Arsenal blew the Premier League title race wide open with a deserved 3-1 victory over a 10-man Liverpool in a chaotic and error-strewn encounter at the Emirates Stadium.
It was a tale of three defensive calamities in North London, where Bukayo Saka’s simple finish propelled Arsenal into the lead, before Jurgen Klopp’s side were gifted a route back into the game via a freak Gabriel Magalhaes own goal.
However, Gabriel’s blushes were spared when Gabriel Martinelli restored the hosts’ advantage thanks to an uncharacteristic mix-up between Virgil van Dijk and Alisson Becker, who were also culpable for an injury-time Leandro Trossard strike as Mikel Arteta’s men moved to within two points of the league leaders.
Both managers were forced into unwanted changes for the mouthwatering encounter, which neither Gabriel Jesus nor Dominik Szoboszlai were passed fit for, while Conor Bradley also missed out for the visitors due to his father’s death.
Kai Havertz and Jorginho were brought into the first XI for the hosts, who started on the front foot and arguably should have been ahead in the 11th minute, as Gabriel Martinelli left Ibrahima Konate in his wake with a blistering run and crossed for Saka, who could not direct his header on target.
Just a couple of moments later, Liverpool had their first sighter of goal when Alexis Mac Allister slipped in Cody Gakpo – who was being played onside by Arsenal’s full-backs – but the Dutchman dragged his shot wide.
Arsenal were quickly in the ascendancy again, though, and with 14 minutes gone, Odegaard played a delicate pass into Kai Havertz – who lost his one-on-one battle with Alisson Becker – but Saka was there to pick up the pieces and finish into an empty net.
Virgil van Dijk was culpable for Saka’s opener – being dragged out of position and leaving acres of space for Havertz to run in behind – but it took a crucial block from the Dutchman to deny Odegaard doubling Arsenal’s lead in the 21st minute after Trent Alexander-Arnold was caught in possession.
Arsenal’s urgency went down a tad as the half progressed, but the Gunners were still comfortably stifling a disjointed Liverpool side, who were evidently feeling the absences of Szoboszlai and Darwin Nunez while also being dominated by Declan Rice and the impressive Jorginho in the midfield.
A rare strike from Gabriel from the edge of the box in the 38th minute saw Alisson make a simple save, but the former was then guilty of a farcical own goal at the other end of the field, as Liverpool levelled against the run of play on the stroke of half time.
Ryan Gravenberch attempted to find the run of Luis Diaz with a chipped ball over the top, and William Saliba tried to usher the ball back to David Raya under pressure from the Colombian. However, the Spaniard hesitated, and Diaz managed to poke the ball into the mixer, where Gabriel inadvertently turned the ball into his own net via his hand.
Neither Raya nor Saliba – who opted against hoofing the ball into touch – had covered themselves in glory for Liverpool’s undeserved leveller, and Arteta sent his team out for the second half with Jakub Kiwior taking the place of Oleksandr Zinchenko at left-back.
As Gooners feared, their side were immediately on the back foot at the start of the second period, where Curtis Jones came agonisingly close to giving Liverpool the lead in the 48th minute, but his curler flashed just wide as the Reds remained without a single shot on target.
That chance would finally arrive in the 62nd minute as Diaz cut inside from the left and let fly, and while the winger’s shot was straight into Raya’s midriff, Liverpool were the ones with the momentum.
However, if Gabriel’s own goal in the first half was a defensive disaster, Van Dijk and Alisson combined for an even worse blunder in the 67th minute, as Arsenal regained the lead in comical circumstances.
Gabriel sent a long ball over the top for Martinelli to chase, and the Brazilian could not believe his luck as Van Dijk and an onrushing Alisson got in each other’s way, presenting the Arsenal attacker with an empty net to roll the ball into.
While Van Dijk took a slight nudge in the back from Martinelli, Alisson inexplicably jumped over the ball to gift his compatriot the easiest goal he will ever score, and the Emirates faithful were suddenly in full voice once more.
Bukayo Saka gingerly walking off alongside a physio was an eyesore, though, while Martinelli also looked miffed as he was hauled off for Leandro Trossard; a notable substitution on Liverpool’s end also saw Thiago Alcantara come on for his first appearance in over nine months.
The Gunners had a magnificent chance to kill the game off in the 84th minute, as Kiwior made a brilliant run to meet Odegaard’s cross, but the Pole was not the man Arteta wanted on the end of that delivery; he headed straight at Alisson with nobody else around him.
However, the North London crowd would rejoice again in the 88th minute, albeit for disciplinary reasons rather than an insurance goal, as Ibrahima Konate – already on a yellow card for bringing down Havertz – blocked the German from launching forward on the counter-attack and took the walk of shame.
Any wafer-thin hopes of a Reds fightback were dashed with the Frenchman’s dismissal, and the tie was put to bed in the second minute of injury time, as Trossard spun away from Harvey Elliott, raced down the left wing and finished through Alisson’s legs at his near post, with the help of a slight deflection off of Van Dijk’s studs.
A London derby with West Ham United is next on the Arsenal agenda for February 11, one day after Liverpool welcome Burnley to their Anfield base bidding to – at least temporarily – restore their five-point lead over the second-placed Gunners.