"You can spend money and have a bad team," Arsène Wenger insisted after walking off here with Arsenal supporters again urging him to invest. They are entitled to respond that in this day and Premier League age, refusing almost perversely not to spend significant sums is a more certain route to finishing with a bad team. The two Manchester clubs, Liverpool and to a lesser extent Chelsea, have strengthened significantly this summer, which is why on the admittedly brief evidence to date they look the most likely teams to inhabit the top four positions. Certainly nobody among the 60,000-plus observers here yesterday would have rushed to the bookmakers to bet on Wenger's team finishing above Liverpool.
The home team were on top only for a briefly brighter period on either side of half-time, which darkened, like the sky, with a second red card in as many games. After Gervinho's dismissal in the goalless draw at Newcastle last week, the powerful young midfielder Emmanuel Frimpong went for a second yellow card, Liverpool's two goals following in the final 20 minutes. If the first was an own goal that might have been disallowed for offside, there was still not sufficient justification for Wenger to claim: "The result was very harsh on us."
The manner of that goal and the number of injuries – six before yesterday and now Laurent Koscielny too – was unfortunate, but losing three players for disciplinary reasons is less forgivable. Now Thomas Vermaelen, who was excellent, is the only fit senior centre-back ahead of a critical week comprising visits to Udinese in the Champions' League play-off and then Old Trafford. Defeat in Manchester and Arsenal will be embarrassingly close to the bottom of the table.
Liverpool also had a disappointing start in fading away for a home draw with Sunderland but they are a vastly different team to the one Roy Hodgson was forced to leave in January, not least because of the reinforcements Kenny Dalglish has acquired. Even without Steven Gerrard, he could afford to leave Luis Suarez and Raul Meireles kicking their heels until the last 19 minutes. "They're a helluva good pair of subs to bring on, which is a great example of how strong the squad is," the manager said.
Suarez, who replaced Andy Carroll, was intimately involved in both goals. After forcing a good save from Wojciech Szczesny within two minutes of arriving, he was allowed to play on in the penalty area when fractionally offside and hassled Koscielny's replacement Ignasi Miquel on his Premier League debut into hitting the ball against Aaron Ramsey, from where it bounced past a helpless goalkeeper.
Arsenal by that point had required only one save in each half from Pepe Reina, the first diverting Frimpong's low shot for a corner after a driving run and the second with his foot after the ineffectual Andrey Arshavin had got away with a blatant push before setting up Robin van Persie.
Nicklas Bendtner came on for Arsenal's other anonymous wide player, Theo Walcott, but in the 90th minute Lucas Leiva and Meireles split the defence to give Suarez a tap-in. That confirmed Liverpool's first win away against Arsenal since February 2000, which had looked on the cards at least since Frimpong's dismissal. The Ghanaian received one card for preventing Liverpool from taking a throw-in and a second was always a possibility given his fierce tackling; his immediate apology for catching Lucas with a raised foot indicated his guilt.
His suspension from the United game will leave Arsenal even shorter in midfield, where they are already lacking Jack Wilshere, Alex Song, Abou Diaby, Tomas Rosicky and, of course, a certain Cesc Fabregas. The suggestion that Samir Nasri could be staying was the only good news all day for Arsenal. If he does remain then at full strength Arsenal will still be competitive, but the short-term problems in midfield and defence must surely prompt Wenger into strengthening now.
Liverpool in contrast have done their business and done it well. If Charlie Adam's set-pieces were less threatening than usual, and Carroll produced little more than one fine header, Jordan Henderson looked happier in the centre of midfield than out wide last week, Stewart Downing did well on the left and Jose Enrique behind him was outstanding in subduing Walcott.
Reds' 11-year wait for a win
2010-11 Apr Arsenal 1-1 Liverpool
2009-10 Feb Arsenal 1-0 Liverpool
2009-10 Oct Arsenal 2-1 Liverpool (Carling Cup)
2008-09 Dec Arsenal 1-1 Liverpool
2007-08 Apr Arsenal 1-1 Liverpool
2007-08 Apr Arsenal 1-1 Liverpool (Champions' League)
2006-07 Nov Arsenal 3-0 Liverpool
2005-06 Mar Arsenal 2-1 Liverpool
2004-05 May Arsenal 3-1 Liverpool
2003-04 Apr Arsenal 4-2 Liverpool
2002-03 Dec Arsenal 1-1 Liverpool
2001-02 Jan Arsenal 1-1 Liverpool
2000-01 Aug Arsenal 2-0 Liverpool
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Szczesny; Jenkinson, Koscielny (Miquel, 15), Vermaelen, Sagna; Frimpong, Ramsey; Walcott (Bendtner, 80), Nasri, Arshavin (Lansbury, 71); Van Persie.
Liverpool (4-2-3-1): Reina; Kelly, Carragher, Agger, Enrique; Lucas, Adam; Kuyt (Meireles, 71), Henderson, Downing; Carroll (Suarez, 71).
Referee Martin Atkinson.
Man of the match Enrique (Liverpool).
Match rating 7/10.