There was the famous title decider in 1989, as well as several big clashes in the 90s and after the turn of the century, all of which have contributed to a compelling rivalry, albeit one devoid of much of the animosity in many derbies.
And while neither truly competes for top honours now, these clashes still have meaning: last season, Liverpool’s 4-3 win on opening weekend ended up proving the difference in the race for a Champions League spot, as Arsenal finished in fifth place, just one point behind Liverpool.
The nature of this rivalry means it’s not too uncommon to see players turn out for both sides during their careers, and indeed it was only this summer that a player switched between the two clubs, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain heading north after deciding not to stay at Arsenal.
Here are five players to have played for both Liverpool and Arsenal in recent years.
Oxlade-Chamberlain spent his formative years at Arsenal, joining the club when he was just 17. He spent six years developing at the club, although it was an up-and-down spell as he struggled with fitness and conjecture over his best position. Ultimately, that’s what led to his move to Liverpool – he had become Arsenal’s regular wing-back, but wanted to play in midfield.
The Israeli midfielder who also played for QPR, West Ham, and Chelsea enjoyed some of his best seasons at Liverpool, and scored a brace in a famous 4-4 draw against Arsenal. He later joined the Gunners, where he was a fan favourite in the one season he spent on loan there.
There was a time during his seven-year spell with Arsenal when it seemed Kolo Toure would end up being a one-club man. He was part of their famous Invincibles side, and later became the team’s regular captain. Once he left, however, he didn’t stop at just one move – after joining Manchester City and winning the Premier League title, he then moved to Liverpool, where spent three seasons and nearly won another league title.
Jermaine Pennant’s career was dogged by disciplinary issues, a problem that first surfaced when he was a teenager at Arsenal. He did score a hat-trick on his full league debut for the team, but only made a total of five starts in seven years. Pennant later joined Liverpool, for whom he featured in the 2007 Champions League final, which the Reds lost to AC Milan.
Nicolas Anelka’s world tour of football, which included stops in Spain, China and India, saw him play for several clubs in England, including Bolton, Chelsea, and Manchester City. It was at Arsenal where he first made his name, however, with three productive seasons under Arsene Wenger. His return to England came with Liverpool, where he spent a season on loan from PSG.
On that day, Arsenal had several players not in top form, while Liverpool had no such issues in picking their opponents apart to cruise to victory.
Friday should be a different story as some of Arsenal’s key players have discovered top form, which, coupled with home advantage, should see them ask more questions of Liverpool than they did in August.
Here are three key battles which will decide the game.
NACHO MONREAL VS MOHAMED SALAH
Nacho Monreal’s ability to cope with Mohamed Salah – especially when Liverpool counter – may be the defining battle of the match. Salah is, of course, the top scorer in the Premier League this season, and Arsenal’s tendency to overload in attack would play right into the hands of the Egyptian and his teammates.
Monreal’s defensive nous is the safeguard against that outcome. Arsene Wenger has reverted to his traditional back four recently, and, more surprisingly, has seemingly dropped Sead Kolasinac – he hasn’t started the last two Premier League games, but did start midweek in the Carabao Cup – which likely means that Monreal will be restored to his old starting left-back position.
In a battle of pure pace, Salah wins easily. But Monreal has developed into an intelligent, tactically astute defender, and the Liverpool forward will find besting him a genuine challenge. What could truly turn this battle is the help on offer to both – if Monreal’s defensive colleagues are overwhelmed by the rest of Liverpool’s attack, there’s little he’ll be able to do to stop Salah.
MESUT OZIL VS JORDAN HENDERSON
Last month’s display against Tottenham silenced the critics who said Mesut Ozil never plays his best in the big games. The German has been in a rich vein of form and will look to produce another high-class performance against big-name opposition. Meanwhile, Jordan Henderson has been dealing with his own fair share of criticism lately, as his form has dropped off, and coming up against an in-form Ozil is going to test his credentials.
Liverpool’s high-octane attack means Henderson is usually the midfielder with the most defensive responsibility, especially if Philippe Coutinho plays in midfield. Henderson’s value, defensively, is usually in leading the press, but he’s also going to have to track Ozil’s movement and cut out the German’s attempts to find his fellow forwards.
Ozil will fancy his chances, given both his form and Henderson’s, to take advantage of space and do what he does best in setting up Arsenal attacks. It’s up to the Englishman to show he can handle the challenge.
GRANIT XHAKA VS PHILIPPE COUTINHO
The Ozil-Henderson battle in the opposite direction will see Granit Xhaka have to pay attention to Coutinho. The Brazilian is nearing top form at the moment, and Xhaka has repeatedly been caught out defensively. If that happens again, Coutinho will run riot.
Xhaka was brought in to be a midfield enforcer, but while he’s more than capable of dishing out some heavy tackles, the discipline required to be a holding midfielder hasn’t always been apparent. He’s often too far forward, and although that allows him to be a genuine threat in Arsenal’s attack – something Coutinho may have to watch out for – it also is one of the biggest reasons Arsenal are so vulnerable on the counter.
The difference in the two players’ roles is that because Coutinho is by default an attacking player, there are others in his side who are expected to cover for him – and thus, it will fall to his teammates to contain Xhaka’s attacking threat. On the other hand, Xhaka is supposed to be one of the players providing cover for his more attacking teammates. If he doesn’t stick to that role as often as possible on Friday, Coutinho will run circles around him and Liverpool will have the edge.
The English Football Association said Thursday no formal action would be taken against Manchester United or Manchester City following ugly scenes that overshadowed the derby at Old Trafford earlier this month.
City beat nearest challengers United 2-1 to consolidate their position at the top of the Premier League on December 10.
The visitors’ celebrations after the match are alleged to have sparked a row involving several players and staff from both teams in the corridor outside the dressing rooms.
During the altercation, it is understood that milk and water were thrown at United boss Jose Mourinho from within the City dressing room. Reports said City assistant coach Mikel Arteta was left with a cut below his eye after being hit by a plastic bottle.
The Football Association (FA) asked the clubs to explain the post-match fracas.
But in a statement on Thursday, the FA said: “Following a review of the evidence provided by the clubs and independent eyewitnesses, the FA will be taking no formal action.”
Following the incident, Mourinho dismissed claims his Manchester United players were in the wrong.
City manager Pep Guardiola also defended his players, although he offered an apology to United.