Refusing to hand out any early Christmas gifts to their bitter adversaries, Manchester United set up to subject Liverpool to 90 minutes of frustration last weekend, where Jurgen Klopp’s troops bombarded the Red Devils’ door with an incessant onslaught of attacks to no avail.
Thanks to Liverpool’s sustained ruthlessness in front of goal and a handful of marvellous defensive displays – Raphael Varane in particular earned his keep – Man United travelled home with a point despite facing a staggering 34 shots, the most Liverpool have ever had in a Premier League game without scoring since 2003.
Liverpool were a far cry from the unmerciful attacking unit which put seven past the Red Devils in March, but Klopp’s team reignited the blue-touch paper in Wednesday’s EFL Cup quarter-final clash with West Ham United, producing a five-star display in a 5-1 crushing to set up a semi-final showdown with Fulham.
However, after witnessing his charges drop points at home for the first time this season at the weekend, Klopp conceded that he was left disappointed by a perceived lack of Anfield atmosphere in midweek and issued a rallying cry to supporters as Liverpool endeavour to avoid going scoreless in back-to-back Premier League home games for the first time since March 2021.
The hosts had made the net bulge in 26 top-flight matches on the trot before bowing to the Red Devils’ defensive superiority, but their overall unbeaten run in the Premier League now stands at 10 games, and it has been nearly 14 months since Leeds United subjected Liverpool to their most recent top-flight home defeat.
Home defeats against Brighton & Hove Albion have been all too familiar for those of an Arsenal persuasion since the Seagulls soared into the top flight, but Roberto De Zerbi’s team had their wings clipped at the Emirates last weekend, where Mikel Arteta’s men regained their rightful place at the top of the standings.
One week on from an agonising 1-0 loss to Aston Villa – where the Gunners were also their own worst enemies in front of goal – a similar story unfolded in the first half of Sunday’s encounter, but Arsenal ensured that their earlier missed opportunities would not come back to haunt them thanks to Gabriel Jesus’s header and Kai Havertz’s fourth goal from seven games in the second period.
Victory over the team led by De Zerbi – who boldly claimed that Arsenal are currently the best team in the land – ensured that the Gunners would be looking down on the other 19 Premier League teams for at least a couple of hours, and Arteta’s side could now top the rankings on Christmas Day for the second year running.
Of course, the ‘winter champions’ tag was rendered meaningless for Arsenal at the end of the 2022-23 season, but with Manchester City enduring a December drought and also postponing their title charge to battle for Club World Cup glory, the time is nigh for the Gunners to lay down another title marker.
Arteta’s charges may have fallen short at the Villa Park fortress on December 9, but not since May 2022 have the Gunners lost back-to-back Premier League games on rival turf, and from their previous six away losses before being stunted in the West Midlands, Arsenal won their next road match on each occasion.
A pair of high-scoring spectaculars last season saw Arsenal sink Liverpool 3-2 at the Emirates before being held to a 2-2 draw, where the Reds came from 2-0 down to snatch a share of the spoils, but not since the days of Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla in 2012 have the Gunners emerged triumphant from a top-flight Anfield encounter