Arsenal’s time-wasting vs. Liverpool backfired, and it might hurt title hopes

Arsenal blew a two-goal lead against Liverpool at Anfield, dropping two points, which could prove decisive in their race against Manchester City to win the Premier League title.

First-half goals from Gabriel Martinelli and Gabriel Jesus had put the Gunners in control and on course to restore their eight-point lead at the top of the table. But a Mohamed Salah goal pulled one back for Liverpool before half-time and, although the Liverpool forward missed a second-half penalty, Roberto Firmino‘s 87th-minute header earned a 2-2 draw for the home side.

It could have been worse for Arsenal, though, had goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale not produced two stunning saves in stoppage time to deny Salah and Ibrahima Konate.

Rapid reaction

1. Arsenal let it slip and open the door for Manchester City

This was undoubtedly two points lost rather than one gained for Arsenal at Anfield, and the ramifications of their failure to hold onto a crucial win will only become clear in the weeks ahead.

Had Arsenal been able to see out the game and win at Anfield for the first time since 2012, they would have retained the advantage over Manchester City of knowing that they were in control of their title ambitions. But, although that still applies to the Gunners, who will be champions if they win all of their remaining eight games, the same can now also be said of City, who will retain the title if they win their final nine games.

City are six points behind Arsenal with a game in hand, but if they win that extra game and beat Arsenal at the Etihad later this month, Pep Guardiola’s team will go top — and they are usually ruthlessly efficient when closing out a season from this stage.

The big concern for Arsenal and manager Mikel Arteta will be their inability to put this game to bed after being so dominant in the first-half. Titles are won by teams who hold their nerve and cling onto winning positions when the heat is on, and Arsenal fell short at Anfield.

With City more than capable of winning every game between now and the end of the season, the Gunners will know how costly this draw could be.

So the challenge is simple for Arsenal. They simply have to make sure they don’t lose at City later this month. But that will be easier said than done and they have now lost their margin for error by throwing out two points at Anfield.

2. Salah’s struggles from penalty spot worsen

Mohamed Salah is losing his touch from the penalty spot for Liverpool. The forward’s miss against Arsenal was the second time he has failed to score from 12 yards in the space of a month and he has missed the target completely on both occasions.

Against Bournemouth last month, the Egypt international sent his spot kick high and wide as Liverpool slid to a shock defeat against the relegation-threatened side.

And with the chance to equalise against Arsenal, after Liverpool had fallen 2-0 down in the first half, Salah guided his penalty wide of goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale’s right-hand post to give the Premier League leaders a huge let-off.

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Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp clearly expected Salah to score, judging by his celebration on the touchline before reality dawned on him that Salah had missed.

Although he didn’t have a flawless penalty record for Liverpool in the Premier League, Salah has been one of the division’s most reliable spot-kick takers in recent years. Prior to missing against Arsenal, he had scored 18 and missed just 3 of his 21 penalties, but before his miss against Bournemouth, he had only wasted two Premier League spot kicks in six years.

But two misses in a month have taken the shine of Salah’s record and, if Liverpool get another penalty this season, it might be time to give somebody else a shot from the spot.

3. Arsenal’s cynical time-wasting was counterproductive to title hopes

Arsenal’s game management at Anfield crossed the line into cynical time-wasting, but it backfired against Mikel Arteta’s team.

From goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale taking longer than required with his goal-kicks to players going down following slight, if any, contact in challenges with their opponents, Arsenal did everything possible to run down the clock and halt the rhythm of the game, to the extent that the game had a total of 10 minutes stoppage time added to the 90 minutes.

Gabriel Jesus and Gabriel Martinelli were two of the biggest culprits, but while the objective was clearly to take the sting out of the game and deny Liverpool the chance to build momentum, Arsenal’s tactics actually had the opposite effect by firing up the crowd and Jurgen Klopp’s players.

The repeated attempts to delay the game by calling for treatment by the physios should have been spotted and dealt with by referee Paul Tierney, but he failed to get a grip of the situation.

By the time he booked Bukayo Saka for taking too long to take a corner in the 84th minute, it was too late to impose any authority on the game.

Arsenal have too much ability for them to need to waste time in such an obvious manner and, with games increasingly tense towards the end of the season, it could work against them to the point that they drop valuable points if they continue to take such a cynical approach.

Best and worst performers

Best: Aaron Ramsdale, Arsenal

The Arsenal goalkeeper made some crucial saves in the second half as Liverpool chased an equaliser. Ramsdale’s presence and personality have been huge factors for the Gunners this season.

Best: Gabriel Martinelli, Arsenal

Scored the crucial opener to settle Arsenal’s nerves and tormented the Liverpool defence all afternoon with his pace and direct running.

Best: Martin Odegaard, Arsenal

A class act in midfield for Arsenal. When the game began to be stretched, the Gunners captain brought sense and calmness to their game.

Worst: Virgil van Dijk, Liverpool

Liverpool were a mess at the back throughout the game and Van Dijk contributed to that with his woeful positional sense. And he also did nothing to stop Gabriel Jesus heading Arsenal into a two-goal lead.

Worst: Granit Xhaka, Arsenal

The Arsenal midfielder reverted back to the hothead who caused so many problems for his team in the past. Lost his head and lucky to avoid a red card following a clash with Trent Alexander-Arnold.

Worst: Diogo Jota, Liverpool

Still finding his fitness after a lengthy injury layoff and the Liverpool forward struggled to get involved against the league leaders.

Highlights and notable moments

Arsenal got out ahead in the first eight minutes with a right-footed shot from the centre of the box from Gabriel Martinelli.

Twenty minutes later, Arsenal came back for more.

This time it was Martinelli with the service, and Gabriel Jesus knocked in a header from the centre of the box.

But then, the comeback was on for Liverpool.

Mohamed Salah pulled one back in the 42nd minute.

Soon after the half-time break, Salah had a golden chance to equalise when Liverpool were awarded a penalty kick, but his shot went wide.

Instead, it was left for Roberto Firmino to equalise on a well-taken header in the 87th minute.

After the match: What the managers and players said

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta on the game: “Wow. Very intense game. The game was under control but after that we concede a really sloppy goal and the game shifted momentum. We started well in the first few minutes [of the second half] but then lost control. It became a very transitional game, very chaotic. Liverpool could score three or four. It is true we could have scored two or three so maybe at the end the score is fair.”

Arteta on Liverpool coming back: “We lost control and started to give a lot of balls away. The game became open. We needed resilience, we needed our keeper in the last moment. I think a draw is a fair result. The crowd got going. The goal gave them some hope. At 2-0 we had the game in our hands. That was our chance to kill the game. Then we made a mistake. We had to show our resilience and our luck at times.”

Arteta on what the draw means for the title race: “Move on. Convince them to keep playing like we did in the first 30 minutes.”

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp on the result: “A bit typical for us this season. An open game, completely open, they score with the first situation and the second one. Our reaction was good. It was a spectacular game in the end. How we didn’t win it with those late chances I don’t know.”

Klopp on whether he’s happy with the draw or not: “I’m caught in-between. I have no problems with drawing. Arsenal were good but they could and should have lost this game. The point for them is better.”

Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information research)

  • The draw snaps Arsenal’s 68 straight wins in all competitions in matches where they led by multiple goals. The last time Arsenal failed to win a game when leading by 2+ goals was Oct. 30, 2019.

  • After the missed penalty kick, Mohamed Salah is now 18 of 22 on career Premier League penalty kicks (failed to convert three of last six, including two straight misses).

  • Salah is now on 133 career Premier League goals, one away from tying Leicester’s Jamie Vardy for second-most among active players. (Harry Kane tops the list at 206.)

Up next

Liverpool: The Reds visit Leeds United on Monday, April 17 for more Premier League action.

Arsenal: The Gunners head to West Ham United on Sunday, April 16 in league play.


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