Liverpool’s front three blew a disjointed and spineless Arsenal side out of the water this afternoon, with the Reds running out 4-0 winners over Arsene Wenger’s team at Anfield.
They have now won the last three meetings between the sides, something the Reds had not managed since 1998 before today.
In truth, four goals was the very least they deserved, with Mo Salah and Jordan Henderson missing clear-cut chances in the first half.
Whilst much of the focus will be on how poor Arsenal were, with the Gunners in crisis once again, the devastating nature of Liverpool’s attacking play should not be underestimated – in front of a raucous Anfield, the pace, directness and incision produced by Sadio Mane, Mo Salah and Roberto Firmino was nothing short of delightful.
Very early on, both sides looked evenly matched, but that did not last for long. By the eleventh minute, the Reds were carving open the back three of Arsenal at ease.
Emre Can passed across goal to Salah, but with the goal gaping he could not force the ball over the line, with Petr Cech making the save. The Egyptian must become more clinical in future, although he would score later on – he often gets into excellent positions and really should have more than three goals for the club so far this season.
Six minutes later, Firmino showed his fellow forward how it should be done. Joe Gomez waited patiently before crossing to the Brazilian, who glanced the ball into the far corner, beating the outstretched Cech.
It should have been 2-0 when Jordan Henderson robbed Mesut Ozil – who was abject throughout – and went through on goal. The Liverpool captain tried a chip shot, but could only pull it wide of the target.
From almost doubling their lead, keeper Loris Karius, in for the dropped Simon Mignolet, almost gifted an equaliser as Danny Welbeck chased him down, but he was fortunate to see the ball away just in time.
It was the first of many scares for the German, who somehow got away with it on every occasion. The Anfield crowd through that would be a thing of the past, but the surprise inclusion of the former Mainz man saw it brought back.
Liverpool continued to push hard, and got a deserved second goal just before half-time. Rob Holding made the mistake of giving Mane time and space, and the Senegalese came inside and struck into the far corner.
At the break, it could easily have been 4-0, but Liverpool let Arsenal off the hook. Aaron Ramsay, who was terrible in the first half, was replaced by Francis Coquelin, but it made no difference.
Gini Wijnaldum and Emre Can were terrific, giving none of the Arsenal midfielders a chance.
Before the hour, Karius had given Arsenal a couple more sniffs by taking too long to clear, but did well to punch clear a couple of corners.
One such clearance fell to Hector Bellerin from a corner ball in, but the Spaniard lost the ball to Salah, who raced through on goal.
He was hounded from behind, but no one could make up the ground, and the winger made it 3-0 with more than half an hour to go with a simple left-footed finish.
Jurgen Klopp had the luxury of being able to take Mane off, replacing him with Daniel Sturridge who added a fourth goal of the afternoon.
Salah was given far too much time and space to whip a cross in on the left, and Sturridge could not miss as he headed in from inside the six yard box.
At 4-0, Liverpool closed the game out with ease. They will feel that they should have scored more goals, but three points is the main thing. Four goals and a clean sheet was a big enough statement.
Klopp’s side can enter the international break full of confidence, with a trip to Manchester City next up in the Premier League, before the opening game of the Champions League group stage at home to Sevilla.
Loris Karius, 5 – had very little to do, but could have been embarrassed by slow distribution on many an occasion; looked rusty to say the least
Joe Gomez, 8 – did very well to keep Alexis Sanchez quiet and offered something in attack too, providing an assist
Joel Matip, 8 – bullied Danny Welbeck at times; comfortable afternoon for the Cameroonian
Dejan Lovren, 7 – did not have much to do, but gave the ball away a couple of times unnecessarily; will have far bigger tests than this and must show he is up to the task
Alberto Moreno, 6 – again, had little to do, but squandered possession too often; made some good tackles but you can never get away from the fact a mistake seems imminent every time he is in the vicinity of the ball
Jordan Henderson, 7 – controlled the game and played some good passes, but should have scored and could have been even more dominant
Emre Can, 9 – strong, governing and in perfect fluency with the attack; a big performance from an increasingly influential player
Gini Wijnaldum, 8 – his best game of the season so far by a mile, the Dutchman turned players inside out at will and kept the ball for his side when under severe pressure time and time again; the birth of his new baby did not appear to be affecting his sleep pattern just yet
Mohamed Salah, 8 – scored, assisted and was involved from start to finish; he fits the Liverpool system perfectly and produced a display that was more than competent; does need to get more clinical when given opportunities
Roberto Firmino, 8 – dropped deep and went in behind; not always involved in the attack, but when he was it was devastating
Sadio Mane, 8 – fast becoming Liverpool’s most influential player; Barcelona would be far better to have targeted him than Philippe Coutinho, although Liverpool will be glad they didn’t
Daniel Sturridge (74th minute sub.), 7 – scored a simple goal but understandably made a limited impact as a substitute other than that when the game had already been decided
James Milner (80th minute sub.), n/a – gave the ball away a couple of times but a nice experienced player to have coming off the bench
Marko Grujic (84th minute sub.), n/a – played a few nice passes but was not on long enough to make a real impact as he can
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