Alexandre Lacazette’s late equaliser extended Arsenal’s unbeaten run to 13 games and gave them a hard-earned 1-1 draw in a thrilling encounter with Liverpool at Emirates Stadium.
James Milner’s powerful strike just after the hour, drilled home after Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno’s clearance rebounded off Rob Holding, looked to have put unbeaten Liverpool on course for victory.
Lacazette, however, had other ideas and drew the Gunners level eight minutes from time with a superb finish on the turn after he had taken the ball away from Liverpool keeper Alisson.
The point puts Liverpool back on top of the Premier League but they will feel hard done by after a first-half strike from Sadio Mane was incorrectly ruled out for offside, while Virgil van Dijk hit the post with a header and forced a fine save from Leno after the break.
Arsenal’s persistence deserved reward despite those escapes and their display confirmed their development under new manager Unai Emery.
Arsenal answer the questions
Despite Arsenal’s unbeaten run, questions remained unanswered about the new Emery regime, no matter how impressive their results since defeats in their opening Premier League games at home to Manchester City and away at Chelsea.
It was felt Liverpool’s potent attack would provide their most severe test – and to come through against Jurgen Klopp’s unbeaten side with a point will do wonders for belief and self-confidence.
Arsenal still have much to do to catch Liverpool but Emery’s era is in its infancy and there was much to admire about the Gunners – even though they got lucky with the first-half offside call that saw Mane’s goal ruled out for offside.
They showed real urgency in the first half to shade an enthralling first 45 minutes but arguably even more satisfying will be the manner in which they dug in to rescue a point after Milner put Liverpool ahead and Klopp’s side looked in the mood to finish Arsenal off.
Arsenal, with Lucas Torreira a fine addition and Lacazette a force up front, stuck to their task and were rewarded with a point.
They remain a work in progress but in a match many felt would see the new Arsenal’s flaws exposed, Emery and his players can regard this as a highly satisfactory result and performance.
Van Dijk the tower of strength
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was prepared to play a game of patience to land Virgil van Dijk after his initial move to sign the Netherlands captain from Southampton in the summer of 2017 ended in acrimony.
Klopp was not interested in any other target and as soon as the January transfer window opened Van Dijk was through the door at Anfield for £75m, a world record fee for a defender.
And with every passing game, Liverpool’s lavish pay-out looks money well spent.
Van Dijk was the focal point as Arsenal’s first half excellence put Liverpool’s defence to the test, demonstrating not only his aerial prowess but also his uncanny knack of making vital interceptions and deflections at the vital moment.
He was also a threat in the air, hitting the post with a header in the first half and bringing a fine save from Arsenal keeper Leno after the break.
He has solved an obvious area of vulnerability in Liverpool’s team and gives them an added dimension. He will be a central figure in their Premier League title pursuit.
Emirates Stadium alive again
Arsenal’s home games in Arsene Wenger’s final season were soulless and acrimonious in varying degrees – but not now, as the home fans relish the positive approach of Emery’s side.
Wenger spoke of the stadium’s “negative environment” in his latter days, as supporters who had lost faith in their long-serving manager, combined with Arsenal’s failure to mount a serious Premier League title challenge, watched with mounting discontent.
It is clear that during the course of Arsenal’s unbeaten 13-match run Emery has not only rekindled hope and optimism but restored some of the heart and soul to this vast arena.
Emery’s own urgency in the technical area transmits itself to the stands with, especially during the first half, a thunderous atmosphere in a place that seemed to have forgotten how to enjoy its football last season.
Arsenal’s supporters gave their team a warm reception at the final whistle and will have seen enough to confirm that Emery is on the right lines after succeeding Wenger.
Man of the match – Lucas Torreira (Arsenal)
‘Maybe we deserved more’ – what they said
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp to BBC Sport: “A point is a good result – Unai Emery can say the same, but we had clear chances. When Arsenal chase the game they throw everyone on the pitch which is really cool and we were not as compact as I wanted.
“Our workhorses in midfield, we put too much on their shoulders. And it was one time we didn’t close Alex Iwobi and he plays the pass for the goal.”
Arsenal manager Unai Emery speaking to BT Sport: “We wanted to win but the performance is good, we push and we work the match, doing our tactics and with our supporters pushing us with energy. For the supporters it is a great match and a good spectacle but I am only 50% happy because we wanted to win.
“Today the balance was good in our speed and intensity. We worked very well for the 90 minutes and the two goals is the difference in the match. This is a point and a draw, maybe we deserve a little more.”
Gunners barren run against Liverpool continues – the stats
- Liverpool are unbeaten in their opening 11 matches to a Premier League campaign for the first time since the 2007-08 campaign.
- Arsenal have won more points from losing positions than any other Premier League side in 2018-19 (8).
- Arsenal are winless in their last seven Premier League meetings with Liverpool (D3 L4).
- Arsenal have not led at half-time in any of their 11 Premier League matches so far this season. However, the Gunners have scored more goals after the break than any other side (19).
- Liverpool midfielder James Milner’s opener was his 50th goal in the Premier League – 14 of them have been for Liverpool, more than any other side he has played for in the competition.
- Milner’s strike was his first from open play in the Premier League since March 2016 v Man City – ending a run of eight successive goals from the penalty spot in the competition.
- Following Alex Iwobi’s assist for their equaliser, Arsenal’s subs have now been involved in 10 Premier League goals this season (6 goals, 4 assists), more than any other side.
- 17 of Alexandre Lacazette’s 23 goals for Arsenal in all competitions have been scored in home games.
Arsenal host Sporting Lisbon in the Europa League on Thursday (20:00 GMT), before playing Wolves at Emirates Stadium next Sunday (16:30 GMT).
Liverpool travel to Serbia to face Red Star Belgrade in the Champions League on Tuesday (17:55 GMT), before taking on Fulham in next Sunday’s lunchtime kick-off (12:00 GMT).