Bukayo Saka’s penalty settled a thrilling encounter and put Arsenal back on top of the Premier League with victory over Liverpool at Emirates Stadium.
Arsenal got off to a perfect start when Gabriel Martinelli put them ahead after 58 seconds, but Liverpool responded well, and striker Darwin Nunez deservedly got them level when he slid home Luis Diaz’s cross after 34 minutes.
Saka restored Arsenal’s lead in first half added time after Martinelli broke clear on the counter-attack only for Liverpool to level once more eight minutes after the break when substitute Roberto Firmino, on for the injured Diaz, fired beyond keeper Aaron Ramsdale.
Liverpool, who felt they were denied a penalty when defender Gabriel handled in the first half, felt a further sense of injustice when Thiago Alcantara was penalised for a challenge on Gabriel Jesus with 14 minutes remaining, with Saka coolly converting from the spot. Arsenal hinted at their maturity and progress when they overpowered Tottenham in their last Premier League game, but this was the biggest signal yet that they are heading firmly in the right direction under manager Mikel Arteta.
The Gunners started at lightning pace with that Martinelli goal but what will have pleased Arteta even more was the manner in which Arsenal responded to Liverpool’s two equalisers, gathering themselves to get back in front and ultimately close out the win. In the past, Arsenal’s mentality has been fragile but here they showed the strength and resilience to hold their nerve against a Liverpool team that has made a habit of getting the better of them in recent years.
Martinelli was outstanding for Arsenal, tormenting Liverpool’s defence throughout as he scored the first goal then led the breakaway that saw Saka restore their advantage on the stroke of half-time. The penalty that decided the game infuriated Liverpool, but Saka showed confidence and composure to step forward and drill the resulting spot-kick past Alisson.
And Emirates Stadium now carries a real feeling of unity behind Arsenal and their manager, who has put together an impressive blend of youth and experience that suggests bigger things are to come for this side. Liverpool have developed a nasty habit of falling behind in games, often early on, and it is an ominous sign of their vulnerability this season.
Arsenal took less than one minute to slice through the visitors, Brazil forward Martinelli winning his first battle with Trent Alexander-Arnold to put Jurgen Klopp’s side on the back foot instantly.
Liverpool showed character to come back twice but they are currently a shadow of the side that challenged for four trophies last season, and it looks already as if their Premier League target will be limited to challenging for a top-four place.
They are easy to get at and concede too many goals, with Alexander-Arnold struggling badly – although his removal at half-time may well have owed more to an ankle injury sustained when he tried to stop a Martinelli cross in a first-half challenge than his performance.
Liverpool’s defensive colossus Virgil van Dijk looks more suspect than at any time since he came to Anfield, while the midfield balance does not look right. In attack, Mohamed Salah is desperately out of sorts. It was still a surprise to see the Egypt forward substituted given his ability to create goals out of nothing, but he was so anonymous at the Emirates that he can have little complaint at his removal.