Liverpool were rampant as they thumped Arsenal 4-0 on Saturday evening, an emphatic return to winning ways.
Having seen their unbeaten start to the season ended at West Ham before the international break, Jurgen Klopp’s side responded in style with a comprehensive dismantling of their opponents, who had arrived looking to leapfrog their hosts into the top four.
But for all Arsenal’s recent improvement Liverpool’s quality shone through as they eased back into second place, four points behind Chelsea, after a 15th consecutive game in which they scored more than twice – the longest run by an English top-flight club since Wolves’ 16 in 1939.
Gunners boss Mikel Arteta, remembered here for his time as an Everton player, discovered to his cost the dangers of rattling Anfield’s cage as a touchline bust-up with Klopp ignited the atmosphere and energised the home side.
It was that incident which saw the match catch fire as Liverpool’s players used the injection of emotion to press home their territorial advantage with goals from Sadio Mane, in the first half, Diogo Jota, Mohamed Salah and substitute Takumi Minamino – with his first touch.
Arteta appeared to have done his homework and his side started compact and organised but looking to hit their hosts on the counter-attack.
Nevertheless, he still had to rely on Aaron Ramsdale to continue his good form and had it not been for the England international Arsenal would have left with a much worse result than they did.
Having parried a volley from Thiago Alcantara, in the side as Jordan Henderson was only deemed fit enough for the bench after an injury on England duty, Mane got the follow-up caught under his body, allowing the goalkeeper to save.
Later in the first half Ramsdale was also able to deny Salah from close range and Trent Alexander-Arnold from distance.
But before that came the turning point of the half, and it did not occur on the pitch.
A 𝘀𝘁𝘂𝗻𝗻𝗶𝗻𝗴 performance from the Reds at Anfield pic.twitter.com/R6z5OGdngT
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) November 20, 2021
Mane went up for a header with Takehiro Tomiyasu but, for some reason seemingly unapparent to the majority watching, Arteta was incensed.
Klopp offered a word of disagreement, causing his opposite number to fly off the handle which led to both managers being separated by their respective coaching staff and then booked by referee Michael Oliver.
That raised the noise level at Anfield and when lone defender Fabinho’s last-ditch but perfectly-timed tackle to dispossess Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – earlier flagged offside as Alexandre Lacazette thrashed his square pass into the empty Kop net – as he threatened to race clear the roar was visceral.
It was matched only by the one which greeted Mane’s goal when he nodded home Alexander-Arnold’s free-kick having been left unmarked in the six-yard area.
Mane was then booked for hacking at Ben White as the ball trickled out of play as the atmosphere remained febrile.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was desperate to impress against his old side and when the influential Fabinho intercepted Bukayo Saka’s pass the former Gunners midfielder steered a shot wide of the post.
But seven minutes into the second half Liverpool doubled their lead as Arteta’s insistence his side play out from the back fell foul of Klopp’s pressing game.
Having won the ball off Alexander-Arnold, Nuno Tavares cut inside but blindly rolled a pass straight to Jota who could not believe his luck, showing real composure to side-step Ramsdale and score into an empty net.
Arsenal were being pinned back in their own half with any notion of counter-attacking merely a second thought as Liverpool went in for the kill, Ramsdale denying Mane and Jota twice.
The Arsenal goalkeeper could do nothing about the third 17 minutes from time when Mane burst down the left to cross for Salah to volley home his 16th of the campaign, before Minamino scored his first Anfield goal just 48 seconds after replacing Jota.
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