Jack Hallows runs over the major talking points from Liverpool Football Club’s professional 5 – 1 demolition of Unai Emery’s Arsenal.
What a way to cap off 2018 eh Reds?!
Unai Emery’s Arsenal side represented the final challenge facing Klopp’s Liverpool for the calendar year and while much of the talk pre-match was about the devastation Aubameyang and Lacazette could potentially cause to Liverpool, it was instead Liverpool who did the devastating.
Despite the Gunners taking the lead through a Maitland-Niles strike after 10 minutes, the half-time scoreline read 4-1 to the home side after Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané provided a timely reminder of just how incredible they are.
Let’s crack into the game.
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Despite all the hard graft still being ever-present, Roberto Firmino hasn’t quite been at his best this season in front of goal as he adjusts to his new, deeper role in Klopp’s 4-2-3-1.
It was perhaps fitting then, that the ever-dependable Brazilian exploded into life against Arsenal to turn the Gunners’ 1-0 lead into a 4-1 deficit within half an hour.
His first goal was fortuitous to say the least but was typical Firmino, the Reds no.9 sensing an opportunity, carrying on his run to pounce on a loose ball and tapping it in from close range with the return of his trademark no-look finish.
The second was simply beautiful with Firmino leaving three Arsenal defenders on their backsides and sliding the ball past Bernd Leno with equal finesse.
He capped his hat-trick – his first for Liverpool – with a penalty after Mo Salah relinquished spot kick duties to allow his team mate the opportunity, becoming the highest scoring Brazilian in Premier League history (43) in the process.
With a huge clash with Man City looming on the horizon, an in-form, confident Firmino could make all the difference.
Differing midfield fortunes
Despite both sides boasting incredible attacking firepower amongst their ranks, this game was always going to be decided by who won the midfield.
The form of Lucas Torreira had me worried in that respect but Liverpool’s no.5, Gini Wijnaldum, absolutely bossed the Uruguayan all night.
The Dutchman was imperious throughout, winning duels, making interceptions and exhibiting incredible strength and hold up play to body off the likes of Ramsey and Lucas Torreira – whose only ‘highlight’ for the match was being left on the floor as Firmino scored his second – constantly.
Fielded next to Fabinho in a double pivot, the Dutchman was also far more progressive than we’ve seen in recent weeks, bombing forward to join the attack wherever he could and providing a real reminder of his dribbling capability.
His midfield partner had a tougher night, with Fabinho’s passing radar in particular a little off but such was the imperious nature of Wijnaldum’s performance that it simply just didn’t matter.
Jürgen’s angry Reds
Liverpool went behind for the first time in a Premier League match at Anfield for the entire calendar year of 2018 when Maitland-Niles tapped in at the far post and the commentators made a wonderful point, “how do they react now?”
This was new territory for this Liverpool side and it was a great point. Would they wilt under the pressure or would this just fire them up more?
We got our answer in emphatic fashion.
The Arsenal goal served only to make the eleven players on the pitch, the manager and the Anfield crowd angry and the Reds’ launched surge after surge of attacks at their visitors defence, battering the door down and looking as if they could find the net every time they came forward.
Where previous Liverpool sides would’ve become disheartened and likely conceded a second or third goal, this group that Klopp has put together are harder than that. You land a blow on us, we land three, four, or in this instance five, back.
Former Arsenal striker Ian Wright perhaps comedically summed it up best in the studio coverage of the game, yelling “why did we have to upset them?!”
Return of Penaltypool??
Liverpool hadn’t been given a Premier League penalty at Anfield for 424 days before Salah was brought down against Newcastle in midweek but were given another two against Arsenal, making it three in two games!
It had been an incredible amount of time without, given how much time Liverpool spend in the opposition box and how tricky and fast the Reds’ attacking players are.
The two against Arsenal were far more concrete than the one against Newcastle, with Greek centre half Sokratis having not one, not two but three hacks at Salah’s ankles before the Egyptian went down and the second was bizarre, Kolasinac just deciding to shove Lovren to the floor rather than defend properly.
It was fantastic to see both buried – the Reds’ record from the spot last season was far from impressive – but the main talking point has to be the build up to the first.
The way Alisson gathered the ball in Liverpool’s own 18-yard box, got his head up and pinged a ridiculous pass to Firmino’s feet in space on the right hand side was sublime.
In the space of a few seconds and even less passes, Liverpool had gone from defending an Arsenal attack to Salah being fouled inside the visitors box.
Taking advantage of others failings
Where previous Liverpool sides have fallen behind in title races and even top four challenges is the failure to take advantage of their rivals failings.
For too long Liverpool would see one of their rivals slip up and drop points, putting them in a position of superiority only to do the same themselves that very week and surrender any advantage they may have been gifted.
This season however, Liverpool remain undefeated after 20 games, winning an absurd 17 of those and the Reds have continually punished the likes of Spurs, Chelsea and Manchester City whenever their rivals have dropped points.
The 0-0 draw at Anfield aside, City have dropped points on four other occasions this season, drawing 1-1 with Wolves and being beaten by Chelsea, Crystal Palace and Leicester. During those game weeks, Liverpool have defeated Newcastle 4-0, Wolves 2-0, Bournemouth 4-0 and Brighton 1-0. 12 points to City’s 1.
Spurs have done so on five occasions, being beaten by Liverpool themselves 2-1 but also dropping points in losses to Wolves, Arsenal, Watford and Manchester City.
In those same four game weeks, Liverpool have beaten Arsenal 5-1, won the Merseyside derby, hammered Cardiff 4-1 and beaten Leicester 2-1.
When rivals falter, this Liverpool side just carries on.
That is the making of Champions, never mind any of the other factors, to be able to consistently take advantage of the moments when your rivals slip is the one thing that wins you titles.
If and of course at this moment it is still an if, Liverpool can continue to do exactly that and can make their own matches against City and Spurs extra slip ups for those two sides, then they could be the ones lifting that trophy in May.
For now though, as Klopp says, it’s only just passed the halfway mark and there is a lot of football left to play. One goal at a time, one game at a time, one result at a time.
Come on you Redmen!!!!!!!!