By Ogbonna Goodluck
Liverpool’s front three perplexed their opponents all afternoon in a 4-0 victory that could have been a lot worse for the Gunners
Thierry Henry was not shocked, and in truth, even Arsenal gave off the impression that they too were expecting this implosion.
Passive, pensive and poor in every possible element, they departed Anfield embarrassed after yet another inconspicuous performance.
For the third consecutive meeting, Liverpool left Arsene Wenger with his hands over his head in the technical area as his side desperately waited on the final whistle so the painful mismatch could end.
They had zero solutions for the dynamism of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah; the trio’s dazzling darts and fluidity completely flooring markers.
Liverpool manipulated the half-spaces, and when they needed to, just bulldozed Arsenal out of it.
If anything, the north Londoners can feel somewhat fortunate that the scoreboard only read 4-0, with the Reds smashing 10 shots on target while they faced none in response.
The Merseysiders, unbeaten against the top six last season, signalled their intentions to continue that assertiveness in this campaign. “We wanted to prove to ourselves, we wanted to be spot on from the first second, we wanted to show our desire, we wanted to show our greed and we wanted to show our ambitions against a very strong side,” Klopp said afterwards.
“You never know if you then can win the game, but we didn’t think about winning the game, more about the performance. The performance was perfect and the result is a result of the performance.”
Wenger, meanwhile, had to concede that his men were “an easy opponent” in what was “an unacceptable performance.” Not many teams will be so tactically bankrupt as Arsenal were against Liverpool, but plenty will nevertheless struggle to contain their blurs of attacking brilliance.
And the authority wasn’t restricted to the forwards, the Reds were superior all over the pitch. Emre Can, Firmino, Jordan Henderson, Joe Gomez and Gini Wijnaldum could all have been named man of the match, with Klopp saying: “I saw today from the start 11 outstandingly good individual performances.”
Liverpool’s goals were varied and relegated talk of the absence of Philippe Coutinho, who is holding out for a switch to Barcelona. He was not missed in midweek against Hoffenheim and his unavailability didn’t matter on Sunday either.
For the opener, neat interplay from Can and Salah was followed up by a fantastic ball in from Gomez, with Firmino anticipating the flight of the cross superbly and timing his run accordingly.
He was allowed to track the ball and head it unchallenged, with Petr Cech conceding his 27th league goal against Liverpool – more than he has let in against any other opponent.
That the figure remained stagnant until the 40th minute was disbelieving given the utter dominance of the hosts in the encounter. Wijnaldum and Can took turns to ridicule Arsenal’s midfield, while Henderson continuously thieved possession off them.
As in their previous games, Liverpool’s front three had perplexed their opponents all afternoon; a trend likely to continue given their cocktail of explosiveness and intelligence.
Arsenal had been swamped, stifled and so static, it would have been criminal for Liverpool to allow them to head into the interval only 1-0 down.
Mane, who has directly contributed to six goals in as many league starts against the Gunners, took care of that.
Can and Firmino combined for one of their multiple dissections in the clash, with the midfielder feeding the No. 9 quickly from a counter.
The Brazil international turned and sprayed a pass into the speedster’s path with Mane standing up Rob Holding, skipping inside him and firing a curler beyond Cech into the far corner.
The conviction with which he executed that period of play should concern defenders both domestically and in Europe – the Senegal ace is starting to realize the full extent of his powers.
And having seen his fellow forwards dismantle the visitors, Salah wasn’t to be the odd one out.
Twelve seconds after Arsenal were attacking via a corner, the Egyptian had robbed Hector Bellerin, sprinted clear and ensured Cech was cursing again.
He then supplied a stellar ball in for Daniel Sturridge to inflict further damage on 77 minutes after Firmino and Can had the Gunners ghosting after them for a final time.
At the other end of the pitch, where Klopp opted to field Loris Karius in goal and rest Simon Mignolet altogether, Liverpool kept a fourth league clean sheet at Anfield on the spin.
That has not been achieved since September 2013, when Brendan Rodgers was still at the helm.
Arsenal’s deficiency of ambition may have aided the home team’s rearguard, but it was another accomplished performance in a blockbuster fixture.
Liverpool has closed off a taxing schedule of five games in 15 days with just one blemish – the 3-3 draw at Watford. They have qualified for the Champions League sans Coutinho, Adam Lallana and Nathaniel Clyne, as well as been unbeaten in the top flight.
14 goals have been scored in this period, with six conceded while the Reds boss has tried different combinations and made some bold decisions.
With a sprinkling of more quality before the transfer deadline, Liverpool can elevate their aims for the campaign.