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Liverpool lap Arsenal as things start to get real for the Reds: EPL wrap Matchday 20

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30th December, 2018
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Liverpool have rag-dolled Arsenal 5-1 in front of enraptured Anfield fans on Saturday, as the Reds extended their Premier League lead to nine points.

That lead was established after Tottenham fell 3-1 to Wolves at Wembley Stadium, with Manchester City still waiting in the wings and with the chance to lessen the deficit with a win at Southampton on Sunday.

A big spending off-season, tactical nous and the most explosive front line in the Premier League are no doubt handy, yet Jurgen Klopp’s passion and man management lies at the heart of the current version of Liverpool FC.

There is a palpable sense of team bubbling away at the core of the men in red and it was evident once again as a hapless Arsenal ball-watched and bumbled their way through what was as comprehensive a victory as the scoreline suggests.

The passionate embraces of Liverpool players after success in the final third speaks volumes about their unity, spirit and selflessness and might be the key ingredient in attempting to dethrone Manchester City.

The home side was stunned early when Ainsley Maitland-Niles ghosted in at the far post and tapped home a simple chance.

The fans and Alisson were stunned as a glorious return to Anfield to celebrate a Premier League lead at New Year looked like turning into a Christmas miracle for the visitors.

Arsenal’s goal came in the 11th minute yet any dreams of stunning the Reds were quickly dissolved by Roberto Firmino, who had Liverpool back in front just five minutes later.

His second goal was exquisite and left two Arsenal defenders rather embarrassed and prostrate.

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Sadio Mane added a third in the 32nd minute, before Mohamed Salah scored his 13th goal of the season with an injury time penalty on the stroke of half-time.

What began as a promising day for the Gunners had well and truly turned into a nightmarish 4-1 deficit at the break.

There was less scoreboard action in the second half yet the Liverpool dominance continued and Arsenal even managed the odd attacking wave or two.

When Dejan Lovren was shoved in the back and brought down during a Liverpool set piece, Firmino stepped up to take the spot kick and convert a resounding hat-trick; on a day when he showed everyone just how valuable and vital he is to the Reds.

It was a treat to watch a Liverpool attack in full-swing, with Salah producing touches tinged with genius on a regular basis.

For the Gunners, it was as disastrous as only their worst fears could have imagined and a humbling loss it was.

For Liverpool, it made a statement to those yet to believe. It might be time everyone realised that this team can indeed with the Premier League title.

Liverpool

(Photo by Nick Taylor/Liverpool FC/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

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Elsewhere in Saturday action, Watford scored late to grab a point against Newcastle with Abdoulaye Doucoure on the score sheet for the Hornets.

There were home wins for Brighton over Everton at the Falmer Stadium and a late winner for Fulham saw them pick up a vital three points against Huddersfield.

Cardiff City stunned Leicester at the King Power Stadium with a similarly timed goal, snatching a win in the 92nd minute.

Despite Leicester creating multiple chances and a goal appearing likely, it was the Bluebirds who took all three and another important step in avoiding relegation.

However, it was Liverpool’s statement that resounded most compellingly across the Premier League landscape and their clash with City in four days’ time looms potentially, as the match of the season.

Sunday action saw Manchester United put four past Bournemouth in a comfortable win and the Red Devils remain undefeated under their new manager.

After an excellent recent run, West Ham slipped up at Turf Moor as Burnley prevailed 2-0 but it was Manchester City’s two consecutive losses that added interest to their clash with Southampton at St Mary’s Stadium.

The Sky Blues bounced back and shrunk the deficit at the top of the ladder to just seven points.

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For now, Liverpool hold sway. However, City will apply immense pressure over the next few months, knowing that one slip from Reds opens a window of opportunity.

That all starts on Thursday when red and blue clash at the City of Manchester Stadium. We will all be watching – it could be something rather special.