Liverpool 5-1 Arsenal: Talking points as the Reds go nine points clear

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Liverpool players celebrate

Premier League leaders Liverpool roared back from going a goal down to batter Arsenal 5-1, stretching their advantage to nine points over second-placed Tottenham Hotspur.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles slid in for the shock 11th-minute opener for the visitors. This was the 21-year-old’s first goal for the club in 48 games.

But this only sparked a brutal reaction from the Reds – and an embarrassing collapse from their opponents. The ball bobbled to hat-trick hero Roberto Firmino to slot in the quick-fire leveller, while a 90-second turnaround was completed when the same player skipped clear to place past goalkeeper Bernd Leno.

Sadio Mane converted from close range to make it 3-1 and Mohamed Salah slammed in an injury-time penalty. After the interval, Firmino also struck from the spot.

Here are the talking points from Anfield:

FIRMINO FIRES WHEN IT MATTERS

Roberto Firmino celebrates after his second goal

Roberto Firmino celebrates after his second goal

Firmino couldn’t look at Arsenal, their implosion was that bad. From the moment the Brazilian applied his signature no-look finish to equalise, you knew this would be his and Liverpool’s night.

Alongside defensive resoluteness and a largely immaculate midfield operation, the Reds’ attack has been a picture of swagger in recent weeks.

Firmino is their catwalk model in that respect, strutting his way past fallen defenders as if swooned by his delicious poise and skill.

He made Arsenal look stupid. The Brazilian capitalised on a fatal mix-up the box to tap home after the hosts fell behind and then exactly 90 seconds later, shimmied his way past two collapsing Arsenal defenders to calmly place his side into the lead.

The 27-year-old completed a deserved hat-trick after the break from the penalty spot, and deserved not just for this performance in isolation, but for recent displays.

Liverpool’s goals this season, particularly from a domestic perspective, have largely been scored elsewhere and that has skewed Firmino’s impact.

But his energy, link-up when dropping deep into the hole and then clever key passes through congested blocks have been a huge feature of Liverpool’s title charge. Goals are merely a bonus where he is concerned and this treble served as a reminder of his importance.

SLOPPY AND SLICK IN EQUAL MEASURE

 Jurgen Klopp

Jurgen Klopp

The scoreline would suggest Liverpool dominance from start to finish, but the numbers do not tell the full story. There were spates of unusually sloppy play from the leaders at times and had Arsenal not decided to collapse under their weight, then perhaps Liverpool would have been punished more severely.

Poor passing from usually more responsible figures like Fabinho and Andrew Robertson were dotted throughout the first-half.

Slack positioning and slow transitions back into their defensive block meant Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Alex Iwobi were dangerous propositions. Their chaotic manner harked back to the early parts of last season, before the arrival of Virgil van Dijk, as their stylish attacking play glossed over the deficiencies.

This may seem hypercritical given they ultimately embarrassed Arsenal, however, to end their long, long league title drought, it will require Jurgen Klopp’s side to be near perfect.

And that is not what they were on Saturday night.

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