Arsenal proved their doubters wrong with a commanding 3-1 victory over Premier League leaders Liverpool to move to within two points of the Reds.
The Gunners suffered two consecutive defeats late in December and were written off, but three wins in January have restored confidence despite missing star striker Gabriel Jesus for the fixture.
Arsenal took the lead in the first half through Bukayo Saka and looked to have controlled the game heading into half-time, but poor defending from William Saliba allowed Luiz Diaz to poke the ball which deflected off Gabriel Magalhaes for an own goal just before the break.
The Gunners regained control of the game in the second half when Liverpool made a mistake of their own after Alisson and Virgil van Dijk could not communicate effectively which allowed Gabriel Martinelli to convert into an empty net. Substitute Leandro Trossard added the third late on to ensure that there would be no last-minute drama to seal an impressive win for the Gunners.
3 best Arsenal players from statement win over Liverpool
1. Bukayo Saka
This was a game that needed the big players to step up and Saka stepped up for Arsenal with a goal in the 14th minute after missing a glorious chance to score. It was a game of fine margins that needed full concentration, and he delivered at both ends of the pitch, putting in defensive work as much as threatening the Liverpool defence.
Saka’s goal made him just the second Premier League player this season to score more than ten goals (11) and provide more than ten assists (12) across all competitions – along with Liverpool’s Darwin Nunez.
Apart from his goal, Saka attempted three shots in the game (joint-highest with Havertz), one on-target and one blocked shot. He was taken off in the 79th minute after he appeared to have injured himself in the game but it was a fruitful game for Arsenal starboy and had the Liverpool defence on their toes.
2. Kai Havertz
The German was picked ahead of Eddie Nketiah in the No 9 position after Gabriel Jesus was not named in the matchday squad due to injury. Havertz became a perfect target man for Arsenal, winning aerial duels and destabilising Liverpool's central defenders with his movement. The first goal came after he won the ball in his own half, played a pass and kept running into the space left behind by Van Dijk after the Liverpool captain was drawn to mark Martin Odegaard at the centre circle. His well-timed run into pace enabled Odegaard to pick him with a pass. His attempt was not good but it rebounded off Alisson for Saka to score.
His strength caused Ibrahima Konate problems all game which resulted in two yellows and a sending-off for the powerful Frenchman late in the game. Havertz attempted three shots, two of which were on target, and he also won more fouls (three) in the game than anyone else.
The former Chelsea player always thrived in games against the big teams and was excellent all afternoon against Liverpool.
3. Gabriel Martinelli
Gabriel Martinelli always scores against Liverpool. The Brazilian has scored five goals against the Reds, his joint-most against an opponent for Arsenal (level with Crystal Palace). In addition, no player has been directly involved in more Premier League goals against Liverpool since the start of last season (five – three goals, two assists).
He had a good game this time around against Konate compared to the last two matches this season in which he was dominated by the Frenchman. This time, he was direct and precise, always looking to beat the defender with his pace.
His willingness to run was rewarded with a goal after he had a go at Gabriel Magalhaes’ long ball which surprisingly caused Liverpool defense problems and presented him with one of the simplest jobs to put the ball in the back of an empty net.
Despite not being able to hit the high standards he set for himself last season, Martinelli has scored two important goals already this season. The winner against Manchester City and this goal against Liverpool in a game of huge pressure.