By Daniel Moxon – @dmoxon_
Well, I suppose that’ll do.
Obviously I’m joking, that was an incredible performance – arguably Liverpool’s best of the season so far – and to be unbeaten after 20 Premier League games and firm favourites in the title race before New Years’ Day is a stunning achievement.
One of the more satisfying aspects of this win in particular is the way that the Reds regrouped from a shaky start and going behind early to Ainsley Maitland-Niles’ strike to blow the visiting Gunners away.
Roberto Firmino got himself back in the goals with a superb hat-trick – credit to Mohamed Salah for giving him the second penalty to make that possible – while Georginio Wijnaldum showed that he is the natural heir to James Milner’s role by outrunning every Arsenal midfielder and absolutely bossing the game.
Here’s how the lads got on.
Alisson: 8 – Made a stunning save from the head of Mustafi in the first half. The German defender was offside from an inswinging free kick, but Al wasn’t to know that and expertly tipped it over the bar. Showed his value in offensive situations as well with a beautiful counter-attacking kick out to Bobby on the right, who fed it into Salah who won and dispatched the penalty. People were questioning the £60m+ price tag when he joined – I can’t believe Roma didn’t charge us double that.
Trent: 7.5 – Calm in defence, provided an option in attack at every opportunity. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a young full back have such a complete skill set. Plays with a maturity far beyond his years, and will be a key component of this Liverpool side for years to come.
Degsy: 7.5 – Gave the ball away far too easily with a nothing ball forward, and was made to pay for it with Arsenal’s opener. Regrouped after to put in another good showing and didn’t really looked troubled at any point. Was pushed down by Kolasinac in the penalty area during the second half to win Liverpool’s second penalty of the evening.
Virgil: 8 – Captain for the day, and boy did he play like one. A typical monster at the back and no Arsenal player threatened to even come close to beating him, in the air or otherwise. I’ll shamelessly rob a line from @Riddock__ on Twitter here: “Van Dijk is more composed than my nan when she knits.” Bravo.
Robbo (off 83′ for Clyne): 8 – Unusually, didn’t track Maitland-Niles for the opening goal. Then got booked on 25 minutes for yanking him down after he got behind him again. Got his act together after that and his superbly-weighted ball forward gave Salah the opportunity to square to Mané and double Liverpool’s lead. Was worried about his yellow as he chucks himself around a lot and we can’t afford to have him suspended for the City game, so I applaud Jurgen Klopp’s decision to replace him with Nathaniel Clyne with seven minutes to go.
Fabinho: 7 – Not his strongest performance but certainly not a poor one. One or two shaky moments, especially in the first half, but nothing major and was generally tidy with his play. Had a big opportunity to score just after the hour mark, but his near-post effort was saved well by Leno.
Gini (off 77′ for Lallana): 9 – Very calm on the ball in what was a hectic first half, and was vital in retaining possession during that period. Continued in the same vein for the second 45 minutes and had the adoring Anfield faithful singing his name all evening long. Firmino gets the man of the match for the hat-trick, but Wijnaldum was a close second and, if he plays in the same way against Manchester City on Thursday, he will overrun that midfield as well.
Shaq: 7 – Not his most involved game, really. Didn’t put a foot wrong, but was unspectacular for the most part. Still looked to create at times and was composed on the ball – another decent showing from the Swiss.
Mo: 8 – Showed great awareness to square the ball for Mané as the Senegalese made it 3-1 to the Reds. Just before half time he won and scored another penalty (which was DEFINITELY NOT a dive) from Sokratis. His sheer presence seemed to unsettle the Arsenal back line, and Sead Kolasinac had a shocking game up against him. The Bosnian will be having nightmares about him for weeks.
Sadio (off 61′ for Henderson): 8 – Tried to strangle Lichtsteiner in the first 10 minutes, but who cares because 20 minutes later he was on the end of Salah’s squared ball to fire into the roof of the net with confidence. Looked classy in possession and was much better here than he was against Newcastle on Boxing Day.
Bobby: 9.5 – Now has been directly involved in 11 goals in his last seven league games against Arsenal. Took advantage of a very ‘Arsenal’ defensive mix-up on the quarter-hour mark to bring Liverpool level, with an extra point for the trademark no-look finish. Not content with that, he immediately picked up the ball on the halfway line straight after, put the entire Gunners defence on its arse before putting a devastating finish into Bernd Leno’s bottom left. The audacity of this lad is unreal – I love it. Got his first Liverpool hat-trick with a penalty just after the hour mark and completely deserved it.
Henderson (on 61′ for Mané): 7 – Seemed to be given the opportunity to express himself in midfield and looked to get forward at every opportunity when he came on. One particularly delicious switch of play found Mo Salah which almost led to a goal for Xherdan Shaqiri. Another good showing from the club captain.
Lallana (on 77′ for Wijnaldum): 7 – Yep, he still exists. To be honest he didn’t do an awful lot and probably would have got a six, but he’s got rid of that daft long hair and you’ve got to give credit where it’s due.
Clyne (on 83′ for Robertson): 5.5 – Kicked Lacazette in the area and was lucky not to be punished for it with a penalty. Looked a little off the pace in his brief cameo, but no-one cares really. No point focusing on a negative when you’ve just put five past Arsenal and you’re top of the league.