By Umarah Naz
Liverpool v Arsenal is one of the bigger fixtures in the Premier League calendar. Two top teams going toe to toe challenging for a top four place, occasionally flirting with the top spot too. But once that fizzles out, they are usually left to fight it out among themselves scrapping for a CL place.
So one would think that when they visit Anfield it would be a close encounter. A tense affair. A game of cat and mouse. An intense end to end goal fest. But the last few meetings have been anything but. In fact, they have been a sure three points for the Reds. And the meeting on Sunday was no different.
Arsenal were thoroughly handed their bottom on a plate by a Reds side that were running riot on the newly laid pitch at Anfield. The grass must have been made fireproof to curb any fire hazards as sparks could ignite at any moment with the likes of Mané, Can, Salah, Firmino and Moreno streaking down it time after time.
Jurgen Klopp’s side made Arsenal look weak and pathetic as his midfield and attack bypassed theirs with stunning, defence-splitting passes, counter attacks sublime enough to make your knees go weak, and finishes as deadly as you’ll ever see.
Deadly because they left the Arsenal defence for dead on numerous occasions. Only Petr Cech provided a meek last stand that withered at the sight of the approaching Red juggernaut.
Liverpool put four goals away but could have had so many more. Can and Salah almost scored within the first ten minutes. The former missing the target whilst the latters effort was somehow kept out by Cech from close range.
The seventeenth minute saw the inevitable happen as Joe Gomez crossed in sumptuously for Firmino to head home for Liverpool’s first. From then on till the fortieth minute Arsenal were largely kept on the back foot by Liverpool’s all encompassing play.
On forty minutes, the Reds counter attack paid off when Firmino found a Sadio “Bolt” Mane, who took the ball to the left edge of the penalty area before cutting in onto his right foot and curling the ball past a fully stretched Cech.
But to be fair to Arsenal, it’s not as though they would have known this was coming. It’s not like Mané had done this exact same thing to them before, maybe from the other side though. Oh wait…he did. Last season.
The fifty-seventh minute saw two shockingly fantastic moments by Klopp’s boys just seconds apart.
Firstly, and wait for it…Liverpool successfully cleared a corner kick. Matip’s header away was greeted with a huge celebratory cheer. But the crowd hardly had a second to compose the themselves after witnessing this astonishing feat that Salah took it upon himself to shatter Matip’s moment of glory by stealing the ball from a flailing Bellerin.
As he sped towards Arsenals goal accompanied by stampedes from Can and Mané, Cech’s life must have momentarily flashed before his blue eyes as he knew he was powerless in the face of such oncoming brilliance. And he’d be right.
His misery wasn’t to end there, either. Cue Mr Daniel Sturridge; goal scorer extraordinaire.
On he comes and doesn’t even have the manners wait a little before joining in the fun. There was Wenger breathing a teeny sigh of relief when Mané came off but that breath hadn’t even been fully exhaled when Salah crossed the ball in for Sturridge to guide into the net with his beautiful head. A wonderful end to a master class in footballing ability.
Why haven’t I said anything about Arsenal going forward, I hear you say? Good question. That’s because Moreno, Matip, Lovren and Gomez didn’t let them have a sniff of Karius’ goal. Klopp really couldn’t have picked a worse game to rest Mignolet. Even the double substitution of Lacazette and Giroud couldn’t help Arsenal as the defence had their collective foot on their throats too.
It’s unfortunate that Sky Sports spent the entirety of their post-match analysis lamenting Arsenal rather than focusing on the beauty of Liverpool’s performance. A complete travesty in fact.
Two teams that shouldn’t be all that far apart in quality but were worlds apart on Sunday, simply because Liverpool stepped up and made a roaring statement. Consistency is key for Klopp now. Maintain this kind of form at least most of the time throughout the season and who knows…maybe the CL spot won’t be all that’s being fought for.