Arsenal: Cech, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Xhaka, Coquelin, Iwobi, Welbeck, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Giroud
Subs: Ospina, Gibbs, Gabriel, Ramsey, Lucas, Alexis, Walcott
First half strikes by Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane gave Liverpool an unassailable lead as Arsenal’s crashed to a 3-1 defeat at Anfield despite an improved showing after the break.
The Gunners, without the dropped Alexis Sanchez, struggled to cope with the home side’s pressing game in the opening stages but did come back into the game with the Chilean subbed on at half time as Danny Welbeck reduced the deficit.
As Arsene Wenger’s beleaguered side went in search of an equaliser Georginio Wijnaldum killed the game in stoppage time sidefooting home a cross by Divock Origi.
The big news prior to kick off was Arsene Wenger’s decision to drop Alexis Sanchez to the bench, a decision the boss claimed was taken to improve our capability in the air. Without the Chile international the pace in the team was provided by Chamberlain, Welbeck and Iwobi with Bellerin a further outlet on the right.
In fairness, Arsenal were bright for the opening eight minutes but then it all went downhill rapidly. With Liverpool’s first attack they scored.
Firmino beat Koscielny to a Mignolet goal kick, the ball fell to Coutinho who quickly spread the play wide to Mane on the right. In a split second the ball was rolled across the box where Firmino took a touch and buried the ball in the top corner. It was all too easy.
The goal gave confidence to the home side who were energetic in their pressing of the Gunners midfield. Arsenal found it very hard to keep the ball.
Giroud, who looked very isolated up front, began holding his hip around the 20-minute mark and continued to hobble around for quite some time. Alexis was sent to warm up and received a warm welcome from the travelling fans. Giroud seemed to take a couple of paracetamol, or maybe they were invisibility pills. Tough to tell.
Liverpool kept forcing the issue. Cech was forced to acrobatically tip over a Coutinho effort from the edge of the box and two counter-attacks, both started by carelessness by Coquelin, who earned a booking, left us chasing shadows.
It wasn’t a huge surprise that Liverpool doubled their lead five minutes before the break. Milner on the left combined with Wijnaldium to feed Firmino who in turn slid the ball to the back post for Mane who crashed home a low drive past Cech.
In the moments before half time Coutinho had two further opportunities to extend the home side’s lead. Cech and a deflection did just enough on each occasion.
Coquelin was the man sacrificed at half time as Alexis came off the bench to take up a position on the left of attack. Chamberlain moved centrally next to Xhaka.
Within three minutes the Chilean’s presence spurred an attack as Monreal crossed for Giroud whose header forced Mignolet to tip on to the bar.
The better start to the half was rewarded on 56 minutes as a quick break out of defence involving Chamberlain and Alexis saw Welbeck break through the Liverpool defensive line and clip the ball over Mignolet.
While Klopp’s men weren’t quite so alert in midfield they were still dangerous. Mane continued to give Monreal a torrid time and Mustafi did well to divert a Coutinho cross over his own bar from close range. The Brazilian midfielder also flashed over with an ambitious effort just before Giroud and Welbeck made way for Lucas Perez and Theo Walcott.
The England international’s first touch drew a foul from Emre Can who, already on a booking, should have been sent off. Referee Bobby Madley bottled the decision as the Liverpool man lay stricken on the turf having collided with his own man as a result of his own carelessness. Granit Xhaka did go in the book after complaining. All rather ridiculous.
The post came to Arsenal’s rescue on 83 minutes as Origi’s header from a free-kick left Cech stranded and nearly resulted in a killer third for the hosts. Despite pushing for an eqauliser, Alexis had a great chance blocked bby Matip, the knockout blow was delivered in stoppage time for Liverpool as Wijnaldum polished off a break to condemn the Gunners to another painful Anfield defeat.
The result sees Liverpool leapfrog Arsenal into fourth place. Next up, Bayern Munich. Joy of joys. Go and have a drink.