By Josh James at Emirates Stadium
A breathless encounter at Emirates Stadium finished goalless, but there was no shortage of goalmouth incident in this pulsating draw. Petr Cech made two exceptional saves late in the first half - to deny Christian Benteke and Philippe Coutinho - while at the other end Aaron Ramsey had a goal chalked off for offside, when it appeared Martin Skrtel had played him onside. Both sides also hit the woodwork, Liverpool twice in the first half, Arsenal once - through Alexis Sanchez - in the second. The Gunners' reshuffled defence were given a thorough examination in the opening 45 minutes, but after the break it was Arsenal who piled on the pressure. Despite coming close through Olivier Giroud and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Arsène Wenger's had to settle for a point after failing to score for the fifth time in the last six home games.
SETTING THE SCENE
There were just two changes to the side that beat Crystal Palace last time out, both in the heart of the defence. Arsène Wenger was forced to replace his two regular centre-halves – Calum Chambers and Gabriel came in for their first appearances of the season, in place of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny. Santi Cazorla took on captaincy duties. Up front Giroud kept his place to make his 100th Premier League appearance. Arsenal came into the game after winning just one of their last five home games, indeed that 4-1 win over West Brom at the end of last season was also the only time the Gunners had found the net at Emirates during that run. Immediately prior to that sequence however, Liverpool were dispatched 4-1, and generally Arsenal have a good recent record against Liverpool, losing just one of the last eight meetings. As for the visitors, they were without captain Jordan Henderson, but Brazilian schemer Roberto Firmino came in for his first start.
All eyes were on Arsenal's changed back four in the opening exchanges, with Liverpool looking to test the new look defence early on. Benteke stabbed a shot wide from inside the area and Coutinho smashed a right-footed shot against the underside of the bar, as Liverpool came out of the blocks briskly. Arsenal began to retain possession better though, and Nacho Monreal created the first opportunity, which Alexis Sanchez headed over from close range. Mesut Ozil and Alexis caused confusion in the Liverpool penalty area moments later, before Ramsey had the ball in the net, only for the linesman to raise his flag for offside. Replays suggested it was the wrong decision. Benteke then immediately stung Cech's palms. Less than 10 minutes had elapsed - it was fast and furious on the wet and zippy Emirates surface. Chambers, attempting to play his way out from the back, put his side in trouble when he presented the ball to Coutinho on the edge of the area, but Gabriel covered well to dispossess his compatriot. It was an open game, Arsenal had most of the possession but were nearly punished once or twice when giving away the ball. Benteke and Chambers were locked in an intriguing battle, with the big Belgian not giving his man a moment's rest. Gabriel meanwhile showed his pace to chase down and deny Coutinho when the Liverpool man seemed to have broken free. Cech was next to the rescue as the first half drew to a close. The Czech stopper made an incredible reaction save, low down to prevent what looked a certain goal for Benteke six yards out. On the stroke of half-time the summer signing made another amazing stop to keep it goalless, getting just enough of a glove on Coutinho's drive to divert it onto the post and away to safety.
Arsenal looked to take the game to Liverpool at the start of the second period, with Alexis becoming more involved. He found Giroud in the area, whose attempted shot was blocked in the area, but Arsenal had noticeably upped the tempo. Giroud then fed Alexis after a rapid Arsenal counter attack, but the Chilean could only crash his shot against the outside of the post from a narrow angle. The chances were starting to flow. Hector Bellerin had a long-range shot charged down, before Giroud couldn't stretch enough to reach a Ramsey cutback. Simon Mignolet denied Giroud with a fine save at close range, and it would prove to be the Frenchman's last contribution before being replaced by Theo Walcott. Fellow sub Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain nearly made an instant impact, his low teasing cross was slid away for a corner, then he thumped a shot wide from the resulting set piece. Gabriel stepped out of defence superbly in injury time to deny the breaking Alberto Moreno, and then nodded over a corner as the referee blew for time.
Referee: Michael Oliver
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