Arsenal’s early-season problems mounted at Anfield on Sunday after they were condemned to a miserable 4-0 defeat by Jurgen Klopp’s rampant Liverpool.
Not even the return of Alexis Sanchez could inspire Arsene Wenger’s side as they fell to goals from Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Daniel Sturridge. Salah’s third goal, after 57 minutes, summed up Liverpool’s mastery of the opposition as Arsenal managed to concede from an attacking corner.
After the ball was headed clear, Hector Bellerin misjudged the bounce and Salah sprang past him before sprinting over half the length of the field and converting clinically.
Finally, on a rapid break, young full-back Joe Gomez delivered a superb, hanging right-wing cross and Firmino sprinted in at full speed to head past Petr Cech from six yards.
The warning signs had been there for Wenger, even before Firmino’s opener.
On 10 minutes, Emre Can and Firmino had combined effectively for the former to cross to the far post, where Salah looked certain to score until Cech scurried across his goal to make a brilliant block.
Moments after taking the lead, Liverpool should have doubled it as Firmino freed captain Jordan Henderson, whose poor touch preceded a shot that flew well off-target.
Klopp’s decision to axe regular first-choice goalkeeper Simon Mignolet from his squad had raised eyebrows, although Arsenal made an equally significant move in dropping club-record signing Alexandre Lacazette to the bench.
Despite recalling Sanchez for his first Arsenal start since the FA Cup final in May, the Gunners looked close to complete disarray at times.
Still, they might have taken the lead after just seven minutes when Sanchez surged through and played in Danny Welbeck, who could only hook his shot over under pressure from Gomez.
But once in front, Liverpool played with increasing confidence, while Arsenal’s visibly drained. When Henderson’s 31st-minute cross was headed out of the area, Mane volleyed it, first-time, narrowly wide of the right-hand post.
Liverpool’s control was complete in the 40th minute when Mane claimed a second goal that had been a long time coming. To sum up Arsenal’s wretched half, it came from one of their own attacks, which was broken up in the Liverpool area by Gomez.
Liverpool broke upfield at electrifying pace, Can to Firmino to Mane, and the forward calmly cut inside Rob Holding before curling an unstoppable finish past the diving Cech.
Wenger brought on Francis Coquelin for Aaron Ramsey at the interval and the visitors at least started to threaten, with Mesut Ozil shooting wide and Sanchez seeing his shot blocked on the edge of the area.
The relief was short-lived, however, with Can soon heading a Salah free-kick just wide and Salah’s pacy run clean through on goal drawing another good save from Cech.
The third and fourth goals were fully deserved for the hosts and only another good stop by the beleaguered Cech denied Mane a second goal in between them.
Chelsea lifted Antonio Conte’s spirits ahead of the crucial final days of the transfer window as goals from Cesc Fabregas and Alvaro Morata sealed a comfortable 2-0 victory over woeful Everton on Sunday.
Conte has spent the last few weeks grumbling about Chelsea’s failure to land his top transfer targets, and with the window closing next week, the Blues boss is hoping to bolster his depleted squad with several signings.
Against that troubled backdrop, it was essential Chelsea signed off before the international break with three points to keep in touch with Premier League pace setters Manchester United.
The champions achieved that aim with ease as Fabregas opened the scoring in the first half at Stamford Bridge before Morata bagged his second goal since his club record £58 million ($74 million) move from Real Madrid.
Conte’s men have now won two in a row following their shock opening-day defeat against Burnley, but they won’t have many less demanding victories than this one against a lethargic Everton side who barely broke sweat.
Although Morata scored again, the Spain striker was a diffident figure for long periods and Conte knows Chelsea’s hopes of more silverware rest on him being given extra options to juggle the demands of a gruelling season.
Everton’s first league defeat of the season was a frustrating end to what had been a positive week for Ronald Koeman’s men after they drew at Manchester City and qualified for the Europa League group stages.
Back from suspension, Fabregas came in for Tiemoue Bakayoko and was immediately in the thick of the action when Everton midfielder Idrissa Gueye escaped with a yellow card after catching the Spaniard with a crude studs-up lunge.
Quickly monopolising possession, Chelsea threatened an early goal as William’s penetrating run teed up Morata in the penalty area.
But Morata opted to pass and the chance was gone when Pedro lifted an ambitious bicycle kick over the crossbar.
David Luiz took a direct approach moments later, bringing Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford into action for the first time with a low strike from just outside the area.
Pedro followed suit with another long-range effort that had Pickford sprawling to his right to save.
Chelsea’s relentless pressure was rewarded in the 27th minute.
Fabregas flicked a pass to Morata and timed his run perfectly to receive the Spaniard’s headed return ball in stride, nudging in front of Leighton Baines to guide a deft finish past Pickford for his first goal of the season.
Although Everton had a draining Europa League assignment at Hajduk Split on Thursday, even that couldn’t completely excuse a desperately uninspired display.
It was only a matter of time before Chelsea made them pay again and it was Morata who delivered the killer blow in the 40th minute.
After referee Jon Moss played the advantage following a foul on Victor Moses, Cesar Azpilicueta had time and space to whip over a pin-point cross and Morata punished the flat-footed Everton defence with a header beyond Pickford from 10 yards.
Pedro almost made it three just after half-time with a curling effort that whistled wide before Everton finally carved out a chance.
Sandro Ramirez had only Thibaut Courtois to beat when he raced onto Wayne Rooney’s pass, but the striker’s miscued shot was in keeping with his side’s limp performance.
A calmer head will be required when he returns to the transfer maelstrom.