Arsenal dropped points at Anfield as Liverpool closed in on the Premier League title challengers with a 5-0 drubbing of the league leaders.
The hosts were four goals up within 20 minutes of kick-off as Arsenal failed to keep up with the pace of the game while losing most of the ball in the middle of the park eith Steven Gerrard, who had been redeployed deeper into the team’s defence stepping forward to push their lackluster opponent back into their own half.
Liverpool named an unchanged side from last week’s 1-1 draw with West Bromwich Albion with Jon Flanagan and Aly Cissokho playing as fullbacks either side of Martin Skrtel and Kolo Toure in defence.
Jack Wilshere started for the Gunners for the first time since the 4-0 win over Coventry City in January, so also Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scorer of Arsenal’s goals against Crystal Palace last weekend.
Prior to kick-off, no one could have thought Martin Skrtel would be the torn in the visitors’ defence but the Slovakian immediately registered himself as a candidate gunning for a hat-trick by grabbing a brace within ten minutes of kick-off.
The Liverpool centre-half tucked in the Reds’ opener with his knee before directing a header round and into the top corner of Arsenal’s goal, both efforts from a Gerrard’s set pieces.
Sturridge almost added a third when he let fly a seeming opportunity in front of goal before sending in a low cross that failed to reach Luis Suarez.
The Uruguayan soon saw what would have been a screamer of his Anfield goals hit the woodwork with the helpless Wojciech Szczesny caught on his heels, and Kolo Toure wasted the rebound.
Liverpool’s third eventually came as Sterling steered in a simple chance from Suarez’s cross.
Sturridge made it 4-0, taking Philippe Cautinho’s pin-point pass in his stride to beat Polish first choice Szczesny.
Arsenal were not to be given a breathing space on such faithful day as the rampant Liverpool demolished what was left of the visitors’ defence to add a fifth. Sterling added the fifth in the 52nd minute from a Toure pass. His first shot was saved by the Arsenal goalie but turned in the rebound.
Suarez came close again when his angled free-kick, which was headed for the top corner, was parried by Szczesny.
It was too little too late when Arsenal finally pulled one back in the 69th minute, after Gerrard pulled down Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Arteta scored from the spot. The Spaniard almost doubled his goal tally but Simon Mignolet was equal to the task.
Liverpool held on to a deserved win leaving Arsenal at risk of dissenting from being the league leaders down two places in the standings and, even forthcoming fixtures are nowhere near easy.
And with Manchester City and Chelsea in action later in the day, the gap between the top four wouldn’t be more than 6 when all dices are cast. But for the moment, Liverpool are five points adrift of Arsenal.