With just 20 minutes gone at Anfield on Saturday, a rampant Liverpool FC had already begun sending shockwaves through the Premier League. Four goals to the good, Brendan Rodgers' men had Arsenal FC on the ropes and looked to be reinvigorating their own title credentials – even if their manager sounded a note of caution afterwards.
Overlooked when José Mourinho described a three-horse race in the wake of Chelsea FC's recent win at Manchester City FC, the Reds were simply exceptional against Arsène Wenger's shell-shocked side. Martin Škrtel opened the scoring in the first minute and headed in a second shortly afterwards, before Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge continued the explosive start. Sterling added another after the break, with a Mikel Arteta penalty all that Arsenal could muster in response.
"We were brilliant today," said Rodgers, as the Anfield faithful made for home savouring a display brimming with pace and intensity. "It was a wonderful performance in such a prestigious game between the two teams. The performance level was absolutely out of this world and I am very pleased as it is another marker for us that we are getting better and improving all the time."
The former Swansea City AFC boss was nonetheless eager to play down suggestions that Liverpool are back in the running to win their first English title since 1989/90. "You only need to look at our squad really. That can be an indication," he explained. "The objective has always been to finish as high as we can, but you also have to look at the other teams around you. You only have to look at what Arsenal had on the bench today."
Whether Liverpool's rivals are quite as willing to take them lightly remains to be seen, however. The Merseysiders ended the weekend six points off new frontrunners Chelsea in fourth spot, and will tackle both Mourinho's charges and Manchester City on home soil before the end of the campaign. Crucially, unlike the teams above them, they are also free from the demands of juggling European competition
Indeed, Arsenal open their UEFA Champions League round of 16 tie against FC Bayern München on 19 February after hosting Manchester United FC on Wednesday and being reunited with Liverpool again in the FA Cup on Sunday. Unsurprisingly, the Gunners are anxious to bounce back from Saturday's humbling as quickly as possible.
The performance was just not good enough, and I include myself in that performance," said Wenger, with his side now a point off the summit in second. "It raises questions that we have to answer – we have a lot to answer for – though maybe it is best if I don't talk too much about what went wrong here and we just go home and put things right on the pitch on Wednesday.
"We didn't look sharp against Liverpool, but it's how we respond that matters," added the Frenchman, hoping to steer Arsenal to a first trophy since 2004/05. "We have a chance to show we can make an improvement in the next game and it is important we do not lose all our confidence and self-belief."
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