Unlike last weekend, when a clash between two of the top six lived up to the billing as Tottenham and Chelsea played out a thriller, Sunday’s clash between Liverpool and Arsenal quickly turned into a mismatch.
Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, and Daniel Sturridge all got on the scoresheet as Liverpool thrashed Arsenal 4-0 to burnish their own Premier League title credentials.
Here are three takeaways from the game.
LIVERPOOL LAY DOWN A MARKER
It had been an indifferent start to the season from Liverpool, with a shambolic draw at Watford followed by a listless display in a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace. This, however, was Liverpool at their very best.
Much like the corresponding fixture between the two teams last year, Liverpool blew Arsenal away with their energy and attacking verve right from the start.
Beating one of the other teams from the top six 4-0 is usually a statement win, and the Reds can rightly cite this as evidence that they are also title challengers.
The only thing one can say against that is, given how poor and lacking in fight this Arsenal team was on Sunday, Liverpool are still to face quality opposition.
Liverpool have scored eight goals in three Premier League games, plus another six across two legs of their Champions League qualifier, without their chief playmaker having made an appearance.
According to some reports, the club has finally decided to enter into negotiations with Barcelona over Philippe Coutinho, and while selling the Brazilian will no doubt be a blow, Liverpool’s front three of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, and new signing Mohamed Salah looks formidable.
If anything, any shortcomings that emerge over the season will largely be down to the lack of an elite defence, not being shorn of Coutinho.
SAME OLD SORRY ARSENAL
Flash back to January 18, 2015. Arsene Wenger took his Arsenal team to Manchester, deployed two defensive midfielders (or one defensive midfielder and one deep-lying playmaker), and rolled over Man City in a clinical 2-0 away win. It was supposed to be the dawn of a new Arsenal.
Since then, Arsenal’s away results against the rest of the big six include three straight losses each to heated rivals Spurs and Chelsea, plus two losses to Liverpool, including on Sunday, one loss to a Manchester United shorn of many of its first-team players, and a handful of draws – but not a single win.
The reasons for the Gunners’ struggles are so familiar, the same analyses are written every year. Arsenal’s defence is poor, the midfield lacks steel and thus a potent attack is rendered toothless.
Sunday’s team selection was muddled – yet again, not a new criticism. Rob Holding, the latest Arsenal player to have been hyped after barely a handful of good performances, was completely out of his depth; starting him ahead of Sead Kolasinac and Shkrodan Mustafi was a definite head-scratcher.
Hector Bellerin, a right-back, started at left wingback ahead of natural left-backs Kolasinac and Nacho Monreal, who was shoehorned into central defence. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who’s not even a defender, was given Bellerin’s natural position. Granit Xhaka, bought to add steel to the midfield, has yet to show any attributes of a midfield enforcer other than reckless tackling.
If you’re not playing the best players for each position, how are you going to succeed? That’s a question Wenger needs to answer, fast.