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Unai Emery wants to write a new history at Arsenal. It is one of his buzz phrases and he reaches for it at every available opportunity. In terms of the club’s travails against big-six opposition, which admittedly pre-date him by some years, this was another frustrating result. The statistics show that Arsenal have now won only three of their last 28 such fixtures. Emery had started his reign with back-to-back defeats against Manchester City and Chelsea.
And yet there was plenty to like about how his team performed in a blood-and-thunder contest. They brought the passion, they created chances, mainly in the first half, and they were full value for their late equaliser, expertly finished by Alexandre Lacazette. The striker nipped on to a pass from the substitute Alex Iwobi and outfoxed Alisson, who had been lured off his line, before curling home.
At full-time the home crowd applauded their players. Liverpool were annoyed, having led through James Milner. They appeared set to see the game out and would have felt they created the clearer-cut chances. On the upside, they remain unbeaten. They might have signed for the point beforehand. They would not have done in the closing stages.
The tempo was breathless and the action open, and Liverpool must have wondered how they did not take the lead on 18 minutes. Trent Alexander-Arnold’s cross was floated beautifully and, having judged its bounce, Roberto Firmino lifted his shot over Bernd Leno and looked ready to celebrate only for the ball to rebound off the woodwork. Sadio Mané rolled the rebound in to the empty net but was flagged for offside.
Mané had been in front of the last defender when Alexander-Arnold played the pass and, from a position alongside Firmino, he appeared to be influencing the play. But when Firmino took his shot, Mané was behind him and the ball – in other words, he was onside for the second phase of play. The flag had not gone up during the first phase. Why not?
The near-miss fired Liverpool up and they enjoyed a purple patch in which they ought to have scored. Granit Xhaka jumped into a saving challenge on Mohamed Salah and Andy Robertson drilled straight at Leno but the big chance came in between, when Virgil van Dijk tiptoed into space behind Shkodran Mustafi.