Liverpool thrust themselves right back into the battle for the Premier League’s top four as they outclassed abject Arsenal at Emirates Stadium.
Chelsea’s shock thrashing at home to West Brom earlier in the day opened the door for Liverpool – and Jurgen Klopp’s burst straight through it in style with a victory that leaves them in fifth place only two points behind Thomas Tuchel’s side.
The only surprise was that it took dominant Liverpool so long to make their superiority count.
They got the breakthrough they deserved after 64 minutes when Diogo Jota headed Trent Alexander-Arnold’s brilliant delivery past Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno three minutes after he replaced Andy Robertson.
It was not only the decisive moment of the contest but also a timely reminder of the quality Alexander-Arnold possesses at a time when England manager Gareth Southgate feels he can do without him, despite Euro 2020 being on the horizon.
Liverpool doubled their lead four minutes later when Mohamed Salah took advantage of poor defending by Arsenal’s Gabriel and then slid a cool finish through Leno’s legs.
Jota was the beneficiary of more good work from Alexander-Arnold when he slammed home his second from close range with eight minutes left – by then, the game had already become a formality.
Alexander-Arnold makes his point
England manager Southgate’s exclusion of Alexander-Arnold for the opening World Cup qualifiers shocked Klopp – and the defender’s performance in north London showed why.
Southgate currently prefers Manchester City’s Kyle Walker and Atletico Madrid’s Kieran Trippier, believing Alexander-Arnold needs to improve his club form to merit inclusion amid a relatively indifferent season for the Premier League champions.
Klopp is clearly satisfied with Alexander-Arnold, though, and that is hardly surprising when he showed what a threat he offers as Liverpool overpowered Arsenal.
He showcased his world-class delivery for Jota’s opener then demonstrated his energy and awareness to steal back possession high up the pitch in the build-up to the prolific Portugal forward’s second goal.
It was a display that responded to Southgate’s decision in the perfect manner and suggested England must have serious quality at right-back if Alexander-Arnold is in serious danger of missing Euro 2020.
Liverpool and Klopp had a hugely satisfying night all round. Brazil’s Fabinho gave a masterclass in the midfield anchor role, demonstrating what they missed when he was deputising in central defence to cover for injuries to Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip.
Klopp’s side may be in a miserable run of six successive home defeats but their away form is sustaining them and this comfortable three points, on the back of the previous victory at Wolves, gives them real hope of Champions League qualification.
With a Champions League quarter-final first leg away to Real Madrid on Tuesday, Liverpool suddenly look like a team with renewed purpose and momentum.
Lacklustre Arsenal get what they deserve
The only positive about this Arsenal performance was the fact they kept Liverpool out for 64 minutes – although that was down more to the Premier League champions’ lack of cutting edge up than especially good work by the Gunners.
The hosts were dreadful and fortunate not to be beaten far more heavily. This was miserable stuff from Arsenal.
The only work Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson, complete with extravagant new moustache, had to do all night was clutch a straightforward shot from substitute Cedric Soares in the second half.
Yes, Arsenal lost influential left-back Kieran Tierney right on half-time but that was no excuse for what Mikel Arteta’s side served up. They offered no punch in attack, no fight in midfield and were eventually overwhelmed in defence.
Arsenal saved themselves by coming from three goals down to earn a point in their last league game at West Ham but there was never the slightest hope of a comeback against Liverpool.
They sit in ninth place, four points adrift of Everton having played two games more, and much now rests on their Europa League quarter-final against Slavia Prague.
They will have to produce much better than they did here, their night summed up by the anonymous performance of main striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who spent much of his game as an auxiliary left-back before being substituted.
Liverpool play the away leg of their Champions League quarter-final against Real Madrid on Tuesday (20:00 BST) before hosting Aston Villa in the Premier League next Saturday (15:00).
Arsenal’s Europa League home leg against Slavia Prague takes place on Thursday (20:00), after which they visit Sheffield United in the Premier League on Sunday (19:00).
- 6GabrielBooked at 90mins
- 3TierneySubstituted forCédric Soaresat 45+1′minutes
- 8CeballosSubstituted forElnenyat 58′minutes
- 14AubameyangSubstituted forMartinelliat 77′minutes
- 17Cédric Soares
- 19KabakSubstituted forR Williamsat 84′minutes
- 26RobertsonSubstituted forJotaat 61′minutesBooked at 73mins
- 6Thiago Alcántara
- 9FirminoSubstituted forWijnaldumat 78′minutes
- 46R Williams
- Stuart Attwell
Match ends, Arsenal 0, Liverpool 3.
Second Half ends, Arsenal 0, Liverpool 3.
Attempt saved. Sadio Mané (Liverpool) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Mohamed Salah.
Attempt missed. Sadio Mané (Liverpool) header from the centre of the box misses to the left. Assisted by Trent Alexander-Arnold with a cross following a set piece situation.
Gabriel Magalhães (Arsenal) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Diogo Jota (Liverpool) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Gabriel Magalhães (Arsenal).
Offside, Liverpool. Diogo Jota tries a through ball, but Sadio Mané is caught offside.
Attempt blocked. Thomas Partey (Arsenal) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Corner, Arsenal. Conceded by Rhys Williams.
Substitution, Liverpool. Rhys Williams replaces Ozan Kabak.
Goal! Arsenal 0, Liverpool 3. Diogo Jota (Liverpool) right footed shot from the centre of the box to the centre of the goal. Assisted by Sadio Mané.
Attempt saved. Georginio Wijnaldum (Liverpool) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the centre of the goal.
Substitution, Liverpool. Georginio Wijnaldum replaces Roberto Firmino.
Substitution, Arsenal. Gabriel Martinelli replaces Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Diogo Jota (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Mohamed Elneny (Arsenal).
Foul by Mohamed Salah (Liverpool).
Bernd Leno (Arsenal) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt saved. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) left footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by Roberto Firmino with a through ball.