For the second week in succession, Arsenal had a man sent off and failed to score a goal, but for Arsène Wenger at the moment, it never rains but it pours. Just as a patched-together Arsenal side seemed likely to hold out for another draw, after being held in the goalless opener at Newcastle, a freakish own goal handed Liverpool three points they barely deserved, the unfortunate Aaron Ramsey's match-changing moment a smack in the face for his manager.
Kenny Dalglish will not be complaining about that, though there was more evidence here that, in addition to paying over the odds for Andy Carroll, he may not be able to build a side around the powerfully built centre-forward as quickly as he may have imagined. Liverpool barely looked like breaking the deadlock here until the £35m former Newcastle player was taken off.
By the end, with Arsenal losing their composure, the visitors were able to add insult to injury with a second goal, in the final minute, their two substitutes combining for the second time in their short spell on the pitch to leave Luis Suárez with a tap-in.
Jamie Carragher admitted afterwards that being held at home last week had been a downer for everyone at the club and, though this result will provide a tonic, the margin by which Liverpool improved when Suárez and Raul Meireles came on, midway through the second half, was revealing, though allowance ought to be made for the fact they were now playing against 10 men. Yet, for more than an hour, even with Arsenal reduced to fielding a rookie centre-half after Laurent Koscielny limped off after 17 minutes, Carroll's predictability failed to pose them any major problems.
"We just about deserved to win," Dalglish said. "We have a stronger squad than last season and, when you have two substitutes of that quality to bring on, they deserve the chance to make a difference. It wasn't easy, but at least our season is up and running now. It was a better performance than last week and we didn't concede a goal. The new players have had a week to settle in and we are beginning to see what they are capable of."
Wenger was less impressed, not without reason. He lost two more players, and thought the crucial goal should have been disallowed. "With a sending-off and an offside goal, the result was very harsh on us," the Arsenal manager said.
Surprisingly, Wenger turned out not to have been joking when he hinted Samir Nasri might play. The supposedly Manchester City-bound Frenchman not only appeared in midfield, he seemed perfectly happy to do so. People have been saying all summer that Wenger is too careful with his money, yet here he was taking a bold gamble with a chip worth £20m, amid rumours that talks between the clubs have broken down. Dalglish was slightly more cautious in his selection, leaving Suárez on the bench and asking Carroll to play with just Dirk Kuyt's occasional company up front.
That did not immediately look too threatening a combination, though, when Koscielny broke down after a quarter of an hour, Arsenal had to fill in at centre-half with Ignasi Miquel, making his first Premier League appearance, and the balance tipped a little towards the visitors. Certainly, the Arsenal fans initially had cause to be worried when Miquel mistimed his jump and failed to cut out the first Stewart Downing cross he had to deal with, leaving Carroll a free header that Wojciech Szczesny had to dive to save. It turned out not to be a portent of what was to come.
Jordan Henderson also brought a save from the Arsenal goalkeeper, though, with fewer crosses landing on Carroll's forehead than Dalglish must have been hoping, it was perhaps significant that the nearest Liverpool came to taking the lead in the first half was a shot from exactly halfway by Charlie Adam, one that had Szczesny back-pedalling, but that flew a couple of feet too high.
Arsenal came back into the game before the interval and twice came close with direct approaches, one when Pepe Reina dived low to keep out a drive from the impressive Emmanuel Frimpong and then when Nasri left Lucas Leiva chasing in vain with a run through the middle to flash a shot narrowly wide.
The second half, played in a steady downpour, was as drab and depressing as the London weather until several things happened at once, with 20 minutes left.
First, Robin van Persie brought a scrambling save from Reina with Arsenal's first decent attempt since the interval, after a shot from Martin Kelly had shaved a post at the other end. Then the impetuous Frimpong dangerously left a foot in against Lucas to collect a second yellow to add to the one he received for obstructing a throw in the first half. Finally, and not before time, Dalglish replaced the labouring Carroll with Suárez, who at least promised finesse. Together with the other Liverpool substitute, Meireles, Suárez helped conjure a goal in a matter of minutes.
It was not much of a goal, more a comedy of errors in the Arsenal defence that ended with Miquel's attempted clearance striking Ramsey in the chest and looping back over a stranded Szczesny, though the situation came about because Suárez, who had actually strayed fractionally offside, was trying to reach a return pass from Meireles.
Just a few minutes of cleverness and movement brought a greater reward than the previous hour-and-a-bit's attempts to play the ball up to the big fella, a point re-emphasised by Liverpool's second goal. It could have gone either way while Carroll was on the pitch, but, at the end, it was the Arsenal fans moaning bitterly about not seeing value for money.