23 December 2000
Liverpool 4 Arsenal 0
By Tony Attwood
There is a tendency in the season 2014/15 to imagine that when the great players of the Invincibles era played together, Arsenal always won, or at the very least, did well.
Put out a team including Henry, Bergkamp, Vieira, Dixon, Keown, Parlour, Ljungberg, then even if we didn’t win every game, we would certainly put up a fight.
So it is perhaps a surprise to anyone who didn’t watch the 2000/1 season to find all those players in a team with Arsenal losing 4-0 to Liverpool. But that’s how it went. The media called it a “thrashing”.
Prior to the game Arsenal were second and Liverpool fifth in the league table.
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But December had proven to be a difficult month with just two wins in the last six, and a sequence of just five goals in five games.
Liverpool meanwhile were on the up. Worse, the press couldn’t let go of the tale that Arsenal had not won at Anfield in eight years and hadn’t even scored in their last three visits to Anfield, and after this game (making it nine years and no goals in four visits) the press crowed over the “wonderful” Steven Gerrard, “the game’s outstanding performer” (the BBC).
Arsenal however did succeed at their possession game, at least for a while. but in the end the over-excited press crowed about a Liverpool challenge to Man U at the top of the league, noting that they were in the semi-final of the league cup, in the last 16 of the Uefa cup and certain to be in the Champions League the following season, with this style of play.
Arsenal on the other hand were said to have travel sickness and a complete inability to score goals. The attacking players (Henry, Bergkamp, Ljunberg, Parlour) just were not up to the job.
So were there excuses? Well, Tony Adams and David Seaman were both out injured, and that didn’t help, but actually the first goal was the fault of Patrick Vieira who didn’t deal with a long throw allowing Gerrard to knock in a shot from 20 yards.
The TV then reminded us all that Arsenal always fall behind in matches and indeed for a short while Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp pulled themselves together and tried some shots.
But then as Liverpool failed to enhance their lead they tried the physical approach. As excepted Carragher made wild challenges – and was booked for a dreadful assault on Bergkamp on 41 minutes, with Babbel following the same approach two minutes later on Henry. Even the BBC admitted he should have gone off, but this was Liverpool at Anfield. It never happened.
Trying to redeem the situation Luzhny went off at half time and Robert Pires came on but Liverpool held firm until Heskey knocked Keown off the ball, shot, Manninger parried and Owen tapped in the rebound.
With 20 minutes to go Barnby got the third and Fowler on as a sub made it four in injury time.
Liverpool: Westerveld, Babbel, Hyypia, Henchoz, Carragher, Barmby, Biscan, Gerrard, Murphy, Heskey, Owen.
Subs: Smicer, Fowler, Arphexad, McAllister, Vignal.
Arsenal: Manninger, Dixon, Keown, Luzhny, Silvinho, Parlour, Vieira, Grimandi, Ljungberg, Bergkamp, Henry.
Subs: Stepanovs, Pires, Wiltord, Lukic, Kanu.
Referee: P Durkin
As a result of the game Arsenal retained their second place but were eight points behind the leaders.
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But the context didn’t look good. This result made it three defeats two wins and two draws in last seven, and there was considerable talk of Arsenal slipping down the league especially looking at the next fixtures.
In fact on Boxing Day Arsenal had to play third placed Leicester City who were level with them on points. Would Arsenal be beaten again? In fact Arsenal won 6-1.
Yet still it wasn’t all plain sailing after that. New Year’s Day saw an unusual defeat to Charlton which meant that the four games after the 6-1 win had resulted in three draws and a defeat.
By 20 January 2001 Arsenal had sunk to third, and now had Liverpool and Ipswich only one point behind them. Then on 25 February came another disaster: a 6-1 defeat to Man U, emphasising the fact that there were now 16 points between Man U and Arsenal. Arsenal’s days with this Henry, Bergkamp, Vieira team were numbered.
In fact Arsenal did recover enough to finish the league second, ten behind Man U, making it a hat trick of coming second.
Of course had this been 2014, the 6-1 defeat to Man U, and the 4-0 to Liverpool, not to mention a 1-3 home defeat to Middlesbrough, would have had sixty or so Arsenal “fans” up in arms demanding that Wenger should go with the full support of the press for a while.
Thankfully those voices were fairly muted – I say fortunately because the following season Arsenal won the Double.
It would have been a shame to miss it.
Another Liverpool match: 9 April 2004