Liverpool put Arsenal to the sword after David Luiz horror show as Mo Salah scores twice for rampant Reds


WELL, at least Arsenal found a new way to lose to Liverpool.

Step forward summer signing David Luiz, the dope in manager Unai Emery’s rope-a-dope tactics.

 David Luiz had a torrid afternoon at Liverpool

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David Luiz had a torrid afternoon at LiverpoolCredit: AP:Associated Press

True, Emery’s bold masterplan had already been undermined by Joel Matip’s header from a corner shortly before half-time.

But it was Luiz who went on a one-man mission to maintain this fixture’s record of producing goals.

PLAYSTATION DEFENDING

Shortly after the restart, the Brazilian’s needless, thoughtless, guileless tug on Mo Salah’s shirt gifted the Egyptian the opportunity to double Liverpool’s lead from the penalty spot.

Then a classic piece of what Gary Neville used to call “PlayStation defending” set Salah free on the right and the Egyptian scored a superb third.

Would it have been different if Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Nicolas Pepe had taken their first-half chances, as Arsenal withstood pressure from the home team and tried to hit them on the break?

Would Emery’s approach have yielded opportunities to turn the game in the second half?

Thanks to Luiz, the Arsenal head coach will never know.

Substitute Lucas Torreira grabbed a late consolation but in the end, result-wise, it was same old Arsenal, always losing — to Liverpool and to a Big Six club.

That is eight points out of 69 in away games against their so-called rivals since they last beat a top club away from home, way back in January 2015.

Arsenal fans have become a generally pessimistic breed, so another visit to the ground where they had conceded 22 times in their last six league visits came with the usual health warning.

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The threat of the Reds’ front three — and the potential haplessness of the Gunners’ backline — appeared pretty much unchanged.

 Mo Salah had Luiz in his pocket in the second half

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Mo Salah had Luiz in his pocket in the second halfCredit: Reuters

FAR FROM STEADY

But Klopp’s defence had been far from its steady self in the opening games of the season and Adrian’s gaffe at Southampton underlined how much they missed the security of having keeper Alisson behind them.

Emery, though, decided against fighting fire with fire.

Rather than matching the hosts’ regular 4-3-3 formation and unleashing an attacking trident of Aubameyang, Pepe and Alexandre Lacazette, the Gunners boss put the latter on the bench and recalled Granit Xhaka to play at the base of a midfield diamond, with Dani Ceballos behind the front two.

Liverpool accepted the invitation to take charge of the game, pressing high and dominating possession and territory in the early stages.

But their full-backs, Trent Alexander-Arnold especially, did not make the most of the time they were given to ping in crosses.

And Arsenal, after surviving a tough first ten minutes, could have taken the lead, courtesy of the latest Adrian error.

Instead of letting Virgil van Dijk tidy things up, the Spanish goalkeeper charged out and hit his clearance straight to Aubameyang.

The Gabon striker had much more to do than Danny Ings the previous weekend, though, and his lofted effort from outside the box dropped wide of the goal that

Adrian had so rashly deserted.

COMFORTABLE

As if to save his compatriot’s blushes, Ceballos played the ball straight to Sadio Mane in the other penalty area but Bernd Leno made a comfortable save.

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It was to be one of very few clear-cut opportunities for the home team and it was slowly becoming clear that there was method in what had looked like madness from Emery.

The plan seemed to be to suck in Liverpool and their attacking full-backs, then try to break quickly to leave Arsenal’s pacy front two up against the home centre-backs.

It almost worked.

Pepe had already found the space to take two shots, one which Adrian saved easily and another just wide, when a Jordan Henderson error left him bearing down on goal.

Pepe beat Andy Robertson with ease but the £72million man produced a two-bob finish, hitting the ball straight at Adrian.

 Mo Salah bagged twice during Liverpool's win over Arsenal

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Mo Salah bagged twice during Liverpool’s win over ArsenalCredit: Getty – Contributor

PAYING THE PRICE

Arsenal soon paid the price.

Salah sent a shot just wide but moments later Alexander-Arnold finally made a crossing opportunity count.

The England international’s corner was met with an emphatic header by Matip and the visitors’ protests were in vain.

Even if the goal had been disallowed, the VAR would surely have awarded a penalty for Sokratis’ shirt-pulling on Van Dijk.

Mane should have made it two with a free header from the same source, before the half-time whistle gave Arsenal the chance to regroup.

A chance which Luiz threw away almost immediately.

What would Salah have managed from Roberto Firmino’s cute flick?

Luiz’s blatant tug on the forward’s shirt made the question academic and Salah’s masterful penalty put the Reds 2-0 ahead.

The Golden Boot winner for the last two seasons soon struck again, with Luiz once more at fault.

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He sold himself far too easily and once Salah was on the wrong side, there was no stopping him.

Into the box he glided and into the bottom corner he slid the ball.

For a while, there seemed to be a danger that Liverpool would match or better their 5-1 win last December.

But they could not turn utter supremacy into a mauling and once more failed to keep a clean sheet as Torreira found the net.

Annoying for Jurgen Klopp but too little, too late for Emery in a meeting between two teams with 100 per cent records.

Something had to give and it was Arsenal.

As usual.

 David Luiz had an afternoon to forget

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David Luiz had an afternoon to forgetCredit: PA:Press Association
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