AHEAD of this weekend’s clash with Arsenal, TAW contributors look back on nine times Liverpool have slapped ‘the Arse’.
August 17, 1985: Liverpool 2 Arsenal 0
“DO you know these men?”
The start of a new football season, the traditional warm August afternoon for the visit of Arsenal, and the first game under new player-manager Kenny Dalglish. A short queue on Walton Breck Road, with just enough time to clock any new fashions, before catching the glare of Anfield’s green baize reflecting the summer sunshine.
Then, a jolt to the system as you open your match programme on the steps of The Kop and out falls an A5 Merseyside Police flyer with mug-shots of Liverpool fans on the terraces in Brussels at the ill-fated European Cup final.
A stark reminder that this was the first game since the Heysel Stadium disaster and that the eyes of the world are still on Liverpool. Club chairman, John Smith wrote in the same programme: “Last season was a disaster for English football.” Smith stated further, with some hyperbole, the domestic game: “simply cannot go through another season like it if it is to survive as a sport.” ‘Behave or else’, might have been a simpler way of putting it.
To set a commemorative tone for Heysel’s victims, and convey a clear message of sympathy and apology, the club organised a short ceremony conducted by local religious leaders, to be concluded by the singing of ‘Abide with Me’.
When the tannoy system on The Kop failed with the service and hymn barely audible to supporters, Kopites responded in the only way they could by singing a plaintive, somewhat moving rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone”. With flags seen on the terraces in Brussels – bearing the colours of both Liverpool and Juventus – flying on The Kop it was a fitting reaction from a crowd trying desperately to hit the right note.
Such was the prevailing mood towards Liverpudlians however; the Sunday papers reported the response differently – the general consensus being that Liverpool fans had interrupted the ceremony and shown a lack of respect and remorse. Mud sticks.
Dalglish might also have been optimistic that the opening game would allow Liverpool to “get the legacy of Brussels out of our system.” Although clearly referring to matters on the pitch, his words could otherwise be construed as clumsy to say the least.
In the long run though, Dalglish – as ever – was right. The Reds defeated Arsenal 2-0 with Ronnie Whelan and Steve Nicol headers from crosses supplied respectively by Jim Beglin and the player-boss himself. In midfield, Jan Molby strolled through the afternoon, spraying passes around at will.
The season was off to a winning start and the Reds had taken a first step since the club’s most shameful day.
The rest, of course, is history. Dalglish became as much a talisman for the club as a manager and Liverpool FC went on to record a unique league and FA Cup double. To this day it seems remarkable – and underappreciated – that Liverpool’s greatest player, at the age of 35, took on the role of manager, continued to play and achieved a feat never equalled to this day.
Off the field, Liverpool fans’ reputation wasn’t ever fully restored but the season, still played out against the backdrop of a terrace culture unrecognisable from today, was able to conclude with the epic story of 1985-86 largely centred on the pitch.
November 26, 1989: Liverpool 2 Arsenal 1
ARSENAL came to Anfield twice in 1989. On the first occasion, the end-of-season title decider in May, Michael Thomas seized our dreams, laid them out neatly in front of us and smashed them to a million tiny pieces with a massive fucking sledgehammer. The context of the game, and all that preceded it, meant that it was simultaneously the most painful and the most meaningless defeat in our history. It mattered so much and yet, at the same time, it didn’t matter at all. Not really.
In the immediate aftermath, struggling to process the reality of such heroic failure and fuelled by an excess of premium-strength giggle water, I wrestled with a bush and lost. Disappointment can do strange things to a man.
Fast-forward six months, to November 1989, and payback is most assuredly on the menu. Arsenal are again top of the table, Liverpool three points behind. We want this badly. We want revenge. We want to go back to May and re-run the game, put right all that went wrong, exorcise the demons.
And that’s what we do.
Two marvellous goals. The first a low drive from Steve McMahon from outside the box; the second a curling, dipping free-kick from John Barnes that defies all known laws of physics, geometry and nature. A late consolation from Sky’s human raincloud, Alan Smith, is shrugged off. A 2-1 win puts us top, and top is where we stay, finishing the season nine points clear of closest challengers, Aston Villa.
This time round, all shrubbery remains unmolested. It might not make up for Thomas but it’s a pretty satisfying way to end a chapter.
August 28, 1994: Liverpool 3 Arsenal 0
IT was the best of times. It was the worst of times. Four years since we’d won the league, the dreaded re-birth of Manchester United as a real force, and the great team of the ‘80s being dismantled before our eyes. As was The Kop.
I was sat – well, stood – in the back row of the Road End in the old away section that had been commandeered by refugee Kopites. At the far end of the ground was what can only be described as something that should be there not being there. Instead there was a painful gaping void like the wound left after a molar extraction. A view that had been a constant in all my years as a supporter was gone. As a wrench it was as deeply felt as Bill Shankly’s resignation in 1974 when another omnipresence for my generation was denied us. With the vast concrete mound and deeply shadowed cavern of The Spion Kop (1906-1994 R.I.P.) now gone, parts of the pitch were bathed in warm 3pm sunshine for the first time in 90 years.
There was a full house of just 30,000 in attendance to witness the Reds kick off the home season in some style. Having battered Crystal Palace away 6-1 the week before, Roy Evans new side, featuring fledgling figures like Robbie Fowler, Jamie Redknapp, Steve McManaman and greats like Ian Rush, Barnes and Nicol, absolutely battered Arsenal from the off.
In one whirlwind of action, a 19-year-old Fowler tore Arsenal a proverbial new one. A hat-trick in less than five minutes leaving George Graham’s experienced Gooners well and truly gonered. If you’d got the number 27 bus at the right time you’d have been able to see two of the goals from the top deck. The third would have hit the back of the net as you passed The Sandon. Nine goals in the opening two games. Hopes were high that the Graeme Souness years had been just a blip and that normal service was about to resume.
We finished fourth.
But at least King Kenny lifted the title at Anfield on the last day and brandished the trophy in front of the new Spion Kop.
We haven’t seen it since.
December 23, 2000: Liverpool 4 Arsenal 0
IT was a cold December morn. The whiff of pine needles filled the house from the far-too-big-for-the-living-room Christmas tree as I settled in to watch the Reds take on the Gunners just two days before Father Christmas would definitely bring me a new bike (he didn’t, the prick).
Just a week earlier, Gerard Houllier’s men had beaten Manchester United 1-0 at Old Trafford. Hopes were high but this Arsenal were good. Bloody good.
Arsene Wenger’s team included the likes of Patrick Vieira, Freddie Ljungberg, Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry. That didn’t matter to Houllier, who let his dogs out to run rampant over the unsuspecting Gunners. Stevie Gerrard thumped in what became a trademark hit into the bottom corner on 11 minutes. The strike was a thing of beauty, so sweet, so true, so Stevie.
Arsenal struggled to get back into the game and made a change at half-time, bringing Robert Pires on for Oleg Luzhny. That only served to let Liverpool put the game beyond them. Michael Owen on the hour mark, Nick Barmby 10 minutes later and Fowler rounded it off, because it was Arsenal and Robbie just scored against Arsenal. Even though he was at loggerheads with management and was only given 11 minutes on the pitch, he still managed to bag one.
Liverpool four Arsenal nil. Two wins against the top two in a week. Two clean sheets, five goals scored. What great Reds these Reds could be.
Then they went and lost 1-0 at Middlesbrough on Boxing Day, the pricks.
November 28, 2004: Liverpool 2 Arsenal 1
IT is hard to put over how good that Arsenal side was. It had just lost its unbeaten run at Old Trafford but had been 49 league games unbeaten prior to that. They were the champions.
And they were great. Really, really great.
The Reds that day were battered and bruised and patched up. Florent Sinama-Pongolle started as did Neil Mellor. It wasn’t a first choice Liverpool side at all. It was a fractured Liverpool. But there was a vibe around the game and a vibe around the side. They fought, Jamie Carragher out ran Henry, and belief started to come.
Then Xabi Alonso’s goal, the sort of goal which still makes you wonder why he didn’t score more. For all his legendary status within the game his return still isn’t what it should be considering how sweetly he could strike the ball.
The interesting thing follows – Gerrard to Rafa Benitez. Arms out, roaring. Benitez’s thumbs up. Here, right here, is a moment when a world-class footballer believes in a manager’s plan. That thing we worked on, with you Gaffer, that thing works. Imagine what else works. In all the Benitez/Gerrard semi-drama of the following five years it is moments like these which underpin everything.
Pongolle sends some Arsenal players for Paul Senior’s Echo but the game looks like it is petering out to a draw. Then Didi Hamann wins a free kick, Liverpool hit Harry Kewell – an underrated tactic, Kewell loved a header – it dropped to an exhausted Mellor and bang. The Reds. Ecstatic. Glorious. Magnificent. A last minute winner from over 20 yards. It’s there. It’s there. It’s there – and they deserve it.
I really don’t think it gets any better than this. Vanilla smile and gorgeous strawberry kiss.
February 14, 2006: Liverpool 1 Arsenal 0
ARSENAL were good.
Jens Lehmann, Kolo Toure, Cesc Fabregas, Pires, Henry.
Liverpool, though? Better.
Lehmann was comfortably the man of the match in a game comprised almost exclusively of Liverpool attacks. There’s a great one-handed stop to foil Fowler from close-range, an impressive block to keep out Kewell and a Gerrard penalty save (he hadn’t decided to become the best penalty-taker in the werld at this point).
The German managed to keep Rafa’s Reds at bay for 86 minutes until Hamann’s effort was parried into the the path of an onrushing Luis Garcia who finished with aplomb.
By close of play Liverpool were sat third in the table – 10 points clear of the Gunners – but 15 behind Chelsea. FIFTEEN! That was the difference between Bolo Zenden and Arjen Robben, between Peter Crouch and Didier Drogba, between David Moores and a rather suspicious Russian.
Roses are red, Kewell wore seven. Luis Garcia, he was football heaven.
Up the Valentine’s Day Reds.
Reckon that fella from Kirkby dished out any necks?
March 31, 2007: Liverpool 4 Arsenal 1
I WAS always a big admirer of Crouch as a Liverpool player. He was up there with the maddest Liverpool players I’ve seen (I was born in 1995, I’ve seen quite a lot of mad players in a red shirt).
It’s the cliche that always sticks with you, but he did genuinely have deceptively good feet. And rarely were they more deceptive than on this early Saturday afternoon.
Crouchie was spearheading the attack and he made an impact almost immediately. Alvaro Arbeloa and Jermaine Pennant managed to work some space before the former drove in a low cross which was met by the right boot of Crouch.
Ten minutes before half-time Fabio Aurelio swung in a trademark ball which was powered home by the six-foot-seven striker to double the Reds’ lead.
Daniel Agger rose to glance home a free kick on the hour mark after a spell of Reds pressure, Arsenal had done little to upset the rhythm all game in truth. However, they did get a goal back when Toure’s header sent the ball into the six-yard box, where William Gallas was waiting to run it into the net.
Any hopes of an away comeback, which still hadn’t looked likely despite their goal, were extinguished when Pennant’s weak cross found its way through to Crouch who controlled neatly before firing home with his left foot.
Right foot, head, left foot. A perfect hat-trick for Peter and a near perfect afternoon for Rafa’s Reds.
April 8, 2008: Liverpool 4 Arsenal 2
YOU go away from home in a Champions League quarter-final, you get an away goal. You’re delighted. A score draw away from home at a good side? Advantage us. We’ll take it.
Arsenal came to Anfield the following week and started like a house on fire. It was ridiculous. It felt like we could have been about 3-0 down inside 15 minutes. As it was we were just 1-0 down but the crucial away goal had gone and Arsenal were massively on the front foot. They were incredible up until the point where they scored, to the point that they could have stood Manuel Almunia on the corner flag and it would have made no difference.
Sami Hyypia got one back before half-time with a towering header that was so precise the man on the post was rendered pointless. Then the Reds turned into Wimbledon. A long ball, Crouch won a flick on and Fernando Torres did a swivel and The Kop bounced like nothing I’ve ever seen before – I swear Anfield was not far off experiencing an earthquake that night. One foot in the semi-finals of the European Cup, though, it was to be expected.
Seven minutes to go and the game came went crazy. Arsenal had to go for it and go for it they did, Theo Walcott picked the ball up on the edge of his own box, ran the length of the pitch (WHY DIDN’T YOU KICK HIM LADS, EH?) and squared it to Emmanuel Adebayor who finished past Pepe Reina and did the most ridiculous dance ever. Go and watch it, it’s great. He even realises how self-indulgent it was halfway through it when he remembered he should probably thank Walcott.
Liverpool had five minutes to score. Ryan Babel got the ball on the left and did something that was about the limit of his skillset – he ran really fast with the ball towards goal, and thankfully it worked. Gerrard dispatched a penalty and roles had reversed. Arsenal had four minutes to score. They flooded forward and got a last minute free kick.
Everyone forward. The ball broke. A tired Fabregas against a fresh Babel in a foot race. Babel won with what I remember to be a 25-yard head start, Almunia decided to stand on the corner flag, Babel stroked it home and the Reds went through.
I hate you, John Arne Riise.
February 8, 2014: Liverpool 5 Arsenal 1
ARSENAL arrived at Anfield top of the league, hoping they could consolidate their lofty position. Unfortunately, for the Gunners, this game would signal their habitual freefall from the summit as Brendan Rodgers’ side blitzed Arsenal in one of the classic Premier League games.
Before some fans could even sit down, Martin Skrtel flicked home an in-swinging Gerrard free-kick to send Liverpool fans into raptures. The centre-back scored from another Gerrard set-piece nine minutes later to make it 2-0 adding to the ecstasy among the home support, who had only just finished celebrating the first goal.
Shortly after, Raheem Sterling got in on the act with a well worked goal to put the Reds in dreamland. Arsenals nightmare 20 minutes was compounded by Daniel Sturridge’s precise finish from outside the penalty area to make it 4-0.
The Londoners were then able to compose themselves, and were lucky to escape Liverpool with a 5-1 defeat as, in truth, it could have been 10-1.
The atmosphere at the game will fondly be remembered by Reds as one of the best in recent years, while the performance would preface an 11-match winning run for Rodgers’ side.