Liverpool 5 Arsenal 1
Firmino 14,16,65 pen, Mane 32, Salah 47, Maitland-Niles 11

Arsenal received a 5-1 thrashing at Anfield as Liverpool provided a reality to check to Unai Emery’s side. That 22 game unbeaten run in all competitions under Emery seems to have masked over a number of personnel cracks, even if that results sequence involved draws against Liverpool at the Emirates and against Manchester United at Old Trafford. Liverpool are in menacing form, and their attack trio of Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino who grabbed his first treble for the Reds showed their title intent to the rest of the Premier League of . The Gunners had an early chance when Alex Iwobi forced a fine save from Alisson. With their next move, Arsenal silenced Anfield by taking the lead. Ainsley Maitland-Niles slotted home after a testing cross from Iwobi. Not used to being behind, the Reds were level within three minutes through Firmino. Stephan Lichsteiner’s attempt to clear came off Shkodran Mustafi and Firmino tapped into the empty net. More defensive woe as the Brazilian slalomed past the Gunners ineffective backline to put Liverpool ahead. Mane increased the lead from Salah’s cross, while Salah himself struck from the penalty spot after he was caught by Sokratis in the box. Arsenal were all over the place defensively, and while matters marginally improved when they only conceded once more after the break when Firmino struck from the penalty spot following Sead Kolasinac’s push on Dejan Loveren, their luck couldn’t have gotten any worse as Aaron Ramsey couldn’t finish from Iwobi’s pass, while Alexandre Lacazette was denied a nailed on penalty when he was caught by Nathanial Clyne.

Emery will have known of the rigours of the Premier League. His two opening games and an unfortunate pairing from the fixtures computer gave up the hosting of Manchester City and a trip to Chelsea. Both games were lost, but Emery’s men were unfortunate at Stamford Bridge when the Gunners really deserved something from that game. That 22 game unbeaten sequence gave Arsenal fans hope as the Gunners’ jostled with fourth and fifth place in the Premier League. To relinquish that record at Southampton was a blow, and maybe we began to see the reality of Arsenal’s unbeaten run put into perspective, where West Ham, Wolves, Everton could all have won at the Emirates as well as Cardiff City in Wales.

Defensive injuries to Rob Holding, Nacho Monreal and Hector Bellerin haven’t helped, but just like under Arsene Wenger, Emery is finding that his rearguard just isn’t up to the demands of the Premier League. Lichsteiner has fight, but lacks pace and positional discipline, while Sokratis isn’t that no nonsense defender who ruled the defensive roost at Borussia Dortmund. And since his return from injury, his performances suggest that Laurent Koscielny is finding it tough in the top flight. Emery will see all of these things. Arsenal’s ability to stay in the fight against Burnley at the Emirates pointed to a new found steel, but at Anfield Liverpool easily bent them out of shape.

Emery could dip into to January transfer window and take a look at the likes of Gary Cahill who appears to be surplus to requirements at Chelsea, and how about taking a look at someone to play alongside Lucas Torreira. Watford’s Abdoulaye Doucoure fits that bill. For now, Emery wants his side to recover quickly from this mauling, but also pointed to  the Reds’ penalties, the second of which was soft at best.

“I think we started well, but after our goal, they pushed, and when they push here, they play with great determination and with players who can make a difference all over the pitch. They scored three quick goals and it was a difficult moment for us. We spoke in the dressing room – it’s another experience for us. A bad experience but an experience to learn from. In the second half we needed to stand up, to keep our position individually and collectively on the game. The two last goals, two penalties, I think it’s a lot for us. I think VAR is important – it’s coming next year, because I think it’s going to help the referees to take better decisions.

“We only can think now of the match on Tuesday and know the difference between Liverpool and us was not like today’s result. Maybe we can do one balance, one mix between our draw and this result today. We have a lot of work to do, defensively also, we know we need to get better.”

A case for his defence is the glaringly obvious. Why the insistence of playing out from the back when Emery clearly doesn’t have the players who are either comfortable or capable of doing so, has to be addressed. Bernd Leno has to be encouraged to kick it out more often than not, otherwise we will see more defence of the farcical kind. Emery said that he will work on this obvious area of weakness.

“Defensively we need to be stronger, to work. Our defensive moments in our box, it’s my responsibility and then we need the balance. We need to keep the balance in the middle. We lost today 5-1, we need to keep the balance in the middle, be serious and continue on Tuesday with a big match at the Emirates. We need to show our supporters there we are standing up after the result.”

Arsenal will look to improve when Fulham arrive at the Emirates on New Year’s Day.