Neil Atkinson’s post-match review for The Anfield Wrap after Liverpool 1 Arsenal 1 in the 2023-2024 Premier League season…


IT is again two dropped.

Cold light of day, two dropped.

But forget the cold light at least for now, at least for a second or two. Enjoy the burning embers of a fireside thriller. Revel in your heart pounding, and your head spinning, and the whole essence of a season kidding yourself it is on the brink.

I miss the way the night comes. With friends who always make it feel good.

It was a breathtaking game, a rollercoaster, a sight to behold, a reminder of how lucky we are to have all this in our city so consistently. It was two dropped and it was great news for Manchester City, but it was also great news for the soul so you need to forget that.

Stress. That’s the only word for it. Two teams so quick, so determined, they succeeded in winding each other up. In playing against each other making brave choices, but rightly fearful of any mistake.

The crowd is rowdy, wild, like the wind. Whoever it is in the lower Main Stand that keeps irritating Jürgen Klopp, the rest of Anfield is a loud and blustery place tonight. More impressive than ever, higher than ever, more attentive than ever in stressful appreciation of every twist and turn.

Liverpool supporters can see before them an Arsenal side that is disciplined and full of shape. An Arsenal that expands in attack and contracts in defence so that they look like one organism, moving and breathing together. Liverpool have quality from front to back, but Anfield knows that this game will be tense every minute.

Despite their first half goal, Arsenal aren’t having the first half all their way. Their opener comes from a set piece when Liverpool are still settling into the ferocity of Anfield tonight. It sets the tone. Throughout the game, Arsenal are dangerous from set pieces. Odegaard’s excellence brought to bear with Arsenal’s height.

In so many ways, it is too neat, too appropriate for it to finish 1-1. But that scoreline represents each side understanding how football is a careful balance of risk and opportunity. Mistakes would be ruthlessly punished.

The chances for Liverpool to catch a break through passing channels alarmingly slim, especially in the first half. They make the most of the moment of Trent Alexander-Arnold brilliance and Mo Salah mastery.

That the tightrope was so slim and so high was clear in both goals. Tiny sloppy moments punished with aplomb.

For some time after it goes 1-1, Arsenal’s defenders have a hard time. Zinchenko is fearful of Mo Salah, Ben White overloaded. Liverpool are strongest in their half. They look nervy and Cody Gakpo looks like scoring.

Liverpool are the better side from the equaliser until the miss and therein lies the rub. Arsenal are waiting to be punished and then the punishment just doesn’t come. It is one of the odd things that happens in a football match — what feels like the worst is about to happen. Then it doesn’t. Then you feel released.

I miss the way the night comes. With friends who always make it feel good.

Declan Rice was then released. Trent Alexander-Arnold misses and the game belongs suddenly to Rice. He finishes by far the strongest of the performers in the game. He is immense. I love him.

But I love Liverpool’s players. I love Wataru Endo who wins every battle. I love Joe Gomez, ain’t nobody like him. The goal is on its way and then what do we do? Seriously, what does the three hours after Joe Gomez scores look like? Someone should ask Jürgen Klopp.

I adore Curtis Jones. The City Centre’s Curtis Jones. I love him and the city, and both are in their pomp tonight, let me tell you.

Liverpool’s defenders are solid throughout. Virgil van Dijk and Ibrahima Konate deal with every threat. That Arsenal look a risk from set pieces belies how much more they should seem a risk when the passes are flowing and when Saka is pounding forward. They are a risk. But not quite as much as they should be.

It was two dropped and the referee did your head in, but you need to put that out of your mind. This wasn’t a game dictated by the referee. It was two dropped and great news for Manchester City and the officiating in general doesn’t cover itself in glory, but you need to put that to one side.

No doubt, we can rail against handball not given, and Trent’s miss is unlucky, but over the course of the game, neither Arsenal nor Liverpool can really claim to have had everything their way. The scoreline in that sense is an accurate conclusion. It is an answer to the Prisoner’s Dilemma that the players are all in. Unusually at Anfield, possession ends up about 50-50. An equilibrium has been reached and this game, this league, is hanging in the balance.

And so it is two dropped. And so it is a great display of football. And so come and adore them. Come and adore them.

Two dropped. That light will be cold, trust me. But right now I love football, and I love Anfield, and I love Jürgen Klopp, and I love Liverpool, and I am alright with Arsenal, and I love the night, and the fact that everyone is handsome, and everyone is pretty, and everyone is headed for the centre of the city and I just love you. All the yous.

Thank you for reading this year. I know we play on Boxing Day, but it isn’t a big game in the same way. This was. As big as it gets.

Two dropped. But:

a) There is no one I’d rather drop them with than them and you.
b) We can still win this fucking league, you know.

Dance yourself clean.

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