Liverpool continued their unbeaten start to the season o leave Arsenal winless at home in two Premier League games after an pulsating goalless draw at the Emirates. Despite the scoreline, chances and near-escapes were plentiful at both ends. Liverpool, excellent in the first half, were frustrated not only by the woodwork on a couple of occasions, but by two outstanding saves from Petr Cech. Having wrongly been denied an Aaron Ramsey goal by an errant offside flag early on, Arsenal bounced back from an error-strewn opening 45 minutes, to apply increasing pressure to the Liverpool penalty area after the interval, but ultimately without reward.
While they could easily have been in front after the first half, it will be Liverpool that go home the happier of the two sides. Following opening 1-0 wins over Stoke City and Bournemouth, this was a third consecutive clean sheet. And, while there were some nervy moments in the early stages, there was evidence that manger Brendan Rodgers is finally delivering a more solid defensive outfit. For this encounter, he was without his captain Jordan Henderson as well as Adam Lallana, but shrewdly reinforced his midfield with the introduction of Emre Can and Lucas Leiva. Further forward Roberto Firmino came in for an encouraging first start in a Liverpool shirt.
Arsenal were more hampered by their own pair of absences. Center-backs Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesakcer were both ruled out and Garbiel and particularly Calum Chambers struggled, especially in the early going. But for Arsenal, there is no getting away from the fact that four points from their opening three matches constitutes a disappointing return in which a season where ending their long wait for a Premier League title is the stated ambition,
And on Monday there was a worrying reappearance of the laxness that proved costly in a 2-0 home defeat to West Ham on the opening day. A more clinical side than Liverpool proved to be could well have seen Arsenal on the end of a first-half pummeling similar to the 5-1 destruction Liverpool inflicted on them 18 months ago.
After the first 15 minutes it was hard to work out how the match remained without a goal as both sides indulged in some suicidal defending. Within three minutes the crossbar had been rattled by Philippe Coutinho after Christian Benteke easily ran clear of Gabriel and laid the ball square. Soon after at the other end some even more comical defending from Liverpool’s James Milner and Martin Skrtel almost allowed Arsenal to go in front, before they were denied by an errant flag from the assistant referee. Aaron Ramsey was clearly onside as Santi Cazorla played a delightful pass into his path, but, having beaten Simon Mignolet, his celebrations were cut short.
While Arsenal remained in charge of possession, for the remainder of the first half it was the visitors who were executing their game plan by far the better. Happy to hold back in their 4-1-4-1 formation, Liverpool pounced incisively when given the opportunity. And with Arsenal playing a succession of sloppy passes out of the back, the Merseysiders had plenty of opportunities to exploit.
Chambers was having a particularly rough time in the center of the defense, but the errors weren’t limited to the former Southampton man. Only two outstanding saves from Cech kept the hosts level going into the halftime internal. His first stop was pretty special, somehow denying Benteke from four yards when most, including manager Rodgers, were waiting for the net to bulge.
But Cech’s second memorable stop was perhaps even better. Coutinho displayed some outstanding skill to bamboozle Hector Bellerin before curling a shot from the left side of the box that appeared destined for the far side of the net. Again, though, Cech wasn’t to be beaten, diving at full stretch to get enough of his fingertips to the ball to turn it onto the post and erase the memories of his unfortunate first Emirates outing in an Arsenal shirt.
It was hard to think that Arsenal could be as bad after the interval, and so it proved. Increasingly Wenger’s men put better spells of possession together, forcing the visitors back. A breakthrough goal, though, was to elude them. At the end of two typically fine Arsenal passing moves, first Alexis Sanchez could only strike against the outside of the post, and then Olivier Giroud, perhaps under contact from Dejan Lovren, fell and couldn’t get a clean strike away when put clean through.
At the end, a draw was perhaps just, but the lack of goals certainly wasn’t.