One of the oldest rivalries in English football is that between Arsenal and Liverpool.
Games between these two old clubs may not bring with them the same passion and animosity as the North London or Merseyside derbies, but they are usually keenly fought, not least because both clubs have been at or near the top of English football for decades.
Their first encounter came when both were in the second tier. On 28th October 1894, Liverpool beat Arsenal 5-0, and followed up by winning 2-0 the following January. A little over a decade later, Arsenal exacted their revenge, winning 3-1 to clinch the first ever top-flight game between the two clubs, on 2nd September 1905. 219 games, 113 seasons and 30 league titles later and Arsenal versus Liverpool still captures the imagination of neutrals.
Over the course of the last century, the relative fortunes of these two great clubs have ebbed and flowed. Arsenal were the dominant force of the 1930s, while Liverpool enjoyed a prolonged spell of success from the early 1970s. The advent of the Premier League and the arrival of Arsène Wenger swung things back in Arsenal’s favour, but the Reds have drawn level in recent seasons, finishing ahead of the Gunners twice in the last four years.
This campaign has seen Liverpool push ahead, and if you want to bet on Arsenal to finish in the top four in the Premier League this season, or win next year’s title, you’ll be able to get a bigger price on the Gunners in most sports betting markets than on their northern rivals.
At the moment, the Arsenal-Liverpool rivalry is between two clubs on the fringes of the Premiership title race, as the Gunners attempt to recapture the golden days of the Invincibles and Liverpool strive to reassert their once unassailable domestic dominance. Go back a few decades, however, and matches between Arsenal and Liverpool were title-deciding affairs.
Their most famous meeting to date remains the epic final game of the 1988-1989 season, when the Gunners travelled to Anfield needing to pull off a miracle and win by two clear goals to snatch the league title – and a second double – from Liverpool’s grasp. On that occasion, the Arsenal defence held firm throughout the first half, and Alan Smith gave them the lead early in the second, but the title seemed to be heading to Liverpool until Michael Thomas’s buccaneering late run through the Liverpool defence sealed a remarkable 2-0 victory. That game and the drama surrounding it has become part of English football folklore.
Among the more remarkable fixtures involving these clubs was the Carling Cup tie in January 2007 at Anfield. Four first-half goals, including a brace from Júlio Baptista, stunned the home crowd and sent the Gunners into a 4-1 half-time lead. Baptista completed his hat-trick on the hour mark, but a spirited Liverpool comeback saw Liverpool score twice through Steven Gerrard and Sami Hyypiä, before Baptista settled the nerves of the travelling Arsenal supporters with his fourth goal six minutes from time.
That wasn’t Arsenal’s biggest win over Liverpool, however. To find that record, you have to go back to the 1930s when Herbert Chapman’s Arsenal side was carrying all before them. During the 1934-35 season, which ended with the Gunners claiming their fourth league title, Arsenal scored 74 goals, handing out 8-0 drubbings to Leicester and Middlesbrough, and gave an early statement of intent when they thrashed Liverpool 8-1 on 1st September 1934.
This high-scoring tendency has also been a feature of the most recent meetings between the clubs, as Jürgen Klopp’s attacking style has gone head to head with Wenger’s progressive football philosophy. In fact, their last five Premier League fixtures have produced an astonishing 27 goals at an average of 5.4 per match.
Their latest meeting, just before Christmas at the Emirates Stadium, was typical of these modern end-to-end affairs. Liverpool took a first-half lead through Philippe Coutinho, and when Mohamed Salah increased their advantage on 52 minutes, things looked bleak for the Gunners. However, the game was turned on its head in the space of five minutes as Alexis Sánchez, Granit Xhaka and Mesut Özil all found the back of the net to give the home side the lead, only for Roberto Firmino to rescue a point for the enterprising visitors.
With breakneck entertainment like that being par for the course in recent seasons, this is fast becoming the fixture that all neutrals look forward to every year, and as Arsenal push to reestablish themselves in the top four and Liverpool try to do the same, that rivalry is sure to lead to many more nail-biting thrillers between these two great clubs.