Liverpool 4-0 Arsenal: Klopp’s vibrant Reds beat Wenger’s woeful team in Anfield rout
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Liverpool humiliated Arsenal 4-0 at Anfield on Sunday afternoon in a superb exhibition of high-intensity football that was as impressive as Arsene Wenger’s men were woeful.
Goals from Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, Mo Salah and substitute Daniel Sturridge embarrassed Wenger and his team to the extent that loyal Gooners started walking out after the Egyptian made it 3-0 just before the hour mark.
In truth Arsenal were a shambles compared to the hungry and determined home side – which made the decision to award the long-serving Frenchman a further two-year contract in May as perplexing as it was inexplicable.
Unsettled Alexis Sanchez may have made his first appearance of the season after recovering from an abdominal strain – and centre-back Laurent Koscielny started after completing a three-game ban – but it made no difference to the North Londoners who have now lost their last two league games.
It was 53 years ago this week that Liverpool played Arsenal at Anfield in a game that was to be the first-ever televised game on a new sports show called Match of the Day.
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The contest ended 3-2 to the home side with a certain visiting right-back named Don Howe playing.
Since that memorable afternoon more than five decades ago there have been a large number of games between these two giants of English – and world – football that have been breathtaking. Far too numerous too list here.
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But it would be hard to recall such an obvious gap between the two sides as there was on during this late August match.
A discussion before kick-off stirred memories of the improbable 3-3 draw played during a snowstorm on a raucous and raw January evening two seasons ago – and the even more outlandish 4-4 result on a sweltering late spring night nine years previously.
But even a draw was out of Arsenal’s reach and ability in this rout by Liverpool on Sunday.
Danny Welbeck found space in the area before lifting his shot wide, but it was Liverpool who could have scored on 11 minutes when Petr Cech spread himself to block from the former Chelsea player Mo Salah on the goaline.
While it was a top class save the feeling persisted the three-man backline could have been alert to the danger when the ball was sent in by Emre Can from the left flank.
However, Arsenal failed to learn their lesson – alas an all-too-familiar trait these days – five minutes later, this time with a ball flighted in from the right flank by young Joe Gomez. The trajectory was tempting for the array of attacking players assembled in the box.
But a competent and cohesive backline – whether comprised of three men or four men – would have cut it out.
As it was Liverpool had a trio of attackers licking their lips at the thought of putting their team ahead.
Which Roberto Firmino – rising not only to the cross but to the mantle of more responsibility in light of the Countinho affair – duly did, angling a well-placed header to the right of Cech to make it 1-0.
It could have been more as Klopp’s men simply exuded effervescence in every position.
The defensive shield Georginio Wijnaldum was hugely effective in his role as a crucial pivot between turning Arsenal’s increasingly rare foray’s into the final third into coruscating counter-attacks that lifted the noise levels in this grand old ground to fever pitch.
Yet the Dutchman wasn’t the only one to excel. His drives forward were picked up by energetic colleagues with Emre Can, Sadio Mane Firmino and Salah the main recipients of his powerful probing.
Such was Liverpool’s mastery the second goal was a microcosm of their exuberant pressing.
As the former Newcastle United midfielder gathered the ball near the edge of his own area it didn’t take a genius to work out a counter was in the offing.
What was wonderful to watch was the way Liverpool’s three man break – against an Arsenal backline of three men, two wing-backs and two defensive shields – always appeared to be the team with the extra men.
Mane’s emphatic right footed curler on the edge of the box past a despairing Cech will deserve the acclaim.
But the real beauty for this observer was the way Klopp’s men attacked, using space intelligently after being aggressive in winning the ball – encapsulated by this goal in the 39th minute that made it 2-0 to Liverpool. The crowd were exultant, whipped into a frenzy by their team outclassing the hapless visitors.
Quite simply it was peak Klopp against dispirited Wenger.
And there was to be only one winner.
There is a theory in the game that the worst time to play Liverpool is early in the season as their energy levels have not been denuded by a long winter of pressing on heavy pitches. Yet this lively performance mirrored the Reds superb eclipsing of Wenger’s men in March too – which posed more questions than answers.
Is the fault with the Arsenal team or the manager? Or should Klopp simply be hailed as an effective tactician and man-motivator?
The second half would tell us more.
But it was instructive towards the end of a chastening first 45 minutes that even the energy levels on the benches were poles apart.
No wonder Klopp gave his men the thumbs up moments before half time. It was the least he could do.
Wenger and Steve Bould merely sat their, heads bowed.
Whether it was in supplication to an effective form of football yet to be embraced, or even copied, by Arsenal – or whether it was the moment of truth in your soul when you know, simply know, you’re not at the races – it was hard to tell.
Wenger brought on Francis Coquelin for the ineffective Ramsey at half time, but the move was surely only an indication of a reactive move, rather than a proactive one – and at 2-0 down it was difficult to see how the change would alter things in an attacking sense.
Liverpool could have made it 3-0 moments after the interval as an onrushing Salah was denied by Cech before Henderson then fired over.
The Egyptian did make it three on 58 minutes as he raced from the half-way line to coolly slot the ball past Cech after dispossessing a dithering Bellerin in his own half.
It was an excellent finish which showed character as well as technique as he raced with the ball faster than men without it, while not being affected by doubts he would miss.
The strike also prompted a number of away fans to leave the ground in disgust at what they were seeing.
When some of your most loyal fans – the travelling support who follow their team everywhere – feel compelled to leave a match 200 miles away from home with more than half an hour remaining, serious questions need to be asked.
Not just of the manager but of those above him too.
It could have been four moments later as Mane squeezed the ball under Cech only for Bellerin to clear on the line. But in truth the Arsenal players looked shell-shocked rather than inspired.
Daniel Sturridge did make it four with 13 minutes remaining, six minutes after coming on for the impressive Mane, who thoroughly deserved his ovation upon leaving the pitch. Salah’s inviting cross saw the forward nod the ball into the net after the ball evaded Koscielny following a driving run forward from Can.
As the clock ticked down both sides looked happy to keep it to four.
For Klopp’s young, hungry and talented side that is rapidly evolving it was a disappointment.
For Wenger, weary Wenger and his desperately disappointing side it was a relief.
Which perfectly sums up the gap that now exists between Arsenal and the top four.
Karius; Gomez, Lovren, Matip, Moreno; Henderson, Emre Can, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mane (Sturridge 71)
Cech, Holding, Koscielny, Monreal, Bellerin, Ramsey (Coquelin, 45), Xhaka, Oxlade-Chamberlain (Lacazette 61), Ozil, Welbeck (booked), Alexis (Giroud, 61)
Referee: Craig Pawson