Liverpool returned to their fluent and entertaining best in the Premier League, defeating an under-fire Arsenal side 3-1.
The Reds had once again given themselves the tough task of having to react to losing against a so-called smaller side in front of the Anfield crowd. Monday night’s defeat away to Leicester City had put both their top-four hopes and the unwavering belief of the Kop in serious danger.
However, with Liverpool somewhat accustomed to making lightning-quick starts against their main rivals, it only took nine minutes for the Reds to grab the lead as Roberto Firmino finished from close range.
Jürgen Klopp’s men cemented their dominance of the game with a second goal from Sadio Mané before the half-time interval and despite Danny Welbeck handing Arsenal a lifeline with a dink past Simon Mignolet in the second-half, Georginio Wijnaldum put the result beyond doubt with a late goal in front of the Kop.
Here then are five things we learned from Liverpool’s evening out.
Liverpool with another giant-killing
Saturday night’s victory over Arsenal saw Liverpool maintain their excellent record against the teams in the Premier League’s top six this season.
In nine meetings against their main rivals, Klopp’s men have lost none, won five and drawn four, which totals to a tally of 19 points collected from the top sides.
If we take last season into consideration, then under the leadership of manager Klopp, Liverpool have lost only once against a direct rival, highlighting the big-game mentality the German has brought to the club.
A bit of history for Klopp
Seeing his record against England’s top sides grow wasn’t all the Liverpool boss could be pleased about, as he also made a bit of history.
Klopp became the first Reds manager to complete a league double over Arsenal since Gérard Houllier back in the 1999/2000 season.
The Liverpool of then went on to lift the FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup (now known as the Europa League) the following season under the Frenchman, so the Anfield faithful will hope the current crop goes on to achieve similar success, this time, under an eccentric German.
Front-three on fire
The forward line of Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho and Sadio Mané all started against Arsenal on Saturday evening, putting a rather lukewarm display against Leicester behind them with a fiery performance.
As has been the case for the most part of this season, the trio complimented each other well with some brilliant link-up play, as Mané assisted Firmino for the opening goal and the Brazilian returned the favour late in the first half, playing his teammate in on goal when he had the option of shooting himself.
Meanwhile, fellow teammate Coutinho constantly kept the Gunners defence busy with his creativity, making key runs and passes and twice being denied a scoring opportunity by Petr Čech.
Overall, Arsenal’s backline struggled – as they did on the opening day of the season – to live with the combined qualities of Liverpool’s front-three and Klopp will surely be demanding more of the same in the race to bring Champions League football back to Merseyside.
Matip and Klavan the better partnership
To his credit, midfielder Lucas Leiva has had his good and bad days at the heart of Liverpool’s defence, however, manager Klopp proved to both himself and observers that the better centre-back partnership consists of Jöel Matip and Ragnar Klavan.
The former was back to his familiar best against Arsenal, using his height to snuff out the aerial threat of the Gunners.
His partner Klavan, meanwhile, proved that although he may not be everyone’s piece of cake, his experience is an outstanding quality and one that helped him make key contributions whenever he was called into action.
Should Dejan Lovren remain sidelined for future matches, Klavan’s performance against Arsenal proved that it should be the Estonian, and no longer Lucas, that replaces Lovren alongside Matip.
Victory earns Reds more questions than praise
It’s fair to say that many a Liverpool fan didn’t enjoy Saturday night’s victory to the fullest, as not very far from the celebrations in the Anfield faithful’s mind was the question: why?
Why can’t Liverpool do the business against the so-called smaller sides?
The Reds may have taken a key step ahead in the race for the top-four, by moving up to third on the league table with victory over Arsenal but the general consensus is still that Klopp’s men should be pushing Premier League leaders Chelsea for the title – or at least pushing to secure a runners-up spot.
The reason why they’re no longer doing so is, from the surface, found in their five losses this season, all of which came against sides in the bottom-end of the table.
Whether there exists an even bigger problem beneath the surface is up for debate, but Klopp will know that his chances of achieving much-needed success already rely on improving their record against the unfancied sides.