Arsenal 1-1 Liverpool: Gunners show resurgence under Unai Emery is no false dawn
Arsenal's resurgence under new manager Unai Emery saw one fixture ringed in red on the calendar - the night they would meet Liverpool at Emirates Stadium.
Liverpool's intense pressing style and ability to swamp teams through sheer weight of goals under manager Jurgen Klopp would be the litmus test of Emery's new Arsenal.
Would the 12-match unbeaten run Arsenal took into this game be exposed as a false dawn? Would Liverpool unpick flaws in the approach Emery is fostering after succeeding Arsene Wenger?
In an enthralling 1-1 draw, Arsenal provided many of the answers after Alexandre Lacazette's late equaliser gave them a point.
Arsenal embrace Emery's style
Emery is a coach of real pedigree with concrete belief in his methods. The Spaniard won the Europa League three times in succession with Sevilla, including one against Klopp's Liverpool in 2016, and is a formidable tactical mind.
And yet plenty of observers suggested Emery's style of pushing full-backs high and playing out from the back might see Arsenal fall into the trap Klopp's Liverpool set with expertise using their powerful front three of Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino.
It was a test of Emery and his players, of their resilience and self-belief - in many ways a test of what exactly he is trying to bring to Arsenal.
Arsenal may have ridden their luck at times, especially when Mane's first-half strike was incorrectly ruled out for offside, but fortune favours the brave and the signs are there that Emery has imbued the Gunners with a new spirit.
Emery fielded his big four attacking players Mesut Ozil, Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. He was bold and was rewarded.
Klopp acknowledged the courage in Emery's style when he said: "Arsenal did this before this year when they pretty much brought on all of their strikers. I was actually waiting for Robin van Persie and Dennis Bergkamp."
This was not quite the Arsenal of that golden era but the good impression Emery has created was only confirmed by his determination to throw everything at his disposal at Liverpool, a side that can be lethal in such circumstances, when opponents take the game to them.
Lucas Torreira was outstanding in midfield and Arsenal were fearless in their approach, confronting Liverpool eye-to-eye.
Yes, there was a wobble after James Milner put Liverpool ahead but there was no sign of the capitulation we may have witnessed in the past. Arsenal kept at it and got a point.
"Arsenal were under pressure because a lot of people were saying that on this run they hadn't played anyone of any substance," said former Arsenal striker Ian Wright on Match of the Day.
"They proved a lot of people wrong because they came out and had a real go at Liverpool and I thought they deserved something out of it."
It was also further evidence that this Arsenal side, while retaining the flowing game that was their trademark, also has stomach for the fight.
Arsenal have won more points from losing positions, eight, than any other team in the Premier League this season and while they have not led at half-time in any of their league games, they have scored 19 goals after the break - more than any other side.
It is early days and there will be bumps in the road as Emery imposes his new philosophy on Arsenal but if this was earmarked as the most severe examination of their credentials so far this season, they can be quietly satisfied with the results.
Emery transforms Arsenal's theatre of pain
Arsenal's Emirates Stadium home had become a toxic place to be in the last days of Arsene Wenger's 22-year reign.
Wenger used words like "negative" and "hurtful" to describe the atmosphere inside this vast arena, the audible evidence of mounting discontent, a place where supporters had ceased to enjoy their football.
In a few short weeks, Emery's positive approach and perpetual motion body language has made the clouds roll away. Emirates Stadium is transformed, no longer a theatre of pain, but somewhere that once again resembles a football stadium.
As Arsenal tore into tackles in the first half, especially when Torreira and Granit Xhaka made their mark and Emery's side took the fight to Liverpool, the echoing catcalls of last season were forgotten, replaced by thunderous roars of approval and the occasional standing ovation in response to fierce physical exchanges.
Liverpool's own refusal to take a backward step helped the occasion, making this one of the finest Premier League matches this season, but Arsenal's fans reserved most of their appreciation for their own team.
It may seem a harsh observation after Wenger's reign produced so much success and magnificent football but there is a sense of release emanating from many Arsenal supporters, who also enjoy Emery's own touchline body language, which was often more than a match for Liverpool counterpart Klopp's usual animated and vocal efforts in his technical area.
Emery's energy transmits itself to Arsenal's players and supporters. Seconds after Milner's goal put Liverpool in front just after the hour, a huge roar of encouragement swept around the stadium, not the groans of frustration that characterised those unhappy last weeks and months under Wenger and might have greeted a similar setback not so long ago.
This is not to downplay Wenger's own achievements at Arsenal but sometimes change is needed. This was a club and fanbase that had become stale, in need of renewal and fresh hope.
As the final whistle sounded on this superb spectacle, Arsenal's supporters acclaimed their players and radiated warmth as opposed to the ice-cold atmosphere that hung over much of last season. It may have only been a point - Emery declaring himself "only 50% happy because I wanted to win" - but they had seen enough to build on the optimism created by what is now a 13-game unbeaten run.
It is very early days. Emery's arrival after 22 years of Wenger represents a seismic change and there will be defeats ahead - but Arsenal can analyse what was meant to be a forensic investigation of their tactical transformation and give themselves a pass mark.