A fallen idol at Tottenham, an indefensible Arsenal, and Manchester United back from the brink, here are 7 hot Premier League takeaways
1) Klopp Blitz
Liverpool tore Arsenal apart like a surgeon dismembering a patient without an anesthetic on Saturday night.
It was a classic example of a Jurgen Klopp blitz: punching the opposition’s lights out with such force that by the time they have a moment to regroup the game is effectively over. Four goals in little more than half an hour shattered Arsenal and (ominously for anyone who fears never hearing the end of a Liverpool title win), it gave them a seven-point lead going into the New Year, with even Pep Guardiola suggesting they “may be the best team in the world right now.”
Puyol loves the Reds, Gini’s magic in midfield and more. 🙌🙌#LFC capped off a sensational 2018 with a brilliant 5-1 victory at Anfield – here are 5️⃣ things we loved in our final game of the year…
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) December 30, 2018
2) Mind the gap
Liverpool haven’t been this far ahead of their opposition for nearly three decades. They last won the league in 1989-90 although since then they have finished second on four occasions and did at least make durable challenges in 1996-97 and 2008-09.
In the 2013-14 season, Liverpool even took Manchester City to the final day, but a seven-point gap at the top is a luxury they haven’t enjoyed in 28 years, since Kenny Dalglish’s side finished nine points clear of Aston Villa. Even with Ronnie Rosenthal in their squad.
3) Arsenal’s defence is still indefensible
For Arsenal fans, Saturday was a horrific flashback to the dog days of the Wenger years, when against top four opponents they put up as much resistance as a teddy bear being fed into a band saw.
Arsenal arguably haven’t had a world class defender since Sol Campbell left for the second time in 2010 and Unai Emery’s reference to the three years of progress Liverpool have made since his Seville side beat them in the 2015 Europa League final can be interpreted as a message to the board: they need to rebuild at the back.
With Rob Holding and Hector Bellerin both injured and Shkodran Mustafi and Laurent Koscielny both unfit, Arsenal weren’t even an imitation of the side that held Liverpool to a 1-1 draw at The Emirates less than two months ago.
4) Fallen idol
Back in the summer Kieran Tripper did something no Englishman had done since Bobby Charlton in 1966: he put England ahead in a World Cup semi-final. Charlton was eventually knighted. Trippier for his part, spent Saturday getting dog’s abuse from tens of thousands of his own fans as the designated scapegoat for Tottenham’s 3-1 defeat at home to Wolves, a result that might be considered a surprise until you look at Wolves’ record this season.
5) These Wolves bite…
Wolves have now held Manchester City 1-1 at home, drawn away by the same scoreline at both Manchester United and Arsenal, where they were unlucky not to win and beaten Chelsea and Tottenham. None of which will have been much consolation for Trippier as he felt the fury of the Tottenham Twitter mob on Saturday night, many of whom feel it was time to send him to the glue factory.
6) United are back(ish)
And it might be churlish to point out that United have “only” beaten Cardiff, Huddersfield and Bournemouth since Jose Mourinho was sacked, but they’re playing with a sense of freedom usually associated with hostages who’ve recently been released from a basement.
7) Death of a gentleman
The final word this week has to go to Peter Hill-Wood, the former Arsenal chairman who passed away at the age of 82. Hill-Wood was a classic, old-school English chairman who, having helped Arsenal build the no-smoking Emirates Stadium, could often be seen outside the main entrance before matches, puffing the cigars he was no longer allowed light inside the ground.
Hill-Wood was chairman when the club appointed two of their most successful managers, George Graham and Arsene Wenger. On the night of arguably the club’s greatest ever triumph, the 2-0 win at Anfield to snatch the league title from Liverpool in 1989, while the rest of the Arsenal staff went volcanic, Hill-Wood simply drew on his cigar and said: “never in doubt”.