No title challenge but Emery's improving Arsenal will sustain top-four tilt

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The Gunners came from behind to claim a 1-1 draw with Liverpool that proves they are on the right track to secure a return to the Champions League

If games finished at the 45-minute mark, Arsenal would be 17th in the Premier League table. As it is, they sit fourth at the time of writing after coming from behind, yet again, to claim a fully deserved 1-1 draw with Liverpool.

Given the Gunners' propensity for slow starts, one would have expected Liverpool's lightning-quick forward line of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane to put their hosts to the sword on a chilly evening in north London.

However, Liverpool proved just as profligate as Arsenal during an unsurprisingly open first half and, even though they eventually took the lead on the hour mark through James Milner, Jurgen Klopp's men were pegged back, with Alexandre Lacazette earning the hosts a merited share of the spoils. 

The last five league meetings between the two sides had produced a total of 27 goals, which whetted the appetite ahead of what many believed was Arsenal’s most testing encounter of the campaign, at least since their early-season losses to Chelsea and Manchester City.

This was Klopp’s gegenpress against Emery’s similarly energetic and direct approach, and it made for an entertaining watch. There were 16 shots on goal in the first half alone.

Arsenal accounted for nine of those and that was an accurate reflection of their impressive play, particularly in midfielder, where Granit Xhaka and Lucas Torreira were excellent.

Xhaka was particularly influential in the opening 45 minutes. The Swiss made more passes (47), had more touches (59), made more tackles (5) and more recoveries (9) than any other player in the first half, emphasising the improvement he has made under Emery. 

Alexandre Lacazette Arsenal 2018-19

Torreira’s direct approach and tendency to drive forward instead of passing the ball sideways has endeared him to the Arsenal faithful, who have waited years for a defensive midfielder to fit the bill of what has come before him. 

]It also earned him the man of the match award here, and rightly so; Arsenal deserved tremendous credit for taking the fight to a genuine title challenger.

This was the clearest and most compelling evidence yet that huge strides have been made since those two losses to Chelsea and City. 

Pundits such as Paul Merson had predicted that Arsenal would be routed but Emery’s side showed their mettle to continue an impressive unbeaten run which now stretches to 14 games in all competitions; their resilience underlined by the fact that no Premier League side has claimed more points (8) from losing positions this season.

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They rode their luck at times against Klopp’s men, particularly during the first half, but Liverpool also had their share of fortune, with Rob Holding unintentionally deflecting a Bernd Leno save into the path of Milner, who then fired home the opener.

However, despite being written off by all and sundry before the game, Arsenal claimed the equaliser their dynamic display warranted when Lacazette lashed home emphatically from an acute angle with just eight minutes to go.

Arsenal still have too many weaknesses at the back to entertain notions of a title challenge but Emery's improving side have the talent and the tenacity to sustain their top-four title.

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