No-look Bobby’s back! Five things learned as Liverpool thrash Arsenal 5-1

No-look Bobby’s back! Five things learned as Liverpool thrash Arsenal 5-1

In a one-sided night of football, Liverpool hammered Arsenal 5-1.

Despite the Gunners taking the lead, this was an absolute disaster of a display for them. Liverpool ran them ragged and could have won by more than the four goals they did. But what did we learn?

1. Liverpool have the sauce

How can you describe Liverpool this season? They spent what seemed like three months playing mostly nonsense football, eking out results through luck and sheer individual genius, but they’ve actually managed to do a Real Madrid circa 2016/17 and win their way into magnificence.

Liverpool’s performances in December have looked a cut above the rest and the unrelenting beatdown they handed Arsenal was quite simply staggering. They were better in every single department and the 5-1 win flattered the Gunners.

It wasn’t just their fabulous front three, but their midfielders who are now starting to look excellent; Fabinho was fabulous yet again. Xherdan Shaqiri was bright, the defenders were solid with Andy Robertson, in particular, a ceaseless blur up and down the left. Jurgen Klopp’s men are beautiful to watch.

They started fast, went behind and roused themselves to come again and mangle a top-six opponent like they were made of crate paper. They exploited every single flaw there to be exploited and took a staggering nine-point lead at the top of the Premier League.

Are they lucky? Yes. Are they good? Very yes.

2. Arsenal have… issues.

Look, Arsenal are a delightful attacking side under Unai Emery. Perhaps they struggled a bit today, but in general they are potent and fun to watch. But defensively? Defensively this side is worse than any Wenger put out bar perhaps the one that got humped 8-2 at Old Trafford. And that team had Carl Jenkinson in it, so they were basically playing with nine men from the start.

Arsenal were aimless at Anfield. They conceded 5 goals, and it could have been more. They gave away two penalties, and it could have been more. Sure Liverpool’s first goal with a bunch of lucky ricochets was full of bad luck but the showing after that was almost impressively bad. Alright, the Liverpool front three are something like Arsenal’s worst nightmare (they all scored against them at Anfield for the second straight year) but the stupidity on display was quite something.

That said, the standout highlight was Firmino’s second goal, where both Sokratis and Mustafi made the same kind of idiotic slide tackle lunge without any of the horizontal motion that makes slide tackles work; they just sort of fell down and stuck their leg out and let Firmino waltz through. This performance was horrific, the stuff of nightmares.

3. Bobby’s back!

Roberto Firmino hasn’t been anywhere near his brilliant best this season. A change of formation, closer to 4-2-3-1, was mostly to blame. He no longer had the freedom of movement he did in the 4-3-3 they played last season.

He had no goals at Anfield in the Premier League this season; and no goals at all on the domestic front since September. But during all of this, he never stopped trying. Against Arsenal, he was constantly alert and aware, on the move trying to make things happen.

So, of course, it was he who popped up to stab home after the pinball in the Arsenal box, drawing Liverpool level early on. Then minutes later he slalomed through the Arsenal defence, dancing away from defenders with effortless elegance, before making it 2-1. Late in the second half, he dispatched a penalty to seal his hat-trick and make it 5-1. His first ever Liverpool hat-trick and the cap on a wonderful display.

Bobby’s back, baby!

4. Torreira tamed

Lucas Torreira has been a tenacious terrier in midfield since he signed for Arsenal. A revelation, for sure. One of the signings of the season and absolutely crucial to the flow and function of Emery-ball. But today at Anfield, Liverpool showed their skill and found a pitch-perfect counter to Torreira, and thus Emery-ball.

They swarmed him in possession, cutting off his passing angles. Then when the Reds had the ball they goaded Torreira into tackles; but an increasingly desperate Uruguayan was simply lunging with no forethought. He won possession cleanly with just 2/7 tackles attempted. And without Torreira in the middle to give their side bite and drive, Arsenal were an aimless wasteland of nonsense.

5. Liverpool have one hand on the trophy

Nine points. Nine. That’s the margin of error Liverpool have handed themselves across a delirious December. It’s been a very merry Christmas on Merseyside, as even if Manchester City win tomorrow they will close the gap to seven points at the best. To use American parlance; even a win for City (far from guaranteed against a resurgent Saints) would leave them three games back in the standings; even if they beat Saints and Liverpool on January 3rd, they’d still be two games back and the Reds would have played their hardest game of the season!

Liverpool have one hand on the trophy right now. Alright, it’s a fairly weak hand, a slender grasp of the fingers. But should they avoid defeat at the Etihad in the new year, that weak grip with become vice-like and the other hand will be slowly swinging around, ready to grip the angled handles of the Premier League trophy and hoist it into the air. Liverpool (who still haven’t lost in the league, remember!) are closing in on history. Don’t get scared now.