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Arsenal 4, Liverpool 1: First Thoughts

The first and last ten minutes of the first half effectively finished Liverpool in a crushing defeat at the Emirates.

Julian Finney/Getty Images

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Arsenal 4 Bellerín 37', Özil 40', Sánchez 45', Giroud 90+1'
Liverpool 1 Henderson (pen) 76'

  • Pre-match thoughts: Adam Lallana and Mario Balotelli didn't make the squad, but there were surprises in Cameron Brannagan and Fabio Borini on the bench. Brendan Rodgers started with a midfield diamond (this was probably needed from the start against Manchester United) by giving Lucas Leiva his first start since returning from injury and selected Kolo Touré as the replacement for the suspended Martin Skrtel. Daniel Sturridge was fit enough to make the squad, but contract rebel scamp Raheem Sterling started up front in a game against a top four rival that Liverpool could not afford to lose.

  • Joe Allen gave the ball away in the opening 30 seconds inside his own half as Arsenal pressed Liverpool. A shot dragged wide by Alexis Sánchez was an early let off. Santi Cazorla drew a save from Simon Mignolet after Lucas Leiva made a similar error to Allen as Liverpool needed to settle down. Kolo Touré's horrible error put Aaron Ramsey through on goal before Mignolet saved and Touré hacked away before Santi Cazorla could pounce on the rebound. Mamadou Sakho received a dangerous pass from Alberto Moreno uncomfortably but was dispossessed far too easily only for the linesman's flag to rescue him. 

  • Rodgers' response during these terrible opening minutes was to switch Jordan Henderson to the right in place of Lazar Marković to switch from a midfield diamond back to 3-4-2-1. Marković was pushed higher up on the right in support of Raheem Sterling as Philippe Coutinho took up a centre-left position. Arsenal 's average position on the pitch was high up with the defensive line particularly advanced to pressurise Liverpool in their own half. Liverpool had an excellent chance to go ahead on 19 minutes as Coutinho picked out Marković who had the chance to shoot or pass as he advanced into the area through on goal but played a sloppy square pass to Sterling that was just beyond the young England international.

  • Arsenal's 20-year-old right back Héctor Bellerín scored a classy opening goal as Mesut Özil played a delightful pass out to the right for Aaron Ramsey who found the overlapping Bellerín. Alberto Moreno showed the Spanish youngster inside to curl the ball past Mignolet. Terrible defending from Moreno. It was Liverpool's first away goal conceded in the Premier League since the defeat at Old Trafford in mid-December. Three minutes later, Arsenal doubled their lead after Sakho gave away a silly free-kick that Özil curled past Mignolet.Just before half-time Alexis Sánchez hammered home a third after embarrassing Kolo Touré.

  • Half-time thoughts:Help? Daniel Sturridge replaced a decent Lazar Marković.

  • Liverpool had more of the ball in the second half as the home side was content to hold a healthy lead and counter. Arsenal and Liverpool traded chances as Olivier Giroud tested Mignolet with a header and Emre Can tested David Ospina with a powerful drive after good work by Sturridge.

  • Anthony Taylor was letting all sorts go in the second half and seemed like he wanted to avoid making any big decisions in a high-profile fixture. On 76 minutes there was no escape for the referree as Sterling went down after a slightly late challenge form Bellerín. Jordan Henderson unconvincingly scored from the spot as Ospina managed to get a hand on the ball. No second yellow for Bellerín but a second one for Emre Can eight minutes later. Both should have seen red for their respective challenges.

  • Cazorla hit the post late on before Olivier Giroud continued his scoring run with an emphatic finish from just outside the 18-yard box in added on time. Arsenal even pushed for a fifth in the remaining couple of minutes of the game.

  • Full-time thoughts: Top four chances over?

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We'll be back shortly to take an in-depth look at everything that happened in today's game with the full recap. Until then, let us know your take on the ups and downs of the match in the comments, and if you haven't already, join the community on the Liverpool Offside, where we'll have full coverage and lively in-game discussion for every match this season.

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