It is also, as it happens, 20 years since Robbie Fowler recorded the Premier League’s quickest hat-trick in the same fixture, striking in the 26th, 29th and 31st minutes to ease the Reds to a home victory over George Graham’s Gunners on August 29, 1994.
Fowler paid a flying visit to Dublin this week to promote Setanta’s coverage of today’s game and the repeat meeting in the FA Cup at the Emirates on Sunday 16, as well as the Arsenal-Manchster United match on Wednesday 12.
Now 38, the Toxteth-born striker grimaced at the reminder that a full 20 years have passed since he set that quick-fire record.
“I haven’t thought of it, so cheers for that,” he quipped. He was on happier ground recalling his overall goal-scoring return against the Gunners rather than the antiquity of those games.
“Throughout players’ careers, you tend to find one team you score more against than others, and Arsenal was my lucky team,” he observed. “People remember the hat-tricks but I was lucky enough to score in other games as well. It was a team I always enjoyed playing against.”
Fowler, of course, took his place in a long and distinguished line of Anfield goal legends, from Keegan and Toshack, through Dalglish, Rush, Aldridge, Owen and Torres, to the current keeper of the flame, Suarez. So, naturally, I wondered how one former Liverpool great rates the latest model?
“He is an unbelievable player,” said Fowler, “but to be classed as one of the Liverpool greats, you need a bit of longevity. He needs to do it for a few more years. And while it’s so far, so good, you have to look at Torres, who was superb at Liverpool — with an excellent goals-per-game ratio — but who has left a little bit of a sour taste with the way he went. He could have been up there as well, he was that good.”
Fowler reckons that securing Suarez’s longevity at the club will be inextricably linked with Liverpool qualifying for the Champions’ League next season.
Failure to claim at least fourth in the Premier League in May could make it “tough”, he worries, to keep the striker.
“He is a player who any club in the world would want to sign,” he pointed out. “He is just that good, up there with Messi and Ronaldo, as one of the three best players in the world at the minute. He deserves to play Champions League and I would love to see him play Champions League with Liverpool.”
Fowler, who is currently lending his expertise to the next generation in Liverpool’s Academy and has ambitions to get into management in his own right, is lavish in his praise of the club’s current gaffer.
“In Brendan Rodgers, they have got a great manager,” he said. “I honestly believe Liverpool have the right man. He will bring the glory days back. I was lucky to go on tour in pre-season with Liverpool and, no disrespect to other managers, I could see the togetherness. And you have to say Rodgers deserves a lot of credit for that because the players look as though they are enjoying their football and look as though they want it. If they get a run together and pull off a couple of great results, that breeds confidence and then they could even finish higher than fourth.”
As for the current travails of Liverpool’s greatest rivals, Manchester United, Fowler is adamant United aren’t about to fall from their perch in the way his old club once did.
“I think you will find that they will go out in the summer and spend a lot more money on players,” he suggested. “Liverpool, in the past, did not have as much money to go and stick to where they were. I cannot see United slipping to a low level. It will be tough for them but I don’t think they will slip into the abyss and be a mid-table team because the money in today’s game will allow them to buy players and, because of their history, players will want to sign for them.”
He also said he thought United would stick with David Moyes.
“Anyone who came in after Alex was always going to have a tough job and, from a Manchester United perspective, it would be a little embarrassing if they changed their manager after a year. They can afford to — but the embarrassment factor will be big. David is a good manager but Jose Mourinho could have gone in there and it would still have been difficult to replicate anything that Alex had done.”