Mikel Arteta went toe-to-toe with Jürgen Klopp on the touchline but a chasm remains between their teams on the pitch. The youthful revival of Arsenal was halted emphatically by Liverpool, who inflicted familiar torment on their visitors with a stirring and necessary recovery of their own.
Anfield has been home to recurring nightmares for Arsenal in recent times and, despite the confidence generated by a unbeaten run with bold young talent to the fore, this was no exception. Liverpool made it six successive Premier League home wins over Arsenal and maintained their record of scoring at least three goals in every one.
Sadio Mané opened the scoring in a competitive first half. The second was completely one-sided, however, and goals from Diogo Jota, Mohamed Salah and substitute Takumi Minamino reflected the heights Arteta’s team must aspire to, and still have to reach, before their development troubles the established elite of the Premier League. The one place and two points that separated the sides prior to kick-off appeared an illusion as Liverpool comfortably ascended to second in the table.
“When we had to grow momentum at the start of the second half we gave the game away,” Arteta lamented. “We gave the ball away under no pressure and were punished. They had all of the momentum. They were the better team and that is the level. They have been together for six years. We haven’t. That is the difference.”
It was a reflection of Liverpool’s superiority that Aaron Ramsdale, the visiting goalkeeper, produced a fine display yet still conceded four times. The breakthrough had been coming when Mané headed past the new England international but it took a 32nd-minute flare-up between the two managers to spark a flat contest into life.
Klopp took exception to the Arsenal bench demanding a card for Mané when he was penalised for a foul on Takehiro Tomiyasu as they challenged for a header. Arteta erupted in fury, racing down the touchline and squaring up to the Liverpool manager before being held back by his assistant head coach, Steve Round. Arteta continued to try to reach Klopp, who was kept back by his own coaching staff, and both managers were booked once the melee died down. The Kop made its feelings clear to the former Everton midfielder. They should have thanked him, as Liverpool immediately upped the tempo and seized control.
Klopp said of the incident: “It was a completely clean situation with two guys jumping in the air but the Arsenal bench were going for it. I said to them: ‘What do you want for that?’ It looked like everyone wanted a yellow card and I am sick of these moments when everyone is going for Sadio. It happened against Real Madrid and also against Atlético Madrid when we had to take him off at half-time because he was on a yellow card. It’s just not right.” Arteta said: “He was defending his side and I was defending mine.”
Ramsdale denied Thiago Alcântara, plus the improvised rebound from Mané, before blocking from Salah and tipping over a Trent Alexander-Arnold drive as Liverpool – players and crowd alike – ignited their efforts in the aftermath of the managers’ confrontation. Cracks were beginning to appear in the Arsenal defence and, when Alexander-Arnold floated a free-kick deep into the visitors’ area, Mané ghosted in-between Gabriel Magalhães and Tomiyasu to plant a textbook header past Ramsdale. From Arteta’s perspective it was a poor goal to concede. Klopp may have appreciated converting from a set piece after the problems his team had with them in defeat by West Ham.
With Ramsdale’s resistance broken and Arsenal offering little in attack, Liverpool sought to press home their superiority immediately after the restart. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain placed a shot just wide having been released into the box by Fabinho.
A dreadful mistake from Arsenal’s left-back Nuno Tavares then gave the hosts the comfort of a two-goal lead. Tavares appeared to have done his defensive duty when winning the ball from Alexander-Arnold but he played a needless reverse pass straight to Jota. The Portugal international pounced with cool precision. First he read White’s overcommitted challenge and stepped inside the flying centre-half before wrongfooting Ramsdale to convert into an empty net.
Klopp’s team were flying through the Arsenal lines at will. But for Ramsdale, the visitors would have endured a heavier defeat. The goalkeeper saved bravely at the feet of Jota when the striker was played clean through by Salah. He denied Jota again, this time with a fine reaction save, after Salah had opened up Arsenal’s penalty area with a superb pass. When Arsenal finally broke the pressure, Alisson denied Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang with his feet.
Salah’s performance was rewarded with the goal it deserved when he volleyed home Mané’s cross at close range. The move had started with Alisson’s clearance out of defence to Konstantinos Tsimikas, who headed inside for Jota to send the Senegal international scampering away. Another flowing team move brought the fourth. Mané, Salah and Alexander-Arnold then combined intuitively for Minamino to score at the back post with his first touch.
“We had to show a reaction and we gave a mix of a very mature performance and a very exciting performance,” said Klopp, who lost Jota to a knee injury. “There were exciting goals, an exciting press and it is a very impressive result.”