Saturday, December 20, 2008

Arsenal vs Liverpool, two friendly foes

The league table shows that sunday’s game between Arsenal and Liverpool pits the 5th vs 1st place teams, with Arsenal trailing Liverpool by 8 points. A win for Arsenal and the gap would be reduced to 5 points but a defeat would open a 11 point gap between the two. While Liverpool have only lost one game this season and Arsenal have lost 5, the two share one common aspect this season -- both teams have recorded a home win against Man Utd and an away win to Chelsea.

While there is a lot of stake given the current league season, an Arsenal vs Liverpool game does manage to encapsulate plenty of history. The first recorded game between the two took place all the way on October 28 1893, which Liverpool won 5-0, and since then the two have engaged in 168 league meetings and 202 overall encounters in all competitions. There have been many eye-catching match-ups between these two but here are some that have stood out in the last two decades.

Anfield 1989: "It's up for grabs now.."

Arsenal’s 2-0 win at Anfield has become the stuff of legends. In a way, Arsenal’s title win laid the foundations for further success through the 1990’s and even enabled Arsene Wenger to implement his philosophy with the aid of the 1989 title winning squad. On the other hand, Liverpool bounced back in the 1989/90 season to win the League but have not won the league title since then.

2001 F.A Cup Final:

Even though Arsenal’s team was strong on paper (Seamen, Dixon, Keown, Adams, Cole, Pires, Grimandi, Vieira, Ljungberg, Wiltord, Henry, subs used -- Parlour, Kanu, Bergkamp), the squad showed the same weakness that became an unfortunate symbol of Arsenal in the years since -- dominating the game, playing beautiful football, unable to finish chances and kill the game and conceding goals via set-pieces to lose. But there was a silver lining in Arsenal’s defeat as the team bounced back the following season to do the double (including going unbeaten away from home in the league) and managed to win consecutive F.A Cup titles. Also, Arsenal went on to win atleast a trophy in each of the next four seasons (including that unbeaten league season) while playing some champagne football.

April 2004:
That game, That goal! "Genius at work, his name's Thierry Henry"

Yes soccer is a team game but if there was ever a moment a single player carried the expectations of an entire team and their fans, then Thierry Henry provided it at Highbury on April 9. Even though the 4-2 stunning Arsenal win didn’t mathematically secure the title, there was no doubt that Arsenal would win the 2003/04 League title. The next day even Chelsea manager Claudio Ranieri admitted that his team would not be able to catch Arsenal, which they didn’t.

Jan 2007:

Arsenal knocked Liverpool out of both the F.A Cup and Carling Cup within three days with two completely different teams playing away to Anfield. Although, the young Arsenal squad’s stunning 6-3 win in the Carling Cup stands out as that was the only time any Arsenal squad has scored 6 goals away to Liverpool. Julio Baptista scored 4 goals and even had the luxury to miss a penalty. Even though both victories still didn’t get Arsenal a trophy that season but there was still much to cheer for three days.

Liverpool 1-3 Arsenal: "oh he's done it again"
Ah beauty at work for the first goal. Rosicky to Hleb back to Tomas and goooolaso!!!!!

Last few seasons:

The last time Arsenal did the league double over Liverpool was in the unbeaten league season of 2003/04. In the following three seasons, Arsenal and Liverpool have split home wins between them with Arsenal winning their home fixtures 3-1 (2004/05), 2-1 and 3-0 while Liverpool have won their home ties 2-1 (2004/05), 1-0 and 4-1. Arsenal met Liverpool 4 times last season, with three of the games ending 1-1. The 4th and final encounter also should have ended in a draw, 2-2, a result that would have ensured Arsenal’s progress in the Champions League. After Walcott’s fantastic run setup Adebayor for the easiest of tap-ins, someone should have shouted ‘Cut’ or ‘That’s a wrap’ to close the game out and leave Arsenal with a fairy tale ending. But the cameras kept on rolling and in an instant the fairy tale game turned into a nightmare for Arsenal. And just to emphasize the seriousness of the situation, Kolo Toure did his best imitation of an extra on an horror film set by etching panic all over his face. Curtains and fade to black.

When Sunday Comes:

There are plenty of reasons for Arsenal to record a win over Liverpool. Make up for last season’s disappointment, improve this season’s league standings and continue this season’s trend of winning games against the ‘big’ teams. It may be a biased opinion but it appears that Arsenal have more to gain from a win or more to lose from a defeat than Liverpool do. But that does not mean Liverpool will treat this fixture lightly. Whatever happens on Sunday, Rafael Benitez will surely be busy taking notes. Hopefully, the Arsenal players give him plenty to think and scribble about.

No comments: