Liverpool waved bye-bye to a record points total and hello to the rarity of a Premier League defeat as they designed their own downfall, gifting Arsenal a 2-1 victory in atypical circumstances.
The viewing felt like an ode to the Merseysiders before Jurgen Klopp’s transformation took shape, guiding them to a first title in three decades.
The champions aren’t in the habit of ceding points, let alone wrapping it up with ribbons for the opposition but that was the case on Wednesday night.
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Perhaps the guard of honours had become too routine, the ease through which Liverpool can dominate stanzas of play too boring and so they had to create their own drama.
In the opening half hour, the visitors were so comfortable at the Emirates that it felt as though they were in pre-season mode against lower league opposition.
Liverpool were sharper and looked in the mood to punish Arsenal’s casual demeanour. Goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez was layered with relief when his clearance that was charged down by Roberto Firmino clipped the base of the left-hand post.
The hosts were living on the edge of conceding and ultimately did. Fabinho and Andy Robertson both won their duels, with the latter’s header falling to Firmino’s feet. The Brazilian played a cute, well weighted pass to the left-back on the overlap. Robertson didn’t even look up before drilling a ball across goal, which Sadio Mane read and converted excellently.
As Mikel Arteta barked instructions in multiple languages on the touchline, one wondered if he was communicating ‘avoid a pasting’ because the brush strokes of the game were painting that way.
But, actually, the word he needed to translate as fortune. Arsenal would suddenly have two spoonfuls of it from unlikely sources.
Virgil van Dijk had been in cruise control but was put under pressure from Reiss Nelson and rolled an awful backpass straight to Alexandre Lacazette. The forward rounded Alisson and tucked in an unexpected equaliser.
To err is human, but Liverpool’s defender-in-chief doesn’t make those kind of blunders – it was his first mistake leading to a goal in the league since March 2019. Van Dijk wanted a foul, but all he got was proof he is fallible.
If that wasn’t enough disbelief for one evening, the world’s best goalkeeper joined the foremost centre-back in having a ‘Did That Really Just Happen?’ moment.
Robertson directed his throw to Alisson, who failed to return it with enough power. Lacazette nipped to cut out the pass, turning provider with a pull back for Nelson, who applied a fine finish in the bottom left.
Liverpool went behind at half-time despite scoring the opener for the first time since December 2016. It was a throwback to a team that could not master game management and regularly made their missions impossible.
That game against West Ham four years ago was also the last occasion that club made two errors leading directly to a goal in the opening half.
Arsenal had two shots in total at the interval materialising from those mistakes – and by 75 minutes, they had still failed to generate any efforts from their own play.
Liverpool had managed 18 by that point – 15 of which was from inside the Gunners box.
The second half signalled a raft of changes. Arteta threw on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Dani Ceballos and Joe Willock for the decisive Lacazette and Nelson as well as Lucas Torreira. Later, Ainsley Maitland-Niles replaced Cedric Soares.
Klopp responded by swapping out Firmino and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain with Takumi Minamino and Naby Keita.
Wave after wave, Liverpool surfed forward but somehow managed to crash their own offensive initiative.
The team long crowned England’s best kept coming without success and turned to their wildcards.
Xherdan Shaqiri and Divock Origi were sent on for Gini Wijnaldum and Mo Salah, but the driving force remained: Mane running at markers, trying to make something – anything – happen.
Nothing did, beyond Liverpool’s third top-flight defeat of the campaign: eight points dropped in five fixtures since being christened domestic kings.
The shot count read three to Arsenal and 24 to Klopp’s side, which summed up their night.