A grand old fixture in English football, Liverpool v Arsenal is also arguably one of the most consistently entertaining games in the division. There have been classics, both meaningful and meaningless, and plenty of last-minute drama along the way.
This weekend, if we see anything like the sorts of games below, we’ll be in for a rare treat – but when it comes to these two, treats come around more often than usual.
Before Manchester City beat Queens Park Rangers in 2013, the most memorable last-minute, title-deciding goal was scored at Anfield in 1989 by Michael Thomas, who would go on to sign for Liverpool just a couple of seasons later.
As the crunch match between the two title rivals was postponed due to the Hillsborough disaster, Arsenal traveled to Liverpool at the very end of the season in what was effectively a Premier League title final – a one-off game where the winner took all.
Well, sort of. Because of the goal difference, Arsenal had to win by two clear goals, and in injury time at the very end of the game, the Gunners were winning 1-0. Liverpool sat back to defend the 1-0 defeat which would have seen them lift another league title just days after they had won the FA Cup final against Everton in extra time. But Michael Thomas broke through the Liverpool defence and lobbed the ball over Bruce Grobbelaar to win the title for Arsenal.
Perhaps recency bias is one of the main reasons why Manchester City’s 2012 title victory remains the first game most people will jump to when they think about last-minute title deciders, but it might also be why the mind jumps to the opening weekend of last season when thinking about Arsenal and Liverpool classics.
The first game of the season for both clubs turned into a 4-3 stunner as both sides proved they could attack but couldn’t defend – a trope which seems to have continued into this season, and bodes well for further goals this weekend.
Arsenal took the lead through Theo Walcott, but when Liverpool came back at the Gunners early in the second half, they did so with a vengeance.
It was 1-1 at half time, but a ten minute salvo from Liverpool put the Reds 4-1 up, before the next ten minutes saw Arsenal dominate and come right back again. In the end, Liverpool held on for a 4-3 victory, but it was the perfect set-up for the season, and one where both sides’ defences would be the reason for their inability to stay in the title race.
As Liverpool battled against Manchester United for the title, they came up against an Arsenal side who were already out of the race at the top. And yet, the two played out a Premier League classic.
The lead changed hands on a crazy afternoon at Anfield, as Andriy Arshavin almost single-handedly took on Rafael Benitez’s side, scoring four goals and seemingly winning the game with a last-minute strike. But Yossi Benayoun struck even later for Liverpool to grab a point.
It wouldn’t be enough, though. Manchester United won the league by four points, and once again Liverpool missed out on a Premier League title. In their last 11 games of that season, Benitez’s men scored 34 goals, and went unbeaten from February until the end of the season. It just wasn’t enough.
Under Brendan Rodgers five years later, it was a similar story for Liverpool. 2013/14 saw a Luis Suarez inspired side score over 100 goals and still fail to win the Premier League title. Once again, the Reds were sensational from February onwards, and that run of 11 wins from then until April started win a 5-1 demolition of Arsenal at Anfield.
That was, in hindsight, the moment where Liverpool announced that they could actually challenge for the title. Before that, defeats to Manchester City and Chelsea over the Christmas period put big question marks over Rodgers’ side, and although they were clearly capable of beating anyone in the league, it wasn’t clear they could do so under pressure.
But a stunning masterclass in pressing from Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge, Luis Suarez and Raheem Sterling combination put the Reds 4-0 up after just 20 minutes, and the game was already over by half time.
Martin Skrtel got on the scoresheet twice in the first ten minutes, such was the utter domination. And although defeat to Chelsea and a draw at Crystal Palace eventually handed the title to Manchester City, that February day at Anfield looked like the start of something very special indeed.
Liverpool and Arsenal met in an all-English Champions League quarter-final in 2008 with both sides taking heart from Milan.
The Reds were beaten finalists the previous season, losing to AC Milan in Athens – revenge for Istanbul. The Gunners, however, had beaten the Italian champions of Europe in the last 16, whilst Liverpool had beaten Inter at the same stage. And instead of a classic Milan derby in the quarter-finals of the Champions League, we were treated to a Liverpool v Arsenal epic instead.
While the first leg at the Emirates finished 1-1, that was just an appetiser for what was to come next. In the second leg at Anfield, Arsenal took the lead through Abou Diaby before Sami Hyypia and Fernando Torres turned it around for Liverpool.
There was to be a late twist, though. Several, in fact. Emmanuel Adebayor levelled on the night for Arsenal, who would have gone through on the away goals rule after a 2-2 draw, but a Steven Gerrard penalty put Liverpool back in control of the tie. And as the Gunners poured forward, desperately tried to find the late away goal to take them through, Liverpool broke away at the other end and Ryan Babel put the tie beyond Arsenal in injury time.
It was a thrilling night of Champions League football at Anfield, and although Arsenal won’t be in the competition this season, we’ll have to savour the Premier League meetings between the clubs instead.