Arsenal vs Liverpool is one of the most hotly-anticipated fixtures on the English football calendar. While the title race has proved beyond both clubs during the second portion of the Premier League era, their meetings always provide excitement and drama as two sides famed for their offensive enthusiasm and attacking flair go toe-to-toe in what often descends into a straight-up shootout.
With Arsene Wenger and Jurgen Klopp at the helm it looks to be a similar case when they meet again on Friday night, and separated by just one point in the table, the coming encounter could have a huge say on which side qualifies for the Champions League come the end of May. So, can history tell us anything about how Friday’s 7.45pm kickoff will pan out? Football FanCast takes a look…
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.
In 2016/17, Liverpool did the double over Arsenal for the first time since the 1999/00 season while the reverse fixture earlier this term ended in a thumping 4-0 home victory at Anfield.
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 nine goals, whilst Thierry Henry is just behind him with eight.
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 who famously scored four goals in one game against the Reds, which brings us onto…
That one game 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 the Gunners, 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.
Outside of the Premier League era, figures like Ray Kennedy – who played over 200 times for Arsenal and nearly 400 times for Liverpool- and Michael Thomas – who famously scored a last-minute goal at Anfield to win the title for Arsenal – inevitably come to mind.
But in the Premier League era, Kolo Toure stands out as a player who played for arguably the defining sides of both clubs recent 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. He made 24 appearances for the Reds, including 20 in the top flight, as Brendan Rodgers’ side came close to lifting the Premier League crown in 2013/14.
What perhaps makes Toure such a shared hero, however, is how popular a figure he’s become in football. He’s earned cult status and even a drinking game based around his name and even when not at the full extremities of his powers, has always seemed to find a way to connect with the fans.