Arsenal vs Liverpool: the battle for fourth place has never looked this good.
By Kurt Ganapathy
Featured photo: Premier League
English football is home to some of the game’s most tempestuous local derbies. From the North East, to Manchester and Liverpool, to the West Midlands, through London and down to the South Coast, battles for bragging rights are fought across the country. Rivalries don’t often cross great distances, but there are a few intercity matches that should carry the weight of a derby. Here’s why Arsenal vs Liverpool is on that list.
1) The goals
Whenever Arsenal plays Liverpool, a feast of football is almost guaranteed – 22 goals have been scored in their last five meetings. The two clubs have produced a number of memorable scorelines for neutrals in the last decade including an improbable 3-6 result in favor of Arsenal in the League Cup back in 2007; a 4-4 in 2009 with Andrey Arshavin scoring all four goals for the Gunners; and a 4-3 win for Liverpool on the opening day of the 2016-17 season.
2) The history
Arsenal vs Liverpool is a fixture almost as old as the Football League itself – they first played each other as Second Division teams in 1893 – but if there’s one match that cements it as one of England’s great rivalries, we have to revisit May 26, 1989. In fact, the match is so iconic, it has a Wiki page to its name.
Heading into the final day of the 1988-89 First Division season, Liverpool led Arsenal by three points with a goal difference of +39 compared to Arsenal’s +35. As luck would have it, the two teams would face off on that day of reckoning with Arsenal needing to win by at least two goals at Anfield to snatch the title.
With the clock ticking into injury time, the Gunners led 1-0, and Liverpool looked to have held off their challenge, but the match wasn’t over. In a move that started from their goalkeeper, Arsenal stormed forward, and the ball broke for Michael Thomas who slotted home. Arsenal had won the title on goals scored. Brian Moore’s exclamation of “It’s up for grabs now!” as Thomas neared goal is up there with Martin Tyler’s “Aguerooooooo!” at the pinnacle of football commentary.
3. The trajectories
Liverpool would rebound from the heartache of 1988-89 by winning the title the next year, but as of 2017, that remains their last taste of league glory. Jokes about Liverpool’s lack of success have somewhat blunted the magnitude of their drought, but it’s incredible to think that one of English football’s most successful clubs has not won its biggest prize in a generation.
Similarly, Arsenal has now endured more than 10 years of mediocrity – their title winning seasons of 1997-98, 2001-02 and 2003-04 become more mythical with each passing day.
Still, Liverpool and Arsenal are second and third respectively behind Manchester United for titles won, and their trajectories are now aligned: two faltering giants hoping to emerge from the wilderness and challenge for the big trophies once again. In the meantime, we can be certain of a fascinating fight for the last Champions League spot every season.
4. The fans
A club’s lack of success can decimate its fan base, particularly out in Singapore where loyalties are difficult to maintain without silverware.
You don’t see too many Blackburn Rovers or Leeds United jerseys around town, though they were at the top of the heap in the 90s. Even the once-weekly “Glory Glory Man United” posts on Facebook thinned out before resurfacing in the Mourinho era.
But fans of Arsenal and Liverpool are true believers. Supporting their clubs is not a casual, part-time affair; it’s a way of life. They are united (no pun intended) in their approach to sticking it out through the bad times with hopes of better days, accepting jabs at their failures in good humor.
5. The fantasy football stars
Even if you don’t support either club, the fortunes of Arsenal and Liverpool can have a big impact on your fantasy football numbers.
Deciding between Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil, Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino caused many headaches last season with both clubs also offering bang-for-your-buck defenders.
New signings for Arsenal and Liverpool, Alexandre Lacazette and Mohamed Salah respectively, will add to their intertwined fates on the cold field of fantasy football, where allegiances are rarely fixed.
Catch the Arsenal vs Liverpool match at 11pm (GMT +8) on Sunday, August 27.