So, as almost everyone had expected, Arsenal face not one but two trips to Anfield next week, after Liverpool beat Lincoln City 7-2 in the Carabao Cup to set up a fourth-round match between the clubs almost immediately after their Premier League encounter on Monday night. Given the proximity of the two matches, Mikel Arteta might even have been tempted to remain in Liverpool between them. However, because it is entirely likely – indeed, almost certain – that the teams for the Carabao Cup match will be completely different to those that face off against each other in the Premier League, the newly-named Arsenal manager will probably choose to return to London between them.
Nevertheless, two games at Anfield in the same week will be a daunting challenge for Arteta and his players. That, of course, is the ultimate testament to the extraordinary development that Jurgen Klopp has overseen at Liverpool since taking over in 2015. When Alex Ferguson ruled over Old Trafford, an away game at Manchester United was undoubtedly the toughest away fixture for Arsenal or any other team in the Premier League. Now, however, it is surely Anfield that is the acid test of any team’s away-day credentials.
One factor that will undoubtedly be in Arsenal’s favour is the absence of fans at Anfield, due to the ongoing Coronavirus restrictions in England on large gatherings (or indeed any gathering of more than six people). If Highbury and The Emirates have often been described as libraries by opposing fans, because of the supposed lack of atmosphere generated by Arsenal supporters, the exact opposite is true of Anfield, which might more accurately be called ‘Fanfield’, such is the influence that a full crowd, and in particular a full Kop, can have on opposing teams. That was proved definitively in 2019, when Liverpool fans literally roared their team to a 4-0 comeback win against Barcelona in the Champions League, taking them through to the final after a 3-0 defeat at the Nou Camp.
However, even without fans, Anfield is still an intimidating place to visit, as borne out by the fact that Liverpool have not lost in the Premier League there since April 2017, when Christian Benteke produced probably his only truly notable performance for Crystal Palace by scoring both goals against his old club in a 2-1 victory for the Eagles. But perhaps Arteta and Arsenal can draw inspiration from these five famous wins for Arsenal at Anfield.
Five Famous Arsenal Wins Away at Liverpool
5. Liverpool 3-6 Arsenal (League Cup Quarter-Final, 9 January 2007)
The last time that Arsenal faced successive trips to Anfield in such quick succession was in early 2007 when they faced two trips to Liverpool in the two domestic cup competitions within just three days. The second of those two matches was even more extraordinary than the first (and the first was pretty extraordinary in its own right, as we shall see), as Arsenal’s reserves beat Liverpool’s squad players 6-3. The star performer was Julio Baptista, who produced his only truly memorable performance during his time at Arsenal by scoring four of Arsenal’s six goals. Thereafter, sadly, ‘Baptista the Beast’ proved that he was more donkey than lion as his Arsenal career tailed off dramatically. Nevertheless, for helping to inflict what was Liverpool’s worst home defeat in any competition in nearly 80 years, he remains one of the more intriguing footnotes in Arsenal’s long and distinguished history.
4. Liverpool 1-3 Arsenal (FA Cup Third Round, 6 January 2007)
Three days earlier, it had been not Baptista the footnote but Arsenal’s greatest ever player, Thierry Henry, who destroyed Liverpool at Anfield. Indeed, it was arguably the very last time that Henry produced a truly spectacular performance in an Arsenal shirt, because less than six months later he had been transferred to Barcelona, and the first and glorious decade of success under Arsène Wenger came to an end, to be followed by the ‘Groundhog Decade’ of defeats and disappointment. Henry may have only scored one goal that night, after Tomas Rosicky had scored the first two, but it was one that every Arsenal fan who saw it can still picture now, as he turned on his famous afterburners to sprint away from Jamie Carragher and score the decisive third goal.
3. Liverpool 1-2 Arsenal (Premier League, 4 October 2003)
Of course, 2003/04 was Arsenal’s Invincible season, when they became the first English team since the late 19th century to go through a full top-flight league campaign without losing a game. However, there are two things about that genuinely historic season that are often forgotten, even by Arsenal fans. The first is that the season was even more remarkable for what had immediately preceded it, namely the late capitulation at the end of the 2002/03 campaign which eventually allowed Manchester United to steal the title from Arsenal’s hands right at the death. It is that failure that makes the following season’s undefeated campaign even more impressive, as Wenger and his players rallied in a way that unfortunately his later teams proved utterly incapable of.
The second is the fact that Arsenal could easily have lost games early that season, especially in what has always been their two toughest away games, at Old Trafford and Anfield. At Old Trafford, Ruud van Nistelrooy famously missed a last-minute penalty that would have ended the Invincible campaign before it had really begun. And at Anfield, less than a fortnight later, Harry Kewell (who had snubbed Arsenal to join Liverpool from Leeds United that summer) put Liverpool ahead, before a Sami Hyypiä own-goal and a Robert Pires winner gave Arsenal arguably the most impressive away victory in that most memorable of league campaigns.
2. Liverpool 0-2 Arsenal (Premier League, 18 August 1992)
Ray Parlour is certainly not the best Arsenal player ever, but he does have the best ever nickname for an Arsenal player, namely ‘The Romford Pele’, which narrowly edges David ‘The Lewisham Brazilian’ Rocastle, especially as Rocastle was generally known by the much more prosaic ‘Rocky;. However, when Parlour made his debut for Arsenal at Anfield in January 1992, he was more like ‘The Romford Baptista’ than ‘The Romford Pele’, as he gave away a penalty in what was ultimately a comfortable 2-0 home win for Liverpool.
Fortunately for Parlour, just over six months later, he redeemed himself completely, against the same opposition and at the same venue, as he finally proved that being called ‘The Romford Pele’ was not just the most facetious of remarks. Parlour set up both goals, for Anders Limpar and Ian Wright, as Arsenal reversed the scoreline from earlier that year and won 2-0. Thus, a legend, or at least a truly great nickname, was born.
1. Liverpool 0, Arsenal 2 (First Division, 26 May 1989)
There are absolutely no prizes for guessing what game tops this list of Arsenal wins at Anfield because it is the greatest game – and result – in Arsenal’s history. For more – indeed, much more – on the match itself, have a look at this piece from ‘The Greatest’ series on Arsenal that we ran during lockdown.
However, what is also interesting about that match is the effect that it had on subsequent Arsenal performances at Anfield, which, to say the very least, have generally not been great. (Indeed, there are relatively few highlights beyond the five games listed here.) Of course, the great Tony Adams knew why, reasoning years later that Arsenal had used up all their luck on that one glorious night in May 1989, when Michael Thomas scored with the last kick of the game to give Arsenal the old First Division title, in what is undoubtedly the greatest end to any football match ever.
Now, over the next week, Mikel Arteta will take Arsenal to Anfield twice in just a matter of days. Of course, Arteta has already broken Liverpool’s supposed hoodoo or hold over Arsenal. Prior to Arteta taking over, Arsenal had not beaten Liverpool in any competition for nearly five years. Since then, of course, Arteta has beaten them twice in just a matter of months, first winning the Premier League match at The Emirates 2-1 and then seeing his cup-winning side beat the champions on penalties after the Community Shield finished 1-1.
However, Arteta will know that if he can get anything, even a draw, from the next two games at Anfield (and any such draw would have to come in the Premier League match as there are no replays in the Carabao Cup and that match would be settled on penalties if it is level after 90 minutes), he will have made another hugely impressive step forward in his time as the new Arsenal manager.