Dubai: Arsenal coach Mikel Arteta had warned his players about the hostile environment of Anfield and told them not to provoke the Liverpool players or the crowd. But, they didn’t listen and have now lost control in the Premier League title race after the thrilling 2-2 draw.
Everything seemed to be going to plan with Arsenal 2-0 up and half-time approaching, but then Granit Xhaka foolishly got involved in a totally unnecessary spat with Trent Alexander-Arnold. This enraged not only Arteta but Liverpool’s players and more importanly, the crowd. Suddenly, Anfield became a frenzied bearpit and the Reds fed off it.
Mohamed Salah’s goal just before half-time set up a second-half siege, and what looked like three points for Arsenal became one after Roberto Firmino’s late equaliser. It could have easily been none after a frantic finale, but Arsenal’s goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale made a series of heroic saves to keep his team in the game.
The dust has settled and now Manchester City have it in their own hands to win the title. They are just six points adrift with a game in hand - and have a home match against Arsenal still to come this month. It could well be the title decider.
Arsenal had not won at Anfield since 2012, and the team may have accepted a point before kick-off even with their outstanding form. However, there was still disappointment at having a 2-0 lead and complete command, only to end with just a point. Xhaka’s intervention changed the atmosphere and led to a loss of the away side’s discipline for a few crucial minutes before half-time. I think it could have been a different story had they gone in with the full advantage.
Smooth as silk
Despite the disappointment of squandering a position of authority, there was still much to admire about Arsenal’s performance. They cruised around Anfield as smooth as silk for the first 40 minutes, with Gabriel Martinelli and Gabriel Jesus both scoring outstanding goals.
However, they allowed a psychologically huge win to get away from them. They need to learn to win ugly. They cannot always be entertaining. The slick moves are only remembered if the team wins and Arteta will be concerned his side threw away two precious points when they were well on top.
Despite this disappointment, they have shown character and resilience all season and will go into the City clash full of confidence.
But the fact is they have lost control of the title race. It is now City’s to lose.