Another Aaron Ramsey screamer was the highlight of a comprehensive win by the Gunners over an out-of-sorts Liverpool
... the referee blows his whistle on a comprehensive victory for the home side. They weren't always swaggering around, but they were always in control. And their two goals were right out of the top drawer. They deservedly move five points clear of second-placed Chelsea, Liverpool having dropped back down below Chelsea into third. A serious title bid is being put together at the Emirates.
90 min +3: Giroud wins a corner down the right. It's tapped into play, upon which ...
90 min +2: This is the second of three added minutes.
90 min +1: Sturridge, near the left hand corner flag, sprays a pass out of play on the right near the halfway line. There's Liverpool's evening in a nutshell.
90 min: Ozil finds space in the Liverpool area down the left and performs a baroque wriggle. He eventually shakes clear of all attention and belts a shot straight into the chest of Mignolet, who has closed down the angle well.
88 min: Suarez leaps on a poor Vermaelen ball down the wing to tear clear into the Arsenal box from the left. He's got Sturridge in acres in the middle, but opts to go for the bottom right instead. It flies wide, causing Sturridge to theatrically throw his arms out wide, as if to say, I'm here, what the hell was that?! Oh to be a fly on the wall during the dressing-room debrief.
87 min: Gerrard sprays a long pass down the right to release Henderson into space, but the whipped cross that comes as a result is picked off by Szczesny. You can't say Liverpool haven't tried, the final ball has just not been good enough.
86 min: Coutinho attempts to spring Sturridge clear down the middle, but again the pass is all out of whack.
84 min: Cazorla takes his leave and gets the ovation he deserves. Jenkinson is the man taking his place, Arsenal sensibly deciding to ensure the three points are locked down.
82 min: A bit of space for Sturridge as he skitters into the area from the left, but he takes the ball too far wide, and has one touch too many as well. Szczesny smothers. Which is an act he reprises 60 seconds later as Gerrard and Coutinho play head tennis to nearly release Sturridge into space in the Arsenal box down the same flank. The resulting corner is easily dealt with by the home side.
81 min: An optimistic, going on highly poor, shot from distance by Coutinho. As it dribbles pathetically wide left of goal, Suarez and Sturridge both stand, hands on hips, looking at him in the aghast style. Disdain in stereo. It's been that kind of evening for the visitors.
78 min: Gibbs is replaced by Vermaelen.
77 min: Gibbs is down near the Liverpool goal, having come up lame off the pitch and then walked back onto it before sitting down. Liverpool go upfield, Coutinho having a shot. Szczesny kicks the ball out. Sagna gets right up in Coutinho's grille, incensed that the hall wasn't put out of play so Gibbs can get treatment. And then a gently amusing incident: Suarez comes over in the role of peacemaker. You can read that again, three times if you like.
75 min: Ozil dances and shakes down the inside left channel, working a bit of space for a shot. His low effort is heading into the bottom left, but Mignolet is behind it. A couple of minor scares apart - and that business with the quickly-taken free kick, of course - this has been pretty easy for Arsenal, who have been very impressive.
73 min: A corner to Liverpool on the left. After a bit of faffing around, Sturridge takes down a deep Coutinho cross at the far post. He's about to shoot but Suarez nips in to have a go instead, unleashing a fierce daisycutter that only just misses the left-hand post. Liverpool are awarded a corner they probably haven't earned, but Szczesny plucks it from the sky to settle any arguments.
72 min: Rosicky makes way for Monreal. "That Arsenal are showing title-winning form by beating Liverpool shows how bizarre and skewed the league is this season," suggests David Flynn. An interesting title race? How about that! Well done, Best League In The World!
71min: Henderson whips a marvellous cross into the Arsenal box from the right. Sturridge is bombing in by the penalty spot, and meets it with his head, but the ball flies miles over the bar. A chance, albeit one that would have been highly spectacular had it been converted.
69 min: The first sparkle of quality from Coutinho, as he sashays down the inside left before cutting inside. But again his ring-rustiness betrays him: his attempt to sliderule a pass down the inside right to release Suarez is far too hard. There was space there for the Liverpool striker to stride into, as well.
68 min: Moses comes on for Flanagan. Here's a stat, courtesy of the Sky television service: Moses has won on both his previous visits to the Emirates, for Wigan and Chelsea. He's got a right job on keeping that boast alive.
67 min: It's not over for Liverpool until it's over, of course, and Arsenal came back from a 2-0 deficit in this fixture last season to earn a 2-2 draw that probably should have ended in a home win. But Liverpool have been unable to apply any serious sustained pressure on their hosts today. To illustrate their collective malaise, Suarez is in space on the edge of the Arsenal box, just to the left of the D, but mulls the situation over for far too long, allowing Koscielny to get involved and scupper his plans.
64 min: Gibbs cuts in from the left to enter the Liverpool box. His attempt to send the ball into the top right are scuppered by Skrtel's back. The corner is plucked confidently from the skies by Mignolet. Liverpool go up the other end, but Flanagan's cross from a tight spot down the right is claimed with equal confidence by Szczesny.
63 min: Suarez feeds Sakho down the left, allowing the defender to win a corner on the overlap. The set piece causes little bother. But Liverpool come back through Coutinho down the same wing. The Brazilian cuts inside, and he's got space to work a shot, you'd think. But he opts for the cutback instead, and Sakho is on the back foot. Arsenal clear.
62 min: Liverpool can't string one pass together, never mind two. They're all over the shop. The Arsenal fans are in full voice. "So Ramsey is the next on Real Madrid's radar then?" wonders Brendan Large, hoping for a January transfer-window saver to keep the league alive, perhaps.
They're turning the screw alright! Ramsey, who has scored so many wonderful goals already this season, has another for his increasingly ludicrous portfolio! He takes an Ozil pass from the right wing, standing just to the right of the D. He lets the ball bounce casually, one time, two times, three times, before caressing a rising shot into the top-left corner at pace. That's the sort of goal that teams who are five points in the lead at the top of the league score. And look where Arsenal look likely to be tonight!
57 min: Arsenal are turning the screw a bit now. First Ramsey is in a bit of space down the inside right, but can't find a team-mate. Liverpool clear, but Arsenal are coming straight back at them, Giroud nearly breaking through to the left of the D, his eventual toe-poke at Cazorla's little pass inside from the wing squirming into Mignolet's hands.
55 min: Oh me oh my, Kolo Toure. Arsenal really should be two goals to the good now. The former Gunner plays a weak pass from the Arsenal left back inside to Skrtel, but it's never reaching the defender. Giroud skips in ahead, passes Skrtel down the channel, draws Mignolet - and chips just wide left of the goal. The side netting ripples, much to Liverpool's - and especially Toure's - relief.
54 min: Space for Sagna down the right. Giroud is in the middle but can't be found, Skrtel coming across to sidefoot clear with extreme prejudice. Cazorla was in a little bit of space there, but he wasn't spotted by Sagna, who went for the more ambitious searcher.
52 min: Arsenal aren't doing much up front at the moment. Gibbs curls a low cross into the Liverpool area from the left, looking for Giroud, but the ball's intercepted with ease.
50 min: Suarez in more space, this time down the left. He reaches the byline and loops a ball over to the far post, where Henderson attempts to replicate Cazorla's successful whack from the same spot, but blooters hopelessly over. He's an increasingly impressive midfielder, Henderson, but his shooting is appalling. He's got absolutely no confidence whatsoever, and it shows in the deflated look on his coupon.
49 min: Suarez spins Koscielny with ease, breaking clear into the Arsenal area down the right. He takes a touch but Koscielny recovers well, and block-tackles the resulting shot, which was difficult enough from a tight angle with Szczesny advancing, and balloons off.
48 min: A couple of touches for Coutinho down the inside-left channel, but coming back from injury, he looks a wee bit ponderous and rusty. Early days, of course. But Liverpool had chances to advance on the Arsenal area there, with Suarez hovering in space.
46 min: A fairly quiet start to the half, nothing more than a series of throws down the Arsenal left.
And we're off again! Here's an illustration of the task facing Liverpool: Arsenal have won the last 20 games in which they've led at half time. Here's how they're planning to respond: Coutinho's on for Cissokho, with the defence reverting to a back four.
HALF-TIME ENTERTAINMENT (featuring the sort of kettle drum sound that should have accompanied Koscielny's skitter across the turf): The famous cities of London and Liverpool have a long and proud tradition of combining to entertain the nation. Here's capital-based crooner Cliff Richard belting out a duet with a cheeky chap from the 'Pool, a gap-toothed scouser with a twinkle and a smile for every Englishman, an honest broker from the Bank of Smiles.
Hmm, 1965 was a different country all right.
And that's that for the half! A strange one to analyse: Arsenal deserve their lead on the balance of play, and the goal itself was an inch away from being a header as good as Suarez's one against West Brom last weekend, and an improvised piece of brilliance. But Liverpool's "equaliser", that quickly taken free kick after Sagna's cynical foul, should have stood, and in that sense Liverpool will be driving the funk mothership into the heart of the sun. But this is where we all are: can Liverpool get back into it, or are Arsenal about to go five clear at the top?
45 min: Cazorla picks up a Giroud pass 25 yards from goal, in line with the right-hand post. He takes a touch inside, then fizzes a low daisycutter inches wide of the aforementioned dod of wood. Mignolet had that one covered, but once again the Spaniard looked very dangerous.
42 min: Arsenal knock it around the middle of the park rather a lot. Sterile domination, as the man once said.
39 min: Lucas, seemingly under no pressure in the centre circle, fresh air kicks wildly when attempting to pass back to his defenders! Ramsey tears off with the ball, a move that should be dangerous with Liverpool turned and in mental turmoil. But only Giroud bothers to attempt to keep up with the move, and when Sakho, Skrtel and Toure swarm around him, the jig is up. Liverpool have probably given as good as they've got, on balance, but look very shaky defensively.
36 min: Sturridge, brilliantly keeping a raking Suarez ball alive down the right, skates past Koscielny with such ease that the defender falls on his backside, the sort of challenge that should be accompanied by a kettle drum. He's free in the area, tight on the byline, but runs the ball out of play when looking for options that aren't there. Nearly very good indeed.
34 min: Suarez sliderules a pass down the inside right to release Sturridge into the area, but the striker's gone a split second too early, and is offside. In any case, his attempt to dink the ball over the advancing Szczesny flies wide left of goal, the result of a panicked finish after a heavy first touch. "It would be Suari if Suarez were a Latin noun," writes Anne Williams. "Sorry - my cage got rattled."
33 min: Giroud has the ball at his feet on the left-hand corner of the Liverpool six-yard box. He's got three options in red shirts, but decides to dink a chip towards the far post, where only defenders roam.
31 min: A bit of space for Sturridge down the inside right. The eventual shot is defected and ends up rolling apologetically towards Szczesny.
28 min: Sissokho is quite rightly booked for a late lunge on Sagna down the right. Mignolet's attempt to come off his line and claim Ozil's free kick isn't all that, but Skrtel eventually hacks away. Liverpool's heads appear to be a wee bit muddled after the disallowed goal. On Mignolet's credit tally, by the way, was a parry from a Ramsey shot a minute or so earlier. Arsenal are very much on top. "Nice to see Martin Atkinson perform his specialty, not playing the advantage," writes J.R. in Illinois. "Cripes that was bad. Probably even worse than the one where he nullified Altidore's goal at Sunderland a few weeks back."
26 min: Suarez races clear down the middle of the pitch, one on one with Mertesacker. Sagna, tracking back, rugby tackles him. He's going to get booked, but Suarez is too clever for the referee. He taps a quick free kick down the left for Sturridge, who plays the ball across the six-yard box for Henderson to tap in. It's wonderfully quick thinking by Suarez, but the referee's blown his whistle - very, very late, with the move in progress - and the goal's chalked off. Suarez is, as you'd expect, incandescent, and Gerrard's not that far off turning into a Catherine wheel as well. But that's the way the referee's seen it. Gerrard's free kick is met well by Toure, Szczesny saving with his feet, but nearly the whole Liverpool side were offside. That's truly pathetic refereeing by Martin Atkinson, it was obvious from the off what was unfolding there.
24 min: Liverpool had been visibly rocking since the goal, and only now have they shown any sort of response. Suarez breaks into the area down the inside left, but Sagna is on hand to ease him off the ball.
21 min: That's changed the flow of this game all right! Cazorla takes another pop at goal, from 20 yards after some lumbering from Henderson. His effort is whistling towards the bottom left, but Mignolet flies across to claim.
Liverpool had been the better team, but they're behind. And what a goal this is! Sagna is sent clear into acres down the right. He whips a cross onto the head of Cazorla, who plays an astonishing one-two with himself, heading powerfully onto the right-hand post from 12 yards, then latching onto the rebound, ten yards out and to the right of goal, and belting it into the empty net, Mignolet with no time to get back up from his initial save! That's an astonishing goal, and utterly brilliant by the Spaniard!
18 min: Rosicky curls a cross into the Liverpool area from the right. It's cleared by Sakho to Flanagan on the near post, the young man showing Arsenal a clean pair of heels as he whistles up the wing. He's got options inside, but his cross is mopped up easily by Mertesacker. This is fine end-to-end stuff.
15 min: Arsenal clear the set piece, fizzed in from the left, but only after Toure nearly gets on the end of a Cissokho flick at the far post. It's a lively start from the visitors.
14 min: Suarez is upended by Koscielny down the Liverpool right, as the striker looks to turn him on the inside. Free kick. Gerrard's free kick, aimed towards the far post, appears overcooked, high and hard, but Szczesny decides to tip it out for a corner anyway.
12 min: Liverpool have settled a bit better, though the margins are slim. They're stroking it around the back an awful lot, without really going anywhere that'll hurt the home side.
9 min: Henderson romps forward in acres down the inside-left channel. He's clearly got no confidence in his shooting ability, because he hesitates not once but twice, despite a route into the area opening up in front of him. Arsenal are slow to react, and even when they do, the ball breaks past Sagna's poor challenge. Henderson's into the area, despite himself! Oh, here's why he was having second thoughts, desperately looking for a lay-off: he screws an awfully weak shot off to his right, the thing travelling barely as far as the six-yard box. What a chance that was. Arsenal will be thankful that one didn't land to Suarez or Sturridge.
8 min: Nothing comes of this, but Mignolet's just sliced another clearance straight out of play. It's his achilles heel. He might as well be attempting to blooter them upfield with his heels, for all the good he is under pressure with his feet.
6 min: Sakho slips on the edge of the Liverpool area. It allows Rosicky to break into the box down the inside right channel. He sends a shot whistling across Mignolet and towards the left-hand corner, but the keeper fingertips past the post. Fine shot, and a save that's its equal. The corner's cleared with some suspiciously agricultural defending by Skrtel, who really is a penalty waiting to happen. Suarez sets Sturridge and Henderson away on a two-on-two, but he's penalised for high feet when contesting Skrtel's clearance with Mertesacker.
4 min: Mignolet's distribution isn't the best, and he slices a clearance down the right. Giroud nearly benefits, but can't control as he tries to break into space along the wing. It's quite an open start, this, with both sides pressing each other in the hectic style.
3 min: Liverpool load the Arsenal box after Ramsey handles 35 yards from goal down the left. Gerrard's hopeless free kick doesn't even clear first man. "In your introduction, you mention the 'Suarezes' of the match, but surely it should be 'Suari'?" argues Cameron Yule. "Can any of the grammar enthusiasts who prowl these MBMs confirm this?" Ssh, don't rattle their cage, for goodness sake, I've just been trying to reason with them about this MBM's hack-friendly no-umlaut Ozil Rule.
2 min: A rare old atmosphere in the Emirates this evening, both sets of fans giving it plenty. It's all a bit scrappy on the pitch, though. "Flanagan starts eh?" shudders Niall Mullen. "Is Brendan giving us a Halloween fright? Martin Kelly has dropped so far down the pecking order he's not even in the coop. I wonder what those 'footballing reasons' were that led Roy Hodgson to pick him ahead of Rio Ferdinand last summer?"
And we're off!Liverpool get the ball rolling, and they're kicking towards Holloway Road. Or perhaps Crouch End. Actually I'm not quite sure. Within 15 seconds, Suarez is haring after a long ball down the right, and he's not too far away, but having said that Szczesny was always going to be claiming it.
The teams are out! Arsenal are in their Chapman-designed red shirts with white sleeves, Liverpool are wearing their Val Doonican-inspired white and red-and-black-flecked Christmas sweaters. Val Doonican references, it's what they're all after, the kids are gagging for it.
Arsenal, who rest Jack Wilshere in the hope his recurring ankle knack improves: Szczęsny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Rosický, Arteta, Ramsey, Cazorla, Özil, Giroud.
Subs: Fabiański, Vermaelen, Monreal, Jenkinson, Hayden, Akpom, Bendtner.
Liverpool, who name Jon Flanagan in place of the ailing Glen Johnson: Mignolet, Flanagan, Cissokho, Touré, Škrtel, Sakho, Lucas, Gerrard, Henderson, Suárez, Sturridge.
Subs: Jones, Coutinho, Moses, Kelly, Allen, Agger, Sterling.
Referee: Martin Atkinson.
Diacritical marks: Included here to keep Mesut Özil pedants happy, though we never heard this noise about poor old Tomáš Rosický, it's almost as if some people are just looking for a ruck. Still, there we go. But don't expect them during the match, it's just the way it's got to be I'm afraid, my pals, I've only got the two hands and my brain is not the fastest model either.
Arsenal go into this match top of the table, the Premier League's form horses, the best side in the division so far this season. And yet the very name of today's opponents will still send a cold chill up and down their spines, on account of the last time the Gunners hosted Liverpool at the Emirates. No, not the topsy-turvy 2-2 Premier League draw here last season. We're talking about this rollercoaster business back in May ...
You'll do well to see a better match. You'll do well to see a stranger match. Liverpool ran out easy winners, if you just look at the scoreline, but Arsenal had two efforts cleared off the line, hit the woodwork three times, and at one point Gemma Davison turned into Garrincha. Liverpool striker Natasha Dowie also bellowed a good old-fashioned "FUCK IT" upon giving up an easy chance, which isn't such an essential part of the narrative, but was a lovely moment anyway.
Never mind the 0-4 result, that could have gone either way - Arsenal won the return fixture on Merseyside 3-0, incidentally - and if the boys from both clubs perform as well this evening, we're in for a ding-dong classic. And who's to say your Wilsheres, Ramseys, Suarezes and Sturridges can't entertain us too? Especially as neither midfield is particularly dependable in any defensive sense. Goals, please, chaps! Excitement also!
Kick off: 5.30pm.