Aside from yesterday, have there been any better games this season other than these five thrillers?
5. Arsenal 4 Leicester 3 (August 11)
The season got off to a thrilling Friday night start, with Arsenal showing everything about them that’s good, bad and inbetween.
The campaign was only 94 seconds old when its first goal arrived, and it was a first also for Alexandre Lacazette in English football, with the Frenchman becoming the fastest-scoring debutant in Premier League history. Typically, though, Arsenal were resolute for all of two minutes before Shinji Okazaki nodded Leicester level.
The first grumblings of the season from Arsenal fans were audible with less than half an hour on the clock, by which point the hosts trailed to Jamie Vardy’s strike. Danny Welbeck’s leveller in first-half added time settled the mood, but only for as long as half-time and the opening nine minutes of the second period, when Vardy struck again.
With the mood darkening at the Emirates, Arsene Wenger rolled back the years with an inspired double change. With seven minutes to go, Aaron Ramsey levelled matters before fellow substitute Olivier Giroud met Granit Xhaka’s corner with a header that crossed Kasper Schmeichel’s line via the crossbar.
4. Watford 3 Liverpool 3 (August 12)
‘How long must we wait for another thriller?’ we all pondered. It was a long and dark 14 and a half hours we had to endure before Watford and Liverpool served up a barnstormer.
Given Liverpool’s vulnerability on set-pieces last season, you might have expected the Reds to allocate a small portion of pre-season to practice defending them, but the evidence after eight minutes, when Stefano Okaka wandered in to head home a corner from three yards, suggested otherwise.
In typical fashion, Liverpool equalised when Sadio Mane rounded off a slick and incisive move, but Abdoulaye Doucoure quietened the travelling Reds three minutes later by restoring the hosts’ lead, which they took into half-time.
Mo Salah gave a taste of what was to come by grabbing the second half by the scruff of the neck, first by winning a penalty that was dispatched by Roberto Firmino before putting his new side ahead for the first time.
Liverpool dominated without putting Watford to bed. And they were obviously punished late on when they conceded a shambolic equaliser to Miguel Britos, who bundled the ball into the net from barely six inches following the visitors’ repeated inability to defend a right-wing corner.
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3. Tottenham 4 Liverpool 1 (October 22)
Another woeful defensive display from Liverpool contributed to another thriller but on this occasion, Klopp’s attack couldn’t bail out his ropey rearguard.
Dejan Lovren bore the brunt of it; he was hooked after 31 minutes. As Jordan Henderson said, “it could have been any of us that came off,” but Lovren was guilty of defending like a drunk toddler to allow Tottenham their first two goals, which were partially answered by Mo Salah’s strike on 24 minutes.
Spurs’ third was another set-piece shambles, with five Reds retreating into the box to defend a free-kick hoisted towards Harry Kane on his own, leaving Dele Alli completely free to volley in just before half-time. Having rushed from his line to give Kane an open goal for the striker’s early opener, Simon Mignolet did so again, flapping at a corner which was eventually bundled in to put Liverpool out of sight on what Klopp described as “a really average day for us”. It left them in ninth place in the Premier League table, below Watford, Newcastle and Burnley.
2. Arsenal 1 Man Utd 3 (December 2)
Continuing the theme of dodgy defending, the porous Gunners met a resolute United side that ruthlessly punished the hosts’ mistakes to leave the Emirates with their three sweetest points of the season so far.
Following errors by Laurent Koscielny and Shkodran Mustafi, Antonio Valencia and Jesse Lingard put United 2-0 up inside the opening 11 minutes of a first half that produced 20 shots on goal.
Arsenal finally broke David de Gea and United’s resistance early in the second period, with Lacazette lashing home following an assist from Ramsey that still no-one is quite sure that he meant. Lingard then hit the post before De Gea produced a stunning double save that probably broke the Gunners’ fragile spirit.
If not, then Lingard made sure when he rounded off another swift counter that was led by Paul Pogba on 63 minutes. Pogba saw only another 11 minutes of action before he was red-carded, ruling United’s talisman out of the derby the following week, but United had at least finally found the balance between attack and defence in the big games away from Old Trafford. Some Arsenal supporters still claimed a moral victory owing to their 33 shots on goal, but Mourinho enjoyed his first win on the road in 12 attempts against the big six.
1. Arsenal 3 Liverpool 3 (December 22)
These two sides frustrate like few others in the Premier League but their respective flaws and their managers’ apparent refusal to address them lead to both being involved in more than their fair share of thrillers.
So absolutely no-one was surprised to see the Gunners and Reds engage in another ding-dong which offered yet more disastrous defending in tandem with ruthless attacking play.
Philippe Coutinho scored his only headed goal in English football to give Liverpool a half-time lead, with Salah stroking in a second seven minutes after the break. Then Arsenal came alive as the Reds immediately switched off.
Joe Gomez, apparently oblivious to Alexis Sanchez’s presence, allowed the Chilean to stroll on to a right-wing cross to halve the deficit, three minutes before Mignolet dropped his customary bollock by waving Xhaka’s customary speculative 30-yarder into the net.
Within seven minutes of going 2-0 down, Arsenal unbelievably found themselves ahead when Mesut Ozil and Lacazette combined brilliantly before the German cleverly put the ball over Mignolet as the keeper spread himself.
Of course, with more than half an hour remaining and Arsenal being Arsenal, there was never much danger of the score staying the same. Firmino was allowed to receive the ball on the 18-yard line in the centre of the goal and take two touches before dispatching a shot that Petr Cech parried into the air. With absolute inevitability the ball looped up and rather than bounce to safety, it wound up in the roof of the Gunners’ net.
The point did little for either team but, frankly, no-one cared.