Liverpool extended their lead at the top of the Premier League to an imposing nine points with a devastating attacking dismissal of Arsenal at Anfield – with hat-trick hero Roberto Firmino the inspiration.
Arsenal took the lead after only 11 minutes when Ainsley Maitland-Niles slid in at the far post to score from Alex Iwobi’s cross – but it was a false dawn for Unai Emery’s side.
Liverpool, lifted after title rivals Tottenham’s home defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers earlier, responded with an explosive display that saw them 4-1 up by the interval and on their way to continuing their unbeaten league run to 20 games.
Firmino took advantage of Arsenal’s defensive confusion to quickly equalise then wriggle past a posse of defenders to put Liverpool in front after Lucas Torreira lost possession, all in the space of two minutes.
Sadio Mane extended Liverpool’s lead after 32 minutes when Andrew Robertson’s long cross exposed Arsenal after they needlessly conceded a corner, before Mohamed Salah effectively ended the contest from the penalty spot in first-half stoppage time after he had been fouled by Sokratis.
Liverpool then cruised to close out the win, Firmino completing his hat-trick from the spot after 65 minutes following Sead Kolasinac’s push on Dejan Lovren.
Manchester City, 10 points adrift, will attempt to close the gap at Southampton on Sunday before they meet Liverpool in a pivotal encounter at the Etihad Stadium on Thursday, 3 January.