Liverpool: Firmino 14’, 16’, 65’; Mane 32’: Salah 45’
Arsenal: Maitland-Niles 11’
Liverpool end a stretch of 8 games in 28 days in the month of December with their most emphatic performance of the season with a 5-1 win over Arsenal. The month started with a last second winner in the Merseyside Derby, ended with a trouncing of a top 6 rival, and wins in every game single game in-between. Oh, and they’re 9 points clear on top of the Premier League table.
It’s near impossible to talk about their impressive victory over Arsenal without also talking about the performance within the broader context of the league. Simply put, the Reds are ruthless. They were today, they were this month, and they have been up to this point of the season. Played 20. Won 17. Drawn 3. Lost zero. Conceded only 8.
Today’s match against Arsenal presented yet another question asked of Jurgen Klopp’s Reds that needed its own answer. After 11 minutes, Liverpool were in a position they had never been in this season. Down 1-0 at Anfield. Arsenal set out to do something no other side—and that includes Manchester City—has down this year, and that’s attack Liverpool at Anfield. Their goal came from putting Liverpool under pressure with the ball at the back. And they capitalized with a turnover, catching Liverpool’s backline out of shape.
Finding themselves in need of quickly finding answers, Liverpool responded by scoring 4 first half goals in 31 minutes. After the 16th minute had ticked off the clock, Roberto Firmino had put 2 past the keeper in the matter of 90 seconds. The first, he capitalizes on a poor clearance from Arsenal. The second, he dribbled past literally every Arsenal defender, putting several on the ground, and slotting it home.
Arsenal’s game plan was pretty clear; hurry Liverpool into poor decisions and try to pounce on them in the first 20 minutes, and then go from there. But, that plan backfired for the Gunners. Liverpool withheld Arsenal’s initial pressure, and had control of the game for the rest of the first half. Their third came from a recycled corner. Andy Robertson collected the clearance near the half way line, found a wide open Mo Salah at the top of the box, who was able to one touch the ball to a streaking Sadio Mane at the back post. 3-1. That, effectively, ended the match. Arsenal’s defenders were shattered. The first half ended with Salah winning and converting a penalty.
The second half was nearly the complete opposite of the first. Liverpool continued to control the game, keeping Arsenal at an arm’s length. Dejan Lovren won a penalty for Liverpool in the 65th and Firmino converted it to complete his hat-trick. Liverpool had gone something like 450 days without being awarded a single penalty at Anfield in the league, and are awarded 3 penalties in 2 games in a week. Crazy.
We’re almost running out of positive things to say about this Liverpool side. Every single time they’re asked a different question, they come up with answers. They’re prepared for everything.
Earlier this week, we celebrated the one year anniversary of the arrival Virgil van Dijk. If at that point, one year ago, you had told me that Liverpool would have only conceded 8 goals through 20 league games, never conceded more than 1 goal in a match, and would be on pace to have the best defense in English top flight history....I don’t know how I would’ve responded, but I would’ve certainly thought you were wrong. Since Big Virgil’s arrival, Liverpool have kept 19 clean sheets in 30 league games. Massive.
Liverpool close out a perfect month and bring 2018 to a close with a win. Over halfway there. Played 20. Won 17. Drawn 3. Lost nothing. The year is almost over, and it’s a great time to take stock of what’s ahead.
Look, I don’t know what the future holds. I know that, as I write this, Liverpool sit 9 points clear of a second place Tottenham Hotspur, with Manchester City having not played yet. Liverpool will likely drop points in the next 18 games. It could even happen in their next match on January 4th, but what a time to be alive it is.
Jurgen Klopp said in his Christmas message that the team takes it one game at a time, a typical sporting cliche that we’ve heard a billion times. I don’t think that’s true, a manager has to plan playing time for his squad, tactics, etc. but, I’m choosing to take him at his word. One game at a time. I’m committed to enjoying the rest of the season; one game at a time. It is a joy to be alive and a joy to watch this Liverpool side.
Up The Joyous Reds.