Liverpool 4-0 Arsenal: Reds run riot as Sadio Mane, Diogo Jota, Mohamed Salah and Takumi Minamino crush the Gunners after a tense first half where Arteta and Klopp had a major bust-up on the Anfield touchline
Liverpool emphatically found their stride again at Anfield last night as Arsenal found the limits of their recent resurgence.
Mikel Arteta's revival of this team after a historically bad start to the season has been genuinely impressive, with eight wins and two draws in the last ten games. Yet it didn't get close to surviving a forensic examination from a Liverpool team with Trent Alexander-Arnold, Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Diogo Jota at their best.
To be fair, few teams would. But Arteta made the process much easier, seemingly daring Liverpool to sweep him aside by persisting with Pierre-Emerick Aubamemyang and Alexandre Lacazette up front with Emile Smith Rowe and Buyako Saka pushing up wide.
Liverpool duly obliged. Initially frustrated for long periods by a heroic Aaron Ramsdale, they eventually overwhelmed Arsenal and looked an unstoppable force in the second half.
Thomas Partey and Albert Sambi Lokonga were ultimately run ragged in midfield but even their evening wasn't as traumatic as Nuno Tavares, asked to deal with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Mo Salah, perhaps the best right-wing attacking combination in world football. With Smith Rowe nominally in front of him - not a natural defender - it was the very definition of an impossible job.
By the end, Liverpool were so comfortable it was hard to believe Arsenal had come into this game intent on overtaking their opponents in the table. The gap between them means that while Arsenal might be able to set up with attacking ambition and style against most teams, against Liverpool, it really is inadvisable. Liverpool's defeat to West Ham prior to the international break looked a distant memory
'We had to show a reaction, that's clear but we haven't been together because of the international break, so you can't just tell them to show a reaction,' said Jurgen Klopp. 'But after half time we had a really impressive phase. It was a mix of very mature performance with some very exciting moments; great counter press, great high press. It was really good.'
Arteta was by degrees phlegmatic, in that his side have to simply file this under 'lessons to be learned' and irritated that his team has wasted a relatively good first half. 'I have seen the biggest teams in the world come here to this ground and collapse,' he said. 'It can be. They were better than us for 96 minutes and that's the level. That's why they win what they win.
'Today you could see the difference the moment we lost control of the game. In the second half, when we had to get some momentum, we just threw it away in the first 15-20 minutes. We give every ball away in very dangerous areas, we had no pressure and they punished us. But it is a learning process and there are a lot of things we should take from today and the most important is the next one and forget about this one.'
One positive they could take was the magnetic charisma and extraordinary performance of Aaron Ramsdale, a goalkeeper who can seemingly dominate with his personality without leaving his six-yard box.
Ramsdale's contribution was another series of superb saves and, at 0-0, each one was a rallying call to enthuse the entire team. With each seemingly more implausible rescue, his teammates gathered round him to celebrate and it was as though he infused them with hope, a last man standing inspiring his fellow warriors.
'Come on!' he yelled after tipping one Trent Alexander-Arnold shot over the bar. His tour de force came on 29 minutes an Alexander-Arnold cross finding Thiago, whose volley was parried away. Only to Sadio Mane, who looked poised to put in the rebound before Ramsdale sprung up to push his shot away for a corner.
Cue groups hugs and all-round congratulation. Another genius piece of improvisation came on 36 minutes. Having initially parried a Mo Salah strike, Arsenal were at the mercy of the Egyptian, the goal begging to be scored until Ramsdale recovered and flung out a hand to tip the ball away from Salah's feet.
In-between all that came an extraordinary touchline rows sparked by Mane's challenge on Takehiro Tomiyasu. Arteta protested vigorously. Klopp responded, charging towards him looking for all the world he was ready to settle this here and now. Arteta didn't back down, fronting up, screaming, by now being hauled back by backroom staff as he gesticulated wildly. Naturally, all this only stirred Anfield all the more.
Arsenal's defiance couldn't hold amidst the tumult. On 39 minutes, an Alexander-Arnold free kick found Mane, Gabriel allowed him far too much space. Stooping, he headed the ball firmly downwards to bounce over Ramsdale's arm, who was naturally furious.
Arsenal were, as Arteta indicated, largely authors of their own misfortune thereafter. Time and again they were almost caught out as they persisted in playing out from the back. Nuno Tavares had already endured a horrible evening double marking Salah and Alexander-Arnold.
The pressure told eventually. Striding confidently out of defence on 52 minutes, he played pass across the penalty area directly into the path of Diogo Jota. He gleefully danced towards goal, aided by Ben White's panicky challenge, diving in, which he skipped past, before dummying Ramsdale to score.
Two-nil down, it seemed ambitious to expect anything approaching comeback. Liverpool were firmly in their stride by now. But Arsenal continued to press the ball high up the pitch as though the game were still a viable contest. As such, they were easing pickings.
Liverpool's third, from Salah on 73 minutes was started by Alisson clipping a ball to Konstantinos Tsimikas at left back who in turn nudged it forwards to Jota, whose header played in Mane sprinting down the left. They had played through Arsenal's midfield in three seconds and were in on goal, Mane crossing for Salah to finish.
Klopp immediately brought on Jordan Henderson and Takumi Minamino, the game won and Porto to play in midweek. And within sixty seconds the subs had made their mark. Again, Alisson started a move which worked its way to Henderson in midfield.
He chipped the ball on to Mane, who dummied his defender, spun and played in Salah, who touched in on to Alexander-Arnold. His cross was gratefully received by Minamino at the far post, touching it in. Again, in a couple of seconds, Arsenal had been cut apart. They may be better than they were but they aren't yet among the best.
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Liverpool thrashed Arsenal 4-0 in a scintillating performance which underlined their title challenge and provided the Gunners with a sobering reminder of the gap between the sides.
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