Arsenal were well-beaten by Liverpool on a hugely-disappointing Saturday afternoon at Anfield.
A surreal opening 20 minutes decided the game. Martin Skrtel kneed in Steven Gerrard’s free-kick within seconds of the start and headed home a corner from the same player shortly afterwards.
Raheem Sterling turned home a Luis Suarez cross from close range and, just before the midway point of the first half, Daniel Sturridge burst through to make it 4-0.
Sterling added another soon after the restart but, overall, Arsenal were better in the second half.
Twenty minutes from time, Mikel Arteta reduced the arrears from the penalty spot after Alex Oxalde-Chamberlain had been tripped by Gerrard.
So a bad, bad day for Arsenal at the start of an important run of fixtures.
But it happened. In a bizarre first quarter, Liverpool were excellent offensively while Arsenal were uncharacteristically poor at the back.
Something similar occurred earlier this season at Manchester City. Wenger’s men must just dust themselves down and move on.
Fortunately they have already done that this season. A tough afternoon but certainly not a decisive one.
SETTING THE SCENE
Wenger made just one change from the side that had beaten Crystal Palace last weekend.
Fit-again Jack Wilshere replaced Lukas Podolski. The Englishman came into central midfield and Santi Cazorla went out to the left.
Liverpool were ahead within a minute.
Per Mertesacker pulled back Suarez on the left and Gerrard fired a free-kick into the area. A bevy of players raced towards the ball but Skrtel turned it home with his knee.
Arsenal might have equalised immediately but Skrtel stretched out a leg to stop Olivier Giroud going clear after Cazorla had led a rapid break.
In the eighth minute Nacho Monreal almost turned the ball into an empty net after Simon Mignolet’s clearance ricocheted back off his own player.
Arsenal had been shocked by the early goal but they seemed to have their own ambitions aswell.
However they were be blown away as the hosts rattled in three rapid goals .
Liverpool doubled their advantage in the 10th minute.
Gerrard won a corner and took it himself. Skrtel managed to steer an incredible header beyond the leaping Oxlade-Chamberlain at the far post.
Anfield was ecstatic, Arsenal were stunned.
It might have been worse when Suarez hit a rasping volley against the post from 25 yards with Wojciech Szczesny beaten. It bounced out and Kolo Toure nudged a shot past the other upright with goal at his mercy.
After 17 minutes, it was 3-0. Jordan Henderson burst into the area down the right and Suarez fired a low ball to the far post for Sterling to tap home from close range.
Three minutes later, Liverpool scored again. Philippe Coutinho sent Sturridge through the centre. The Englishman outpaced Koscielny before slotting home left-footed past Szczesny.
It was a surreal situation. Arsenal had been so assured at the back this season but Liverpool had cut through them.
The visitors became more solid in the latter stages of the first half. They pressed forward but never tested Mignolet.
Arsenal came out with greater intent in the second half but the opening chance went to home side as Sturridge flashed a header over the bar.
In the 52nd minute, Sterling burst through Arsenal’s defensive line raced into the area. Szczesny saved his first effort but was beaten at the second attempt.
That goal snuffed out the slimmest chance of a response.
However Arsenal did start to muster something - Giroud’s header, Oxlade-Chamberlain’s low drive and Wilshere’s chip all tested Mignolet.
But, on the hour, Wenger made a triple change – Giroud, Mesut Ozil and Monreal came off for Podolski, Tomas Rosicky and Kieran Gibbs.
Arsenal got on the scoresheet 20 minutes from time when Gerrard upended Oxlade-Chamberlain and Arteta stroked the ball home from the spot.
A couple of minutes later Wilshere was fouled by Jon Flanagan and Arteta’s free-kick forced the best out of Mignolet.
Arsenal continued to attack with purpose but Liverpool were able to hold them at bay
Sterling might have struck a sixth in the final minutes but Szczesny smothered his near-post effort.
Referee: Michael Oliver
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