With just over an hour on the clock, Raheem Sterling tried in desperation to get something, anything, for Liverpool as they crashed to a crushing 4-1 defeat against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.
He tumbled to the ground under Hector Bellerin's tackle but referee Anthony Taylor was having none of it. A few minutes later he was stopped in his tracks by Mathieu Flamini, crunched to the floor by a stern tackle from the Frenchman. Then, minutes after that he tried to whip a cross in from the left but it hit the first man for a throw in. Even when he did win a penalty from Bellerin in the 76th minute, it didn't change much. It was that kind of game for the man making all the headlines this week.
If it didn't quite work out for for Sterling, whose future at Liverpool is in doubt after he reportedly turned down the offer of a bumper contract with two years on his current deal remaining, everything Arsenal touched turned to gold. The Gunners have been much maligned in recent seasons for being glumly predictable, for doing just enough to make the top four and no more, year after year.
After today's win, they're up to second place with Manchester City and Manchester United still to play. There's no suggestion that they'll be able to catch Chelsea, who have a four-point advantage with two games in hand, before the season is up. However there is a suggestion however that all the parts are coming together to make Arsenal a force once more. Liverpool meanwhile could end the day eight points adrift of fourth place and their hopes of Champions League football all but gone. It was a winner-takes-all kind of game.
Perhaps the most promising thing from Arsenal's point of view was their ability to mix things up. Against the best pressing, most energetic side in the league, they took the initiative from the off, harrying their rivals in to mistake after mistake. Two outrageously good saves from Simon Mingolet kept it at 0-0. Wenger's side were singing, and had over 70% of the ball Every time either Kolo Toure or Mignolet had the ball, the home crowd were out f their seat in the hope of an impending mistake.
When the tempo dropped Liverpool were allowed back into the game, and were it not for a horrible pass from Lazar Markovic when he had Sterling to his side with just David Ospina to beat. The man who is said to have turned down a contract worth £100,00-a-week at Liverpool could barely contain his rage.
But then Arsenal blitzed their rivals again, zipping round passes, Ozil calling the shots, Sanchez buzzing with intent. Then the eight-minute onslaught began. First it was a piece of sloppy defending that allowed Bellerin to waltz down the right and curl a fine shot into the net after 37 minutes.
Three minutes later Ozil bent a fine left-footed free-kick into the net. Five minutes later and the job was done for the home side with the goal of the game; a fine Aaron Ramsey pass found Sanzhez who left Toure on his backside before blasting a shot past Mignolet.
Liverpool sent Sturridge on at half-time but Arsenal still looked the better side. Mignolet produced a handful of fine saves, Cazorla hit the post before Olivier Giroud put the icing on the cake in extra-time. This wasn't a thrashing, it was a piece-by-piece dismantling from Arsenal, who finally showed their hand; they are the real deal.
Arsenal's recent form has been nothing short of remarkable. They've lost just once in the league since January, winning their last nine on the spin since defeat against Tottenham. Having spent years being the bridesmaid they've spent big in the transfer window and are now the bride, with close to a complete team.
One man who could of course improve them is Sterling. Welbeck came on late in the game and epitomised all he was about. He tried hard and ran the channels but was a step off of his team-mates in terms of quality. He's scored two goals for Arsenal since December. A good squad member yes, a key part of a title winning team, no. The same is becoming increasingly true of Theo Walcott, too.
Arsenal have shown themselves capable of playing the game in a number of different ways this season - from the defensive block against Manchester City to the blitz against Liverpool and Monaco - and it was hard to escape the feeling, especially early on as the Gunners pressed so hard, that Sterling could have slotted in just perfectly. He has the direct running and quality that would make him a delight to watch alongside Arsenal's passing unit, while he has the intelligence to link up with the likes of Giroud, Sanchez and Ozil going forward too.
Indeed, the combination of Olivier Giroud and Sterling, with Sanchez and Ozil either side - they can all swap positions comfortably enough - is a frightening prospect. Francis Coquelin has shown he is the perfect foil for his attacking team-mates and Gabriel Paulista has certainly improved their backline. They have options at full-back while in Wilshere, Cazorla, Ramsey and Flamini they have plenty of options in the middle of the park.
Since this time last year Arsenal have moved forward into becoming a different beast, they can play in different styles and have much more resilience and quality. They are a team on the up. The opposite has to be said of Liverpool. If Sterling does choose to leave Liverpool - and the suggestion is he might - a move to Arsenal could be wise. His arrival would announce their arrival as the real deal.
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