46 min Peep peep! Arsenal begin the second half.
Arsenal half-time subsitution Jakub Kiwior for Oleksandr Zinchenko. Interesting, very interesting.
In all the excitement I missed that Arsenal are basically playing with a box midfield, two wide players and no cenre forward. Not content with being France FC under Arsene Wenger, they’re now paying a tactical tribute to the great France team of the 1980s.
Arsenal (4-2-2-2) Raya; White, Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko; Rice, Jorginho; Odegaard, Havertz; Saka, Martinelli.
“What was that you were saying about Raya?” asks Joe Pearson.
A-hem, yes. I thought he was l immaculate until that point but he was very indecisive on the goal. The more replays you see, the more it looks like his mistake rather than Saliba’s.
Blimey. A two-goal lead wouldn’t have flattered Arsenal after a dominant first-half performance, but Liverpool – who still haven’t had a shot on target – forced an equaliser on the stroke of half-time. You’d say it was a fluke if it didn’t happen all the time; they may not be the best team in the league – ask me about that in May – but they’re certainly the best at coming from behind.
Liverpool have equalised with the ugliest of goals in the last minute of added time! Gravenberch, in the inside-right channel, flipped a speculative pass towards Diaz, who controlled it beautifully on the edge of the area. Saliba came across to shepherd the ball back to Raya, but there was a split-second of indecision from both men and that was enough for Diaz. He managed to wriggle around Saliba and poke the ball across the six-yard box. It hit the hand of Gabriel, who knew nothing about it, and dribbled miserably over the line.
Smash, meet grab.
45+1 min Jorginho plays a brilliant disguised pass to find Martinelli in the area, right of centre and being played onside by Gomez. His shot on the turn is well blocked by the lunging Konate and Van Dijk (I think) completes the clearance.
45 min Three minutes of added time before Jurgen Klopp gets to ask his team what the hell they’re playing at.
44 min Jorginho isn’t everyone’s friend but, as Gary Neville says on Sky, he’s had a quietly excellent first half. I said Rice was dominating midfield, probably because he’s more eye-catching when your eyes are zig-zagging between the TV and the computer, but actually it’s been Rice and Jorginho.
43 min Here’s that Bukayo Saka goal. I think it’s UK only, in which case apologies you can’t see the video but congratulations on your life choices.
41 min “Music nerd here,” boasts Joe Pearason. “Deep Purple are considered one of the pioneers of heavy metal, even though they were rather tame compared to bands that came after. But those crunchy guitars in ‘Smoke on the Water’ were really something in 1972.”
Is that right? Well I’ll be dipped in knowledge – I always thought they were a rock band.
40 min Alexander-Arnold wanders into midfield and pings a long-range shot that is blocked. Liverpool need him on the ball a whole lot more.
39 min Rice, who is dominating midfield, collects a loose ball 20 yards out and whacks a left-foot shot that is well blocked. The ball breaks for Havertz but he’s offside.
39 min “Greetings from California, where an ‘atmospheric river’ in the sky is drenching large swaths of the state,” says Peter Oh. “I’ve heard of Deep Purple but don’t know their stuff. Personally I’m getting a melodic, indie-pop vibe from the Liverpool kit. The Lilac Time.
“It would be rude of Arsenal to rain on the Farewell Jürgen Tour. The Reds to hit a purple patch in the second half and come through for their gaffer. All for Klopp and Klopp for All!”
38 min The resulting free-kick eventually drops for Gabriel on the edge of the area. He sweeps a left-foot shot that is comfortably held to his right by Alisson.
37 min Martinelli, who has been more like his old self today, beats Alexander-Arnold too easily before being fouled by Konate.
36 min The last 10 minutes have been fairly scruffy. Arsenal are still the better team, though Liverpool are starting to have more of the ball. Now they need to do something with it. I suspect we’ll see Darwin Nunez and/or Harvey Elliott at the start of the second half.
34 min “Never mind the result, the key question of the day, looking at the picture that was at the top of the blog, is when did socks above the knee become a thing?” writes Richard Hirst. “Arsenal should be ruled out of the title race on aesthetic grounds.”
It’s a tribute to the epochal victory at Anfield in December 2001.
31 min White is booked for taking too long over a free-kick. I’m pretty sure he was dithering rather than wasting time, but Anthony Taylor was having none of it. Audio of Mikel Arteta’s internal monologue, please!
31 min A quick word on David Raya, who was a bag of nerves in the first half hour of the Manchester City game earlier this season. Today he has done everything with an authority and serenity that evokes David Seaman at his best.
30 min This first half might be Arsenal’s best opportunity to put Liverpool away. We’ve seen so many games this season in which Liverpool have been pretty poor in the first half and increasingly irresistible in the second.
29 min Alexander-Arnold’s outswinger is headed over by Van Dijk, who won it under pressure near the penalty spot. I’m giving that 0.06 on the old xG.
28 min The Sky Sports xG (they’re not the same everywhere because IT’S NOT GOSPEL) is Arsenal 1.63-0.04 Liverpool.
27 min Liverpool look like a team who are missing four of their best XI. Saying which, an excellent cross from the hitherto Alexander-Arnold almost reaches Gakpo eight yards out. Gabriel stretches in front of him and inadvertently volleys the ball into Raya’s arms.
26 min “Happy Sunday!” says Michael Weller. “I have two hopes for this year’s season: Everton avoid relegation to the National League, and someone, anyone, other than Pep and Oil City hoists the trophy at the end of the contest – even Klopp and the Reds (I’ve long since given up hope of the Toffees competing with Liverpool). My hopes for the first grow dimmer every day. What are your thoughts on the possibilities for the second?”
My instinct is that Klopp’s announcement has increased Liverpool’s chances a fair bit. I’d say something like City 45 per cent, Liverpool 35, Arsenal 19, the rest 1.
25 min Gomez is booked for a cynical and not entirely necessary foul on Havertz, who was making good progress in the centre circle but had no support.
24 min Diaz cuts into the area from the left and has a shot blocked by White.
22 min “At last…” says Justin Kavanagh, “a Premier League club’s away strip that we all can admire, and that isn’t loud enough to give you a headache watching them. Although, in tribute to Jürgen Klopp’s heavy metal football, they might have gone with a deep purple.”
I’m no rock expert, as you can see from my hairline, but aren’t Deep Purple more rock than heavy metal?
20 min Arsenal press the bejesus out of Liverpool, which leads to a shot from Odegaard that is really well blocked by Van Dijk. At the moment Arsenal look sharper, maybe even hungrier.
19 min “I’m hoping that the three-team title race goes to the last round, which admittedly is unlikely,” says Kári Tulinius. “In fact, off the top of my head, the only recent example I can think of was in Ligue 1 in 2021, when Monaco, PSG and Lille all could win on the last matchday. But I’m sure I’m forgetting an obvious example.”
The English season of 1971-72 is a peculiar gem, summed up by the fact the eventual champions were 8-1 to win the title after they’d played their final game. I did a bit on it in an old Joy of Six, but I’d recommend reading more about it – I think there’s a book about it, published by Pitch. Also, the Bundesliga 1991-92 story is amazing.
18 min Liverpool have been behind in a million games this season, the majority of which they have gone on to win, so they won’t be worried yet.
Havertz played a big part in the goal, making a timely run behind the defence to receive Odegaard’s pass. Alisson made a fine save but Saka collected the rebound and calmly lifted it over Konate on the line.
It was Konate who was playing Havertz onside in the first place. Liverpool’s defensive line was ragged after Van Dijk was drawn towards the play.
Bukayo Saka missed one sitter. He was never going to miss two.
12 min: Chance for Liverpool! This is warming up nicely. Mac Allister angles a beautiful pass into Gakpo, lurking behind the centre-halves 30 yards from goal and being played onside by Zinchenko. He moves to the edge of the area and cracks a low shot wide of the far post. Saliba was getting back so he had to take the shot on.
11 min: Great chance for Arsenal! Raya claims a cross and flings it out to Martinelli on the left. He destroys Konate – Konate! – for speed, runs to the left edge of the area and lifts a superb cross intop the middle. Saka stoops to meet it, eight yards out, but doesn’t connect properly with his header and the ball rolls to safety on the far side. That was a terrific chance, one that Mick Harford would have buried even now, at the age of 64.
7 min When the ball goes out of play, Odegaard waves his arms in an attempt to get the crowd going. Arsenal have made a decent start: nowhere near 2022-23 speed (they were already 1-0 up against Liverpool at this stage of last season’s game) but with plenty of purposeful possession. No, that alliteration wasn’t deliberate.
5 min “Auguries,” muses Charles Antaki. “Good: the Emirates cabin staff are back, grinning maniacally as the players come out of the tunnel. It worked for Arsène, most of the time. Bad: Arsenal women lost earlier today with what seems to be the club’s emerging brand of Failing To Put The Ball In The Net. So, mixed.”
They lost? Crikey, so they did.
4 min Saka gets the wrong side of Van Dijk in the area, but Gravenberch gets back to make a good tackle.
3 min Liverpool have started with Jota up front and Gakpo roaming from the right. Arsenal have Jorginho playing to the left of Rice in a 4-2-1-3.
1 min Almost a chance for Jota inside 40 seconds! A routine long ball from Van Dijk towards Gakpo caused problems for Arsenal. It bounced past Gakpo and Gabriel before reaching Jota, who got the wrong side of Zinchenko on the edge of the area but took a heavy touch that allowed Raya to come out and claim.
1 min Peep peep! Liverpool, in their purple change strip, kick off from right to left as we watch.
Here come the players. There are lot of gamefaces on show in the Emirates tunnel; everyone knows this is
Jurgen Klopp on Conor Bradley
The best place for him to be is around his family. That’s where we sent him straight away. It’s very sad news; there’s not a lot more to say. I told him to take as long as he needs.
The build-up to this game has been notable for a refreshing lack of hype. There’s no need: everyone knows this is the biggest game of Premier League game season to date. Besides, words like ‘huge’ and ‘epohcal’ lost their meaning years ago when journalists started using them to preview Crystal Palace v Everton.
This is a genuinely big game. It’s only February, so the title isn’t up for grabs nowwwww, but it could be out of Arsenal’s reach if they lose. If they win, on the other hand, a rare three-way title race will be well and truly on.
Gabriel Jesus is injured, so Kai Havertz starts up front for Arsenal – as he did in the FA Cup defeat last month, when he troubled Liverpool with his ghostly movement only to miss some excellent chances. Jorginho replaces Emile Smith Rowe in midfield.
Liverpool are without Conor Bradley, whose father died over the weekend after a long illness. Trent Alexander-Arnold replaces him at right-back, one of three changes from the win over Chelsea in midweek. Dominik Szoboszlai is injured and Darwin Nunez is only fit enough for the bench; Ryan Gravenberch and Cody Gakpo replace them. Thiago Alcantara, who hasn’t played for a year, is back on the bench.
Arsenal (possible 4-2-1-3) Raya; White, Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko; Jorginho, Rice; Odegaard; Saka, Havertz, Martinelli.
Substitutes: Ramsdale, Smith Rowe, Nketiah, Kiwior, Cedric, Trossard, Nelson, Elneny, Walters.
Liverpool (possible 4-1-2-3) Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Konate, van Dijk, Gomez; Gravenberch, Mac Allister, Jones; Gakpo, Jota, Diaz.
Substitutes: Thiago, Nunez, Adrian, Elliott, Robertson, Clark, McConnell, Kelleher, Quansah.
Referee Anthony Taylor (Cheshire).
Preamble? No no no. Arsenal v Liverpool don’t need no preamble.