LONDON/United Kingdom: Arsenal’s early-season problems mounted at Anfield on Sunday after they were condemned to a miserable 4-0 defeat by Jurgen Klopp’s rampant Liverpool.
Not even the return of Alexis Sanchez could inspire Arsene Wenger’s side as they fell to goals from Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Daniel Sturridge. Salah’s third goal, after 57 minutes, summed up Liverpool’s mastery of the opposition as Arsenal managed to concede from an attacking corner.
After the ball was headed clear, Hector Bellerin misjudged the bounce and Salah sprang past him before sprinting over half the length of the field and converting clinically.
Substitute Sturridge got in on the act with just his third league goal of 2017, completing the rout with a far-post header from Salah’s cross after yet another unstoppable counter-attack 20 minutes later.
The opening goal had come in the 17th minute after wave after wave of Liverpool attacks.
Finally, on a rapid break, young full-back Joe Gomez delivered a superb, hanging right-wing cross and Firmino sprinted in at full speed to head past Petr Cech from six yards.
The warning signs had been there for Wenger, even before Firmino’s opener.
On 10 minutes, Emre Can and Firmino had combined effectively for the former to cross to the far post, where Salah looked certain to score until Cech scurried across his goal to make a brilliant block.
Moments after taking the lead, Liverpool should have doubled it as Firmino freed captain Jordan Henderson, whose poor touch preceded a shot that flew well off-target.
Klopp’s decision to axe regular first-choice goalkeeper Simon Mignolet from his squad had raised eyebrows, although Arsenal made an equally significant move in dropping club-record signing Alexandre Lacazette to the bench.
Despite recalling Sanchez for his first Arsenal start since the FA Cup final in May, the Gunners looked close to complete disarray at times.
Still, they might have taken the lead after just seven minutes when Sanchez surged through and played in Danny Welbeck, who could only hook his shot over under pressure from Gomez.
But once in front, Liverpool played with increasing confidence, while Arsenal’s visibly drained. When Henderson’s 31st-minute cross was headed out of the area, Mane volleyed it, first-time, narrowly wide of the right-hand post.
Liverpool’s control was complete in the 40th minute when Mane claimed a second goal that had been a long time coming. To sum up Arsenal’s wretched half, it came from one of their own attacks, which was broken up in the Liverpool area by Gomez.
Liverpool broke upfield at electrifying pace, Can to Firmino to Mane, and the forward calmly cut inside Rob Holding before curling an unstoppable finish past the diving Cech.
Wenger brought on Francis Coquelin for Aaron Ramsey at the interval and the visitors at least started to threaten, with Mesut Ozil shooting wide and Sanchez seeing his shot blocked on the edge of the area.
The relief was short-lived, however, with Can soon heading a Salah free-kick just wide and Salah’s pacy run clean through on goal drawing another good save from Cech.
The third and fourth goals were fully deserved for the hosts and only another good stop by the beleaguered Cech denied Mane a second goal in between them.