Liverpool 2 Arsenal 2

Let’s get the easy stuff out of the way quickly. Liverpool are not the story here. They are 12 points behind the top four with nine games remaining and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that making up the gap now requires a five-game swing. Barring a series of events that are even more miraculous than their late surge to Champions League qualification in 2021, their season is pretty much over. It’s all about seeing the campaign out as positively as possible and in that regard a comeback from two goals down can be considered encouraging, though their alarming defensive performance in the first half keeps up a worrying trend for the Reds, which is unlikely to abate as the games wind down.

With that out of the way, let’s get on to Arsenal. Not only have the Gunners not won at Anfield in more than a decade, but they have also suffered some catastrophic losses, many a decimation taking place within the first half itself. That context is important, regardless of Arsenal being so far ahead of Liverpool in the league this season. An element of hanging in and grinding out, to use two cliches, was to be expected. That there would be some anxiety and trepidation from Mikel Arteta’s men was virtually guaranteed.

However, the truly elite sides know how to ride out the storm and still express themselves. Arsenal were understandably defensive in the second half, however, these are the league leaders and their closest challengers scored four against the same opponents last weekend quite comfortably. That Arsenal sat back with neither outlets nor an out ball and no comprehension of possession to take some sting out of the game is a damning indictment on Arteta’s strategic preparation for this match. Mohamed Salah’s missed penalty should have been a wake up call and an opportunity for change, but Arsenal stayed the course with the wrong approach, inevitably leading to a deserved equalizer for the hosts. Were it not for Aaron Ramsdale having a spectacular day in goal, Arsenal would have headed back south with a serious dent in their title bid. As it stands, a point at Anfield isn’t the worst result, but it is now on Arteta to ensure his men approach away days at St. James Park and the Etihad with a different mindset. As Pep Guardiola’s City ominously get into a champion’s groove, the margins for Arsenal have become smaller.

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