t back down, and they stick up for their teammates. Somebody on Liverpool had a go at Gabriel Jesus because they thought he went down easily and Gabriel Magalhaes was right there to get in their face about it. Jordan Henderson chirped at Gabriel, and Granit Xhaka was there to wrestle him away. This bunch have each others’ backs and they have snarl. Sidenote: if you don’t want a guy to go over in the box, maybe don’t cleat him in the back of the leg / foot.
There’s plenty more to be said about the match. Some people (Liverpool supporters) want to have conversations about refereeing decisions. To them, I’ll say this: Kostas Tsimikas wasn’t shown a straight red card for a vicious elbow to Gabriel Jesus’ face and your first goal was offside. There were calls that could have gone differently for both teams.
Focusing on refereeing decisions shifts the attention away from the fact that Liverpool were convincingly, resoundingly beaten. Arsenal were head and shoulders better than Liverpool on the afternoon, and it was on clear display in the second half. There is something seriously wrong with the Reds right now, and they may be too far adrift to fix it. They are 13 points behind Manchester City and 14 points behind Arsenal.
So miss me with that refereeing decision noise. I’m going to revel in the victory and spending another week atop the Premier League table. It’s been a while since Arsenal have beaten Liverpool in the Premier League and even longer since Arsenal have been top at this point of the campaign. It’s still early. I think Manchester City are a better team, and I’m not sure the Gunners can sustain this for an entire season. But maybe they can. This Arsenal team is really, really good.