Liverpool 5 Arsenal 1: Three talking points
Liverpool 5 Arsenal 1: Three talking points as the Reds run out emphatic winners against the leaders
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger outlined the need for his team to adjust quickly to the pace of the game at his pre-match media conference on Friday, but the visitors could do nothing to stop Liverpool’s fantastic attacking display. A 5-1 defeat leaves Liverpool just five points behind the Gunners and they will now consider themselves title contenders again with 13 games to go. It will be seen as yet another failure for Arsenal in a game against one of the perceived big four. The Gunners had six shots on target but Simon Mignolet was not called into serious action until Mikel Arteta converted a spot-kick. Arsenal were outnumbered in midfield and large gaps appeared which Liverpool exploited magnificently. Arsenal’s title credentials will surely have taken a hit after this embarrassing defeat, while Brendan Rodgers’ men will be looking upwards at the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal in the race for the title.
Arsenal’s defensive woes
Liverpool will gain enormous confidence from this brilliant performance. Nine goals in their last two Premier League home games against Everton and Arsenal will give Liverpool a psychological boost ahead of the run-in. The home side attacked early with frightening ferocity, immediately putting the Gunners on the back foot. The way in which Arsenal conceded the goals will be of concern to manager Arsene Wenger. Two set-pieces were not dealt with very well and Martin Skrtel had a double to his name after just 10 minutes. Usually safe on the ball, Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla failed to retain possession in the opening 20 minutes and Arsenal paid dearly for their errors. Ozil was caught out in the lead-up to Raheem Sterling’s first goal – and that strike summed up Arsenal’s afternoon. The visitors were weak in possession and offered no threat in attack while there was no semblance of coherence in defence. Wenger must pick his players up mentally ahead of a crucial game as Manchester United visit to Emirates Stadium on Wednesday night.
A vital month
Arsenal welcome Manchester United before they get another crack at Liverpool, this time at home in the fifth round of the FA Cup, while Bayern Munich come to north London in the Champions League on 19 February. A two-point lead over Manchester City is not exactly a comfortable margin, so a win against their Manchester neighbours is a must in order to remain around the summit. The FA Cup will be another trophy Wenger will want to get his hands on and a win against Liverpool would be most welcome just before the European champions come to town. Arsenal must recover quickly if they are to finish the campaign with a trophy. Liverpool, meanwhile, have no European football to worry about and may therefore be slight favourites for the FA Cup tie at Emirates Stadium, as Arsenal have only three days to recover before the Champions League last-16 first-leg tie against Bayern. Liverpool entertain Swansea and Sunderland either side of a tricky away trip to Southampton before a showdown with rivals United at Old Trafford on 16 March. With two-thirds of the season gone, things at the top of the table are just about coming to the boil.