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Liverpool's defeat to Arsenal seals great week for Man City as Reds miss out on record

Jurgen Klopp splashed out on Virgil Van Dijk and Alisson he thought he was getting the best defence money can buy. That accolade, we have all discovered in recent days, belongs instead to the Manchester City legal team. What a week this is turning out to be for Pep Guardiola.

After their Champions League ban was overtuned, a scarcely believable week for the Catalan got even better when Liverpool’s £140m rearguard imploded to end Jurgen Klopp’s hopes of beating City’s 2018 Premier League points record.

Alisson is prone to the odd howler. But even Guardiola must have wondered at just how much the gods are smiling on him at the moment when that rarest of football collector’s items – a Virgil Van Dijk defensive howler – began the disintegration.

The Emirates in recent years has become something of a breeding ground for defensive mistakes but usually they occur at the home end.

As early as the 12th minute they Arsenal had their first lucky escape when Emi Martinez dithered on a clearance and eventually kicked the ball into the outstretched leg of Roberto Firmino, with the ricochet clipping the outside of the post.

Then Cedric Soares conceded a free kick for hand-ball having tried to catch the ball when he saw the assistant raise his flag.

“Play to the whistle,” referee Paul Tierney rebuked him in the exasperated manner of a fed-up games master. This was schoolboy stuff.

So it was no surprise moments later that, having lost a header to Andrew Robertson, Soares allowed the Liverpool man to amble up the wing, get the ball back from Firmino and cross to the unmarked Sadio Mane to put Liverpool in the lead.

Then 33 minutes into the game, even the colossus that is Van Dijk succumbed to the jinx.

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Quite simply, he was a little too much on his heels when he received a short pass out from Alisson, and allowed Reiss Nelson to steal in and pinch the ball.

The Holland international’s gave a half-hearted protest as he watched helplessly as Alexandre Lacazette skipped around the Liverpool goalkeeper and rolled the ball into the empty net.

Worse was to come when Alisson’s elaborate pass to Andrew Robertson on the stroke of half-time was too clearly signposted and this time it was Lacazette who pounced to return the favour for Nelson to score.

Liverpool were now fighting for that record – or at the very least a point to keep the century in their sights.

A mesmerising piece of skill from Mo Salah early in the second half left David Luiz on his backside but the sublime chip was tipped over the bar.

Substitute Takumi Minamino dragged a shot just wide of the post then had a good shout for a penalty after a tussle with Kieran Tierney at the far post waved away by the referee and ignored by VAR. Salah then fluffed a header from six yards.

But as Liverpool had faltered, so Arsenal finally found strength. They defended well. Dani Ceballos came on and began even to take the game to Liverpool. 

It was desperate stuff, but they looked good for their slender lead. And then the final whistle blew.

All hail Mikel Arteta – Arsenal’s Europa League hopes survive.

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Jurgen Klopp’s side, on the other hand, have stumbled somewhat to the line.

Meanwhile that smile on the lips of Guardiola is very much that of the hungry hunter scenting the start of a new and very different chase next season.

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