Barney Ronay was at the Emirates to see the new Arsenal beat the new champions. Here’s his report. You know the pack drill: click, then enjoy. Thanks for reading this MBM. Nighty night!
And now Jurgen Klopp’s analysis. “Twice we had a massive lapse of concentration. We took a break after we scored 1-0. Before the goal we were brilliant, really good. But these two moments killed the game for us. We then had to chase the game. We did that, Arsenal had no real chances, but you cannot win football games when you concede goals like that. We lost concentration and you cannot do that, it’s the Premier League. We did that today. Virg lost the ball, though I didn’t see a lot of offers, nobody around wanted it. As a full pack, we took a break and that makes no sense. And Arsenal was there, twice in the game, and we have to take that. We have to learn from that, and we will. We got punished for it tonight, and that’s good in a sense, because we will learn from it. It was a good game, we had 24 to three shots. What can you do more? You have to hit the target, that helps! Credit to Arsenal. I’m not sure they forced the mistakes, but they were there.”
But there’s still enough time for a shot across the bows of the board. Arteta is asked whether he’ll be given the money required for a successful summer in the transfer market. “I don’t know. It is a big concern, because there is no magic. You need quality to build a squad, and you need big squads. It’s a challenge.”
A very content Mikel Arteta speaks. “In terms of energy and happiness in the dressing room, this is good medicine ahead of the semi-final. Against this team you have to take your chances, you need to defend, and you need a bit of luck, and we had all of that. We had belief. I was worried at 1-0 how we would react, but we were able to pick one moment and believe again. We were at it, and here is our reward. It is a massive job, you only need to look at the difference between the two teams today, the gap is enormous. But the gap in many areas, we can not improve it in two months. But the gap in accountability, the energy, the commitment and fight is now equal. And before it wasn’t. I am very proud of that. With that, we can create something.”
And now a chat with Virgil van Dijk, who is philosophical about his rare off-day. “Obviously the goals we gave as a present. Until their first goal it was totally us. We dominated. We gave them two goals, but then it is difficult to come back. If you give goals away, like I did today, you get what you deserve. The goals shouldn’t happen, but until then there was nothing wrong. It happens in football sometimes and you have to deal with it. Unfortunately today, we had to deal with it twice! I take the blame for it. We move on. We wanted to win the game, but we can’t change the fact. We will try to win the last two games, but we have had a fantastic season already. Getting the trophy will be a dream come true. Tonight is disappointment and that is in my head, and sometimes you can be the villain, but we move on.”
A word with the match-winner Reiss Nelson. “It’s a big achievement for us. We’ve been working hard in training. Getting a win against the leaders is a great result. You dream as a little boy to score against the big boys, so I’m happy with the goal and the result. When I get home I’ll celebrate with my family, I’m really delighted. The boss said keep pressing, and I think we did very well, we were eager to keep pressing them.” A playbook to follow for Liverpool’s opponents next season, right there.
A strange old game, that. It was pretty much all Liverpool from the get-go until the final whistle, but a couple of horrendous and uncharacteristic defensive lapses cost them dear. They can now only reach a maximum of 99 points, should they beat Chelsea and Newcastle United in their last two games. Only 99 points! It’s unlikely to worry them too much, as they start to dream of their summer holiday, during which they’ll properly celebrate their first title in 30 years. Arsenal meanwhile may wonder how they won this match; then again, they were resolute at the back and on point when opportunity presented itself. They join Watford and Manchester City in beating the new champs. It’s a result that will give them confidence ahead of next season … and hope going into Saturday’s FA Cup semi against Manchester City.
FULL TIME: Arsenal 2-1 Liverpool
… and it’ll be no all-time points record for the new champions Liverpool. A great defensive display by Arsenal, a farcical one by Liverpool, and a great night for Manchester City, whose 100-point total from a couple of years ago remains in the record books.
90 min +6: From the corner, Origi and Tierney come together in the air. As Tierney falls to ground, the whistle goes, as Shaqiri tucks the ball into the bottom right. No goal.
90 min +5: That corner leads to another, from which Alexander-Arnold shoots from distance. The ball deflects out to the right. Another corner!
90 min +4: Mane accelerates down the left and earns a corner.
90 min +3: Mane and Minamino combine down the left but can’t work space for a shot. For all their possession, Liverpool haven’t made Martinez work too often.
90 min +2: Martinez takes his own sweet time over a goal kick.
90 min +1: Caballos is booked for clattering into the back of a mid-air Minamino.
90 min: Arsenal, under so much pressure for so long, nearly wrap it up! Aubameyang juggles his way down the left and loops inside for Willock, who snatches at the bouncing ball, 12 yards out, and sends it well wide right. There will be five added minutes.
89 min: Keita has a pelt from 25 yards, sending a meaty one towards the bottom left. Martinez is behind it all the way, and catches gracefully.
87 min: A rare corner for Arsenal on the left is utilised pretty much as a time-management exercise. Liverpool eventually clear.
86 min: Mane gets a yard on Maitland-Niles down the left and enters the box. He slashes hysterically wide left, when one-on-one with Martinez. Maitland-Niles was breathing down his neck and gave him a soft, clever nudge that put him off his shot. Mane doesn’t complain.
85 min: Saka is replaced by Kolasinac. “This game isn’t doing Jordan Henderson’s reputation any harm, is it?” asks Geoff Wignall, in the rhetorical style.
83 min: Wijnaldum shoots from distance, teed up by a combination of Mane and Salah. The ball pinballs through to Martinez. And that’s the end of both Wijnaldum and Salah, who are replaced by Origi and the lesser-spotted Shaqiri.
81 min: Xhaka is booked for a late, studs-up slide on Keita. No arguments.
79 min: Xhaka’s back up. After the restart, Liverpool stroke it around the middle but they’re going nowhere.
77 min: Xhaka is over, having tweaked his knee when sliding a Keita pass back towards Martinez. Liverpool want a free kick for a deliberate backpass, but they’re not getting one.
75 min: Mane hasn’t stopped driving at the Arsenal defence all evening, and he wins a corner down the left with another elegant dribble. From the set piece, Robertson swings deep. Van Dijk – who owes his team-mates one this evening, a rare state of affairs – heads harmlessly wide right.
73 min: The game restarts. Meanwhile here’s Stephen Carr: “‘Now we know why players go to ground,’ says Martin Tyler – who absolutely does not have a track record for repeatedly calling out Salah for doing the very same.”
71 min: Liverpool are totally bossing this, but finding myriad ways to let their attacks fizzle out. Mane sashays down the left and pulls back for Robertson, who should get a shot away but ends up tackling himself. Over he goes. And that’s drinks!
70 min: Mane, just to the left of the Arsenal box, curls delightfully onto the head of Salah, coming in from the right. Salah slaps a weak header straight at Martinez. He was six yards out, free, and should have done better.
69 min: Liverpool have enjoyed 92 percent of possession during the last ten minutes! But Arsenal are holding firm. Just about.
67 min: Liverpool work the corner back to Alexander-Arnold, who releases Mane down the left. Mane’s low centre deflects towards Van Dijk, whose shot bobbles through to Minamino. Tierney has a handful of Minamino’s shirt, causing the Liverpool man to stumble but not fall. Minamino wants a penalty, and may have got one had he gone to ground. But the referee waves play on, and VAR doesn’t intervene. Klopp is livid, Minamino confused. But it would have been a soft one.
66 min: Keita glides down the inside-left channel and nearly flicks Minamino free into the box. A fine run without the killer pass to match.
65 min: Minamino looks in the mood to make his first major statement in a Liverpool shirt. He again busies himself down the Arsenal right, but can’t quite open the defence up. He’s buzzing around with great purpose.
64 min: Alexander-Arnold curls it long, forcing Xhaka to head behind for a corner. Only Norwich and Aston Villa have conceded more from corners this season than Arsenal’s 14 … but this one’s easily cleared.
63 min: Minamino is quickly into the thick of it, scampering down the left and dragging a shot across the face of goal and not far wide of the post. Then he works his way down the right and draws Luiz into a clumsy foul. A free kick and a chance for Liverpool to line up across the front of the Arsenal box.
61 min: Liverpool respond with a double change of their own. Firmino and the ineffective Oxlade-Chamberlain are replaced by Minamino and Keita.
59 min: Liverpool continue to stroke it around. Alexander-Arnold floats a ball in from a deep position on the right. Wijnaldum rises highest and tries to guide a header towards the top left but it’s always flying over.
58 min: Here they come. Aubameyang, Ceballos and Willock take the places of Lacazette, Torreira and Nelson.
56 min: Liverpool have dominated possession since the restart. As a result, there’s a flurry of activity on the Arsenal bench. Triple sub ahoy!
54 min: Van Dijk rakes a glorious diagonal pass towards Alexander-Arnold on the left. Alexander-Arnold tugs back for Salah, who takes a touch to send Luiz sliding across the turf, then digs a shot out from under his feet. Martinez tips over the bar, and the corner comes to nought. Klopp continues to look extremely frustrated.
52 min: The corner’s worked left to right, where Oxlade-Chamberlain busies himself down the wing. He curls a cross gently into Martinez’s arms.
51 min: Mane slips Wijnaldum into space down the left. Wijnaldum cuts back for Salah, but the ball rolls closer to Mane, who has a whack instead. It’s deflected out for a corner.
50 min: Bagatelle in the Arsenal box as Alexander-Arnold takes two shots, Robertson and Salah one each. Arsenal get away with some manic defending as the ball pings out for a corner, and the corner is wasted.
48 min: Now it’s Alexander-Arnold’s turn to go into the book, arriving late in a 50-50 challenge with Saka. Studs on shin. He might have got away with one there, you know, though the usual Looks Worse In Slow Motion caveats apply. There didn’t seem to be too much intent.
47 min: Alisson shanks another clearance out of play. On the touchline, Klopp shakes his head sadly. So much for that half-time team talk.
45 min 25 sec: Gomez embarks on a power run up the middle, and is unceremoniously upended by Torreira. A yellow card for a player who escaped one in the first half.
Arsenal get the second half underway. No changes. And on that subject … “Have there actually been any confirmed sightings of Mustafi and Kolasinac on the Arsenal bench?” wonders Graham Fulcher. “I have a feeling they have gone undercover in the Liverpool team.”
Half-time entertainment. Concluding the story of the team Liverpool nearly met in the 1984 European Cup final. Magnificent fun.
HALF TIME: Arsenal 2-1 Liverpool
For half an hour, Liverpool looked in the mood to run up a cricket score. Then Virgil van Dijk and Alisson took turns to gift-wrap goals for Arsenal, the champions hoist by the petard of their own pressing game. Van Dijk goes off fuming, and won’t be looking forward to the reception his manager will be laying on for his team. Klopp looked beyond livid at what unfolded in the last 15 minutes of that half. The second one promises to be a cracker, one way or another!
45 min: Oxlade-Chamberlain whacks one goalwards from 20 yards, but it’s straight at Martinez. There will be two added minutes of this weird, warped and wonderful first half.
GOAL! Arsenal 2-1 Liverpool (Nelson 44)
Another Arsenal goal, another fiasco for Liverpool at the back. Alisson tries a cute chip towards Robertson out on the left. Lacazette nips in ahead, barges down the right, and pulls back for Nelson, who steers a fine finish across the keeper and into the bottom left!
43 min: Firmino slides Salah into the Arsenal box down the right. Salah’s attempted curler is blocked. Mane clatters into Holding while chasing the loose ball, and for a second the situation threatens to escalate. But it quietens down quickly enough. “Liverpool are very good at most positions, but it’s now clear they must to improve at CB. If i were Klopp I’d be desperately working the phones on the only straight swap deal that can assure back-to-back titles: Mustafi for VVD.” Alan Pyke there, ladies and gentlemen, an Arsenal fan I’ll be bound.
41 min: Firmino flicks cutely down the left to release Oxlade-Chamberlain into space. The former Arsenal man hesitates fatally, is closed down by Holding, and knocks the ball out for a goal kick. Very poor.