If you can keep your points when all about you are losing theirs, yours is the Premier League title


Liverpool 5 : 1 Arsenal

Rudyard Kipling may not have been a football fan but his words in his iconic poem If seem appropriate for Liverpool who stormed to a 5-1 thrashing of Arsenal on a day title rivals Spurs lost 3-1 at home to Wolves and a week after Manchester City lost at Leicester.

They extended their lead over Tottenham to nine points and City, who play tomorrow, to double figures.

Today belonged to one player more than any other: Roberto Firmino. The Brazilian loves the Arsenal. He has now been directly involved in eleven goals in his last seven Premier League matches against the Islington side, scoring eight goals and providing three assists. Only Robbie Fowler, with a solitary goal more, has scored more against Arsenal for the Merseysiders.

His first half brace helped Liverpool extend their winning run to nine league games despite going behind to an early goal from Ainsley Maitland-Niles. Before half time however, Firmino had scored twice, Sadio Mane once and Mohamed Salah converted a penalty to put the Reds out of reach.

Firmino converted Liverpool’s second penalty in the second half to complete his first ever hattrick for the club.

Arsenal are now without a win in their last six trips to Anfield, conceding 22 goals in total. Liverpool are incidentally unbeaten in 20 league games, three short of their all time record set in 1990, and have picked up every league point on offer since they drew against Arsenal in early November.

Liverpool made one change as Fabinho replaced Jordan Henderson in midfield. For the Londoners, Aaron Ramsey started over Alexandre Lacazette and not surprisingly Mesut Ozil, who was pulled at half time against Brighton and was left out of the squad entirely. Alex Iwobi, who replaced him, started. Additionally, Maitland-Niles and Shkodran Mustafi started as Laurent Koscielny, Matteo Guendouzi joined Lacazette on the bench.

Liverpool threatened early not surprisingly given their form and the Arsenal changes. Firmino fired in a decent effort but Salah could only back heel wide. Arsenal captain Ramsey still seemed to be teaching his colleagues the match tactics ten minutes into the match.

Arsenal were gifted their first chance when a misplaced Firmino pass allowed Iwobi a shot but Allison saved his mediocre effort easily. But that was a precursor to a beautiful Gunners move. Iwobi drove into the Liverpool half and his cross for Maitland-Niles was inch perfect for the double-barelled youngster to put Arsenal ahead.

The sparseness of an Arsenal defence missing Nacho Monreal, Rob Holding and Hector Bellerin was soon laid bare however. Firmino equalised three minutes later when the ball broke loose off Stephan Lichtsteiner then Mustafi into the Brazilian’s path.

Liverpool went 2-1 ahead less than two minutes later and again Firmino was the scorer. Sokratis and Sead Kolasinac’s tackles failed to trouble him and he marched the entire Arsenal half to beat Bernd Leno comfortably.

Mane made it 3-1 and for once it wasn’t wholly a gift from the Gunners defence. Salah laid the ball on beautifully for Mane after a hoofed and somewhat speculative ball in from halfway. It was partially gifted though as Salah would have been clearly offside had Lichtsteiner held his teammates’ line when the ball came in. The Egyptian’s lay-off though was perfect and Mane made no error with the perfect lay up.

Arsenal didn’t quit and both Maitland-Niles and Ramsey managed off target efforts at the half came to a close.

Salah earned his second home penalty in three days and like the game versus Newcastle, there was little contact in it. The Egyptian scored convincingly from the spot to make it 4-1 although Arsenal will be justifiably irritated at the ease with which he went down. Though in Salah’s defence, he fell at Kolasinac’s second nibble when he could have fallen earlier.

Emery removed Mustafi at half-time probably out of sympathy with Laurent Koscielny replacing him.

Leno defied Salah who was brilliantly fed by the outside of Xherdan Shaqiri’s boot. Leno then delayed Firmino’s hat-trick. Referee Michael Oliver’s last two games had ended in 5-1 wins and he ensured an unusual hat-trick when he rightly awarded Liverpool a second penalty when Kolasinac pushed Dejan Lovren. Firmino completed his trio from 12 yards.

Liverpool saw the game and 2018 to a close with comfort and joy.

IF they can keep their points and their heads, Jurgen Klopp (in a misappropriation of Kipling’s words) might finally work A Charm and make Liverpool a City of Brass, about which a Dedication and Columns will be written bidding Farewell and adieu to Pep Guardiola’s stint as The King.

If they do, many An Old Song will be sung in the city.

Liverpool: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, van Dijk, Robertson (Clyne 84′), Wijnaldum (Lallana,78′), Fabinho, Shaqiri, Firmino, Mane (Henderson, 61′), Salah

Substitutes: Mignolet, Keita, Sturridge, Origi

Arsenal: Leno, Lichtsteiner, Sokratis, Mustafi (Koscielny 45′), Kolasinac (Guendouzi 80′), Xhaka, Torreira, Ramsey, Maitland-Niles, Iwobi, Aubameyang (Lacazette 70′)

Substitutes: Cech, Elneny, Willock, Saka

Match officials
Referee: Michael Oliver
Assistants: Stuart Burt, Simon Bennett
Fourth official: Jonathan Moss


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