LONDON -- Mikel Arteta's side proved why they are top of the table in the Premier League after beating Liverpool 3-2 at the Emirates. Arsenal's Gabriel Martinelli opened the scoring in the first minute of the match and despite equalising twice, Liverpool were left chasing the game.
The Gunners stay one point ahead of Manchester City and and 14 points ahead of Jurgen Klopp's side, a massive gap for the Reds to recover over the rest of the season.
1. Martinelli and Bukayo Saka sparkle as Arsenal edge towards title contender status
It is getting harder and harder for Mikel Arteta to deny Arsenal are in this season's title race. Last weekend's victory over Tottenham was impressive, but beating a Liverpool side that has achieved so much under Jurgen Klopp feels like the statement win this team was waiting for. Emirates Stadium has rarely sounded louder, inspired by the ferocious energy from Gabriel Martinelli, Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Jesus, a front three in devastating form at present.
Contrast that with another subdued display from Mohamed Salah, who was on the game's periphery throughout and with Luis Diaz forced off through injury, this was another occasion in which Sadio Mane felt sorely missed. Arsenal benefitted from an inviting fixture list at the start of the season but they have built a positive momentum which has helped take them to deserved wins over two top-four rivals in successive weekends. Manchester City are clear favourites for the title but Arsenal are rapidly reaching the point where they could prove to be Pep Guardiola's main rivals. Special mention, too, for Saka, who successfully converted the most important spot-kick he has taken since missing in the Euro 2020 final shoot-out for England.
2. Mind the gap as Arsenal go 14 points ahead of Liverpool
It is only October and just most teams have played just nine Premier League games. Liverpool have a game in hand. But the sheer size of the gap between Arsenal and Liverpool should nevertheless be of huge concern to Klopp, given it now stands at 14 points.
A sign of Arsenal's persistent threat came with through having 46 touches in Liverpool's box -- more than they had in the previous five league meetings combined (44). Liverpool have only conceded a higher figure once under Klopp: 48 versus Man City in November 2019.
The unprecedented situation of a World Cup splitting the domestic season in two parts makes the second half of the campaign even more unpredictable and so points on the board now could prove even more important than usual. Liverpool have plenty of time to recover but Klopp was already downbeat about his team's title chances before this defeat and now they are 13 points behind Manchester City and even ten behind Tottenham, who occupy third place. This is now Liverpool's worst start in a decade.
3. Change of system does little to halt Liverpool's defensive errors
Against Rangers in midweek, Jurgen Klopp moved away from his tried and trusted 4-3-3 shape for the first time in 79 games to play 4-2-3-1. They secured a win and a clean sheet but utilising the same formation in this much sterner test was a big gamble in an effort to shake his team from their defensive slumber.
Although they enjoyed a degree of control in the middle part of the first half, Liverpool bookended the opening 45 minutes with two awful pieces of defending, both involving Trent Alexander-Arnold, whose weaknesses have been exposed on a regular basis this season. Liverpool have now conceded the first goal in 10 of 12 matches this season and Klopp's search for some sort of stability goes on.
Arsenal: Ramsdale 7, White 6, Saliba 7, Gabriel 6, Tomiyasu 7, Partey 7, Saka 8, Odegaard 7, Xhaka 6, Martinelli 9, Jesus 8.
Subs: Tierney 6, Nketiah 6, Vieira 6.
Best and worst performers
Klopp often singles out Martinelli as a top talent and he was proved right today in a tireless display which ran Liverpool ragged.
Both Arsenal goals came down his flank but the second goal was particularly embarrassing from his point of view. An ankle injury triggered his half-time substitution but it may also have come as a relief.
Highlights and notable moments
Martinelli opened the scoring in the first minute to put Arsenal ahead at the Emirates.
Darwin Nunez scored his second goal of the season, ending a goal drought since Aug. 6.
Firmino's goal brought Liverpool level again at 2-2.
Saka gave Arsenal the lead again after scoring from the penalty spot.
After the match: What the managers, players said
Jurgen Klopp: "We're not in the race. Imagine I would sit here and think 'we are nearly there, wait.' Look, we saw a lot of things. So, we have problems at the moment but we caused the team in form, the leader of the table, massive problems today. Even in a really bad situation for us, with early changes and stuff like this, we caused them real problems. That's the truth as well. We have to continue."
Key Stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information)
- Gabriel Martinelli's goal is the first by Arsenal in the first minute (58 secs) of a Premier League match since May 2013 (Theo Walcott, 20 secs)
- Darwin Nunez snaps a streak of 304 minutes without a goal for Liverpool in all competitions (1st goal since Aug. 6 vs Fulham on match day 1)
- Bukayo Saka is a perfect 3 of 3 on career Premier League penalty kicks
- This is already the most goals in a Liverpool-Arsenal game in any competition since Oct. 2019, when both teams drew 5-5 in a legendary Carabao Cup match
- Gabriel Martinelli is the youngest Arsenal player to score and assist against Liverpool in the Premier League (21 years 113 days)
- Roberto Firmino: 6 goals in the last 5 PL matches. Arsenal is the the team he has scored the most goals against in his PL career (10)
Arsenal: The Gunners play Bodo/Glimt next on Oct. 13 in the Europa League, followed by a visit to Leeds United in the Premier League on Oct. 16, and then a home match against PSV on Oct. 20. Arsenal are off to a good start in domestic and European competition, and look favorites to top their group in the Europa League.
Liverpool: The Reds face Rangers next in the Champions League on Oct. 12 after beating them 2-0 in last week's meeting, before hosting an in-form Man City in the Premier League on Oct. 16, followed by a home game against West Ham United. Liverpool will hope to turn things around after a stuttering start to the season and points gained against top teams like Arsenal and Man City will be a massive boost.