LIVERPOOL, England — Nobody ever really doubted Liverpool‘s Premier League title credentials when they lost at West Ham prior to the international break, but if there were any question marks over the staying power of Jurgen Klopp and his players, they banished them emphatically with a comprehensive 4-0 win Saturday against Arsenal at Anfield.
The mark of a great team is how it reacts to a setback and Liverpool did that in brutal fashion against Mikel Arteta’s Gunners, with goals from Sadio Mane, Diogo Jota, Mohamed Salah and Takumi Minamino.
Liverpool’s win moved them up to second place, four points behind leaders Chelsea, and kept Klopp’s men positioned in what is beginning to look like a box office three-horse race for the title with Chelsea and Manchester City.
“This league is incredibly intense,” Klopp said. “Now the most intense part of the season is ahead of us. December and January will be insane.
“We have players coming back, but the boys who played today did really well and did exactly what they had to do. We know what Arsenal can do but they couldn’t do it today — that is the biggest compliment I can pay to my team.”
For Liverpool, the winning margin was a fair reflection of their superiority and the latest high-scoring victory they have achieved this season. Manchester United and Watford have been hit for five, while Klopp’s players have also scored three in wins over Norwich and Leeds.
When they cut loose in attack, Liverpool are a blur of red shirts and it was the same against Arsenal, who had no answer to the quality of Jota, Mane and Salah.
Jota, so often the man to miss out when Liverpool are at full strength, is making the most of Roberto Firmino‘s injury absence and the Portugal international’s performance against Arsenal suggested he may, sooner or later, phase out the Brazilian completely.
Mistakes in the away side’s defence contributed to Liverpool’s eventual dominance, but the home side’s control of the game after the opening half-hour was total and it was their aggression and purpose which led to Arsenal’s second-half collapse.
But even though they ended up suffering their second-worst defeat of the season, Arsenal were able to walk off the pitch with their pride intact and offered further evidence they have turned a corner under Arteta following a turbulent start to the season that saw them lose three successive games without scoring.
The last time Arsenal lost in the league, a handful of angry supporters waited until the end of a 5-0 hammering at Man City in August to make clear their fury at the team’s performance, with Granit Xhaka‘s first-half red card epitomising the shambolic state of the team.
By contrast, their eight-game unbeaten run came to an end at Anfield, but Arteta and his players were applauded off, which was testament to Arsenal’s progress, as well as the sheer class of Klopp’s formidable side.
Goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale, who made a series of fine saves, has been a crucial element of the recent unbeaten run and his vocal presence has made a key difference in organising the defence.
Arteta has also injected passion and tenacity into his team, allowed youth to blossom in the shape of Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka and managed to motivate Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang to deliver extra intensity up front.
But despite all of those positives, Liverpool were simply too strong and powerful. Once they took the lead, Klopp’s side showed themselves to be the world-class outfit that they have become. Arsenal, on the other hand, looked like a promising boxer who had been elevated into world title class too early.
“It was a huge test,” Arteta said. “We showed for 45 minutes we could compete with them. We crashed for 15-20 minutes, we threw the game away and that is the learning from today. We take the things we have to learn from and move on.”
Liverpool are a team that could end the season as champions of England and Europe, so this was always going to be a reality check for Arsenal. Arteta at least appears to have put them on right track again, but their challenge now is to prove their progress by bouncing back quickly.