We’ve grown accustomed to wake-up calls as Gooners in recent years.
As we cycled through stages of recovery – from rock bottom to false signals of hope all the way through to full-blown renaissances that never materialised – we time and again came up against the proven best.
And fell short every time.
But our recent loss against Liverpool was not like that. Not by a long shot.
One win in the last 13 games against Klopp’s outfit highlights the disparity there has been between our side and the Merseysiders. At times we have been toyed with, cast aside like an unruly toddler who has had enough of the rattle and wants a new plaything to robustly play with.
Bobby Firmino, Mo Salah, Sadio Mane, they have cut us to ribbons. In more recent games, Diogo Jota has come in and enjoyed the free-for-all.
And we have had nothing to retaliate with. We have had to bite our lip, stand up to the gulf in class and hope that Liverpool have an off-day.
Or at least sampled our speciality lasagne.
It hasn’t come – and it didn’t on 16 March. We still lost the game and Klopp saw his team keep the beat with tabletoppers Manchester City with a 2-0 win.
But the scoreline tells precious little of the whole story.
If you were there, then you will be able to testify that The Emirates was rocking. And this is somewhat of a pattern this season. We can see the promising buds on our branches. This team is made from different stuff. We can say goodbye to the brittle, aimless sides of the short-lived Emery era. We can forget about the rubbish that Arteta was left with and gamefully tried to shape into a half-decent outfit.
This side has stepped up. It has been carefully formed by Arteta and right-hand man Edu. From the goalkeeper to the defence, which is the most formidable we have seen since Mertesacker and Koscielny were partnered, through to the midfield (which is seeing the duo of Xhaka and Partey reaping dividends after some diligent work on the training ground) and finally to a young, vibrant attack that is malleable in its approach.
We have an eleven that can forge onwards. If given time, it can grow into something that allows us to aim for our former glories again.
And against Liverpool, for the first 45 minutes, we showed the Scousers that we will be coming for them soon. The much-heralded pressing of Liverpool was effortlessly passed around, we moved quickly and stuck to our gameplan. There was no fixed positions in the final third – apart from one player – Trent Alexander Arnold, who was more often than not on the turf with twisted limbs in a vain effort to stop the Brazilian tornado that is Gabriel Martinelli.
We were brave. We were quick, we were dangerous. And above all, what was abundantly clear? We would run through walls for Arteta. The entire team is fully behind what is forming at London Colney. When Liverpool got possession, it was our press that was in full effect. We were winning the ball all over the pitch and the Reds had no answer.
We needed to capitalise on this supremacy and that is where we failed. The match hinged on one point. No, it wasn’t Ramsdale’s poor effort to keep out Jota’s opener. Ramsdale has pulled off superhuman saves this season enough to warrant avoidance of the blame game.
No, it was Allison’s stop from Odegaard.
Lacazette had taken the Brazilian stoper out of the game and his pass to Odegaard left the Norwegian with nearly an open goal. For once, the mercurial playmaker dallied and by the time he did shoot, Allison managed to scramble back and get something on his goalbound effort.
It should’ve been 1-0 to The Arsenal, but instead, a minute later, we were a goal down.
And that is the difference.
Liverpool were by far second best. But one instant and they capitalised.
We don’t have that yet.
But this game showed we have enough to grow into. When the young kids have another year under their belt. When Arteta’s plan is completely ingrained into the players so it is second nature. When we have a little more meat on our bones in terms of squad depth.
And most importantly, when we have a ruthless striker in place. Lacazette has been a revelation in his new role, but we need a twenty goal a season man as well.
This match may have been lost, but it was the clearest signal yet that this Arsenal team is well on its way to contention.
Keep the faith Gooners. Arsenal are coming back – and Pep Guardiola’s claims about Arteta being capable of helping our club get back to the glory days, might just be happening.