This season's Premier League has been bizarre and unpredictable and chaotic -- but it's also been a whole lot of fun. All those qualities were on display and turned up to 11 when Liverpool and Arsenal squared off at Anfield on Wednesday, and it made for one of the most entertaining matches of the season.
Hard hit by a vicious combination of injuries and out-of-form forwards, Jurgen Klopp opted to set his side up to press hard and hope for the best. Arsene Wenger and Arsenal responded with the curious choice of dropping a bit deeper to play more conservatively with the ball. That meant that whenever Liverpool won the ball back and broke on the counter they had a shorter pitch to use, wreaking havoc on an Arsenal defense trying to reset and face the fast-moving threat.
Making matters worse for the Gunners' defense was how Liverpool's front line was set up. At face value Liverpool played a 4-4-2 with Roberto Firmino and Adam Lallana playing as makeshift, high-pressing strikers. But the way they brought other players up from midfield let them change shape at will, making it hard to read their attack. The options Liverpool had in attack and their movement made it difficult for Arsenal to adapt and guess where attacks were coming from. That helped lead to Liverpool's opening goal just ten minutes into the match, when Firmino drilled a rebounded save off a shot from Emre Can.
Of course, Arsenal's defense wasn't the only one forgetting how to defend. Mamadou Sakho got turned inside out and Simon Mignolet guarded the wrong post on Arsenal's quick equalizer, leaving Liverpool fans frustrated. Watching Liverpool make their own mistakes didn't help Arsenal, though, leading them to forget to mark Firmino before he unleashed this gorgeous, bending strike that could wind up as a Goal of the Season candidate.
All this chaos, all this bizarre play, all these goals -- and it all came in the first 20 minutes of the game. It's not like this drama played out over the course of the match. It all happened almost before you could settle into watching the game. Arsenal's second equalizer came just five minutes later -- along with another display of inept goalkeeping from Liverpool -- and for a minute there it seemed like we could be destined for an 8-8 final score.
Alas, that wasn't to be. There wasn't another goal scored in the first half, but we did see plenty more chaos as both teams stormed all over the pitch trying to find a way to score another. We had goal line clearances, shots off the bar, head wounds getting stapled shut -- and that was just the first half.
This was exactly the kind of match where you just can't predict what was happening next -- though maybe Liverpool's defense breaking down for a third time early in the second half was pretty predictable. Still, you had to keep your eyes glued to the action because this was one of those matches where anything could happen at any time.
In a very real way, it was a microcosm of this EPL season as a whole. We're watching last season's champions fight against relegation. We're watching watching a team that narrowly avoided relegation fight for the title. West Ham are beating EPL heavyweights and losing to teams who were in the Championship last season. Heck, Stoke is actually playing entertaining football and are high up the table because of it.
It's been a wild and unpredictable ride from the first kick of the season. There have been upsets galore and every time we think we have things nailed down and figured out, the whole table has been shaken up two weeks later. There is no status quo other than "chaos is real and nothing should be taken for granted."
And you know what? That's been so much fun. When the EPL is predictable, it's not very much fun. While we haven't known exactly who would win the league or who would be in the top four going into the season the past few years, we've always had a pretty good idea of it. The biggest surprise was a Brendan Rodgers-led Liverpool side exploding to a title challenge two seasons ago before melting down in the final stretch to finish second. Otherwise it's been business as usual -- and dull business at that. This year's chaos has been most welcome, and wonderful fun to watch unfold.
So when Joe Allen with his Andrea Pirlo-esque hair and beard scraped an equalizer in the 90th minute of Wednesday's match, we should have seen it coming. Especially since Liverpool had just made the crazy move to bring a defender into the match who had been with the team for just two days in Steven Caulker -- and to put him up top as an extra body in attack. Because why not? With everything else in this season being so bizarre, having an unlikely player score an unlikely goal in an unlikely situation is just business as usual.