PL25: The history of Liverpool v Arsenal

One of the biggest fixtures in the Premier League calendar, Liverpool v Arsenal pits two of English football’s most successful clubs, but over the last 10 years, these two giants of English football can count just four trophies between them: Arsenal’s three FA Cups in four years, and Liverpool’s 2012 League Cup triumph.

Despite the relative lack of success, though, the Premier League has changed dramatically over the last two seasons, and that means both of these teams are fighting with the rest of the top six for every domestic honour – not to mention a place in the top four and a spot in the Champions League.

Last season, Liverpool beat Arsenal twice, and if either one of those games had even ended in a draw, it would be Arsene Wenger’s Gunners in the Champions League this season, with Jurgen Klopp’s Reds having to settle for a place in the Europa League. Such are the fine margins the Premier League comes down to these days.

Head-to-Head

Since the inception of the Premier League, this fixture has been incredibly closely fought overall, but that doesn’t tell the whole story.

The stats say that no side has had the upper hand in this fixture, but from March 1994 to August 2000, Arsenal failed to beat Liverpool in 14 attempts in all competitions, 12 in the Premier League and two in the League Cup. Since then, the tables have been turned and it’s Arsenal who have been the dominant side.

Until last season.

Last time, Liverpool did the double over Arsenal for the first time since the 1999/00 season. Is this a sign of things to come? Or just a quirk of Liverpool’s odd record last season where they seemed to beat the top sx teams but drop points to sides lower in the table?

Top Scorer

Top scorers in Liverpool v Arsenal fixtures in the Premier League tell the same story of Merseyside dominance in the 90s and north London dominance in the 00s.

Robbie Fowler is the top marksman in this fixture in the Premier League with 10 goals, whilst Thierry Henry is just behind him with nine.

But that just shows the quality of this fixture – both sides’ top scorers against the other is a bona fide Premier League legend, though an honourable mention has to go to Andriy Arshavin, whose five goals in this game puts him just one behind Steven Gerrard, even though four of those goals came in just one game.

The Unforgettable Match

That one game, though is the unforgettable epic that was the 4-4 draw at Anfield in April 2009.

That year was without doubt Liverpool’s best chance to win the Premier League until the 2013/14 season when Steven Gerrard’s memorable slip against Chelsea saw Manchester City pip the Reds to the post.

The draw with Arsenal at Anfield was a classic for the ages, where the lead changed hands plenty of times on a tumultuous afternoon.

A 90th minute Andriy Arshavin goal – his fourth and final goal of the game – looked to have won it for Arsenal and gifted the title to Manchester United, but Yossi Benayoun, who would later go on to play for Arsenal, popped up with a late equaliser.

It wouldn’t have mattered in the title race anyway. The draw was Liverpool’s only dropped points since February, but so consistent were United that they still won the league by four points. The extra two for beating Arsenal may have put added pressure on Alex Ferguson’s side, but we’ll never know if they would have cracked.

The Shared Hero – Kolo Toure

Despite his last-minute equaliser to cancel out Arshavin’s last-minute strike, Yossi Benayoun could hardly be described as an Arsenal legend, having spent a season at the Emirates on loan and even captained the Gunners in a League Cup tie against Manchester City.

Outside of the Premier League era, figures like Ray Kennedy – who played over 200 times for Arsenal and nearly 400 times for Liverpool, winning multiple league titles and European honours with both clubs – and Michael Thomas – who famously scored a last-minute goal at Anfield to win the title for Arsenal, before going on to represent Liverpool with distinction, winning an FA Cup and a League Cup with the club.

But in the Premier League era, Kolo Toure stands out as a player who played for arguably the defining sides of both clubs’ Premier League history.

For Arsenal, that’s an obvious one, as Toure played in the Invincibles side of 2003/04. But for Liverpool, perhaps it’s more debatable.

In the Premier League era, however, most of the Reds’ most memorable success has come in Europe, and for that reason, the 2013/14 side which almost won the title under Brendan Rodgers has to be considered the defining Liverpool side of the Premier League, having scored over 100 goals and looked for so long like they were going to finally bring the Premier League title to Anfield.