LIVERPOOL completed a hat-trick of victories over Arsenal for the first time in 19 years as they took full advantage of a simply woeful performance from the gruesome Gunners.
The home team’s electric front three of Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mo Salah all found the net as Liverpool threatened to run riot.
Liverpool do not need any encouragement to take the fight to the opposition at Anfield, and their speed and movement were simply too much for Arsenal to cope with.
But despite completing the double over the Londoners last season they must have been amazed at how much time and space Arsenal allowed them.
The Gunners were lucky to beat Leicester in their opening game, and squandered a glut of possession when they lost to Stoke.
But this is the performance that will really set the alarm bells ringing.
Their midfield quartet of Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil, Granit Xhaka and Hector Bellerin were even more guilty of ball-watching than their back three.
The Arsenal fans predictably turned on manager Arsene Wenger, who sprang a surprise by leaving out £52million man Alexandre Lacazette to accommodate the return of fit-again Alexis Sanchez.
The unsettled Chilean barely got a look-in as Firmino started the rout with his fourth goal in his last four appearances against Arsenal.
He glided the ball home with a stooping header after Xhaka surrendered possession in a dangerous area, and Mane made it 2-0 before half time with a curling shot that gave Petr Cech no chance.
Wenger tried to change things round at half time by replacing Ramsey with Francis Coquelin, and switching to an orthodox back four.
But it did little to stem the attacking flow, and Liverpool deservedly added to their tally when Salah robbed Bellerin and ran the length of the pitch before slipping the ball past Cech.
INTERACTIVE STATS – CLICK on the categories to find out how the teams fared
INTERACTIVE LINE-UPS – CLICK on the player’s number below to see their stats
FACTS, STATS, GOALS & LOLS
- This is the first time Liverpool have won three matches in a row against Arsenal since May 1998 – they won four in a row before that streak ended.
- Arsenal’s struggles on the road continued. The Gunners have not won a game away from home against a team that finished in the top six the previous season in more than TWO YEARS. Their last victory came in January 2015, a 2-0 win at Manchester City, a run that has seen them lose eight and draw five of those matches.
- Liverpool have proved to be Petr Cech’s biggest bogey team. He has now conceded 28 goals against the Reds, more than any other side – Manchester United are second with 26.
- Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino’s stunning form against Arsenal continues. Mane has contributed six goals (four goals, two assists) in his last six starts against the Gunners and Firmino has four goals in five matches against them.
- It only took three matches for the #WengerOut brigade to return, as angry as ever. Fans on social media were fuming at Wenger’s team selection ahead of kick-off and it won’t have got any better after such an embarrassing defeat.
- Mohamed Salah now has as many goals for Liverpool, three, in four matches for the club as he got for Chelsea. Salah was on the books at the Blues for 29 months, although he spent more time out on loan than he did in West London.
- Daniel Sturridge climbed off the bench to score his 99th career goal.
- Such a humiliating defeat should be enough to spark Wenger into the kind of spending spree he went on after the Gunners were smashed 8-2 at Old Trafford in 2011. Trouble is, the transfer window closes at 11pm on Thursday night.
- Wenger again started with the 3-4-3 formation that served the team well at the end of last season and helped the Gunners win the FA Cup. But Arsenal do not have the players to pull it off. Laurent Koscielny is a very good centre-back but not a commanding one. Hector Bellerin is not a left wing-back. Aaron Ramsey and Granit Xhaka offer ZERO protection to their defenders. Mesut Ozil’s complete lack of interest in working back means the Gunners are always light on one flank. Danny Welbeck can’t hold the ball up… it didn’t work at all.
WHAT THEY SAID
Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson: “I thought we did very well. I always thought we were pretty solid, we defended well as a team, put them in areas we wanted them to be. And we devestated on the break.
“I felt as though we controlled the game everywhere really, delighted with the lads, they were brilliant, we worked ever so hard and got our just rewards.”
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger: “I would say, of course, it was shocking. Our performance was absolutely disastrous.
“If you [can] find a manager who is happy after a performance like that – I wish you good luck.”
DREAM TEAM RATINGS
Liverpool: Karius 6, Gomez 8, Lovren 6, Matip 7, Moreno 7, Henderson 7, Can 8, Wijnaldum 8, Salah 9, Mane 7 (Sturridge 74, 7), Firmino 8 (Milner 80, 6).
Subs not used: Ward, Klavan, Alexander-Arnold, Grujic, Solanke.
Goals: Firmino, Mane, Salah, Sturridge
Booked: Gomez, Lovren.
Arsenal: Cech 7, Holding 5, Koscielny 6, Monreal 5, Bellerin 4, Ramsey 6 (Coquelin 45, 5), Xhaka 5, Oxlade-Chamberlain 6 (Lacazette 62, 6), Ozil 5, Sanchez 6 (Giroud 62, 6), Welbeck 6.
Subs not used: Ospina, Mustafi, Kolasinac, Walcott.
Booked: Welbeckl, Ozil, Xhaka, Holding.
Star man: Mo Salah
Keep up-to-date with all the latest transfer news and gossip in our live blog