One victory does not make a season but the dominant Emirates display was a reminder of the champions’ quality.
One performance, once result, of course, doesn’t mean that everything is suddenly fine. Liverpool have been here often enough before this season, particularly in London, not to believe that the storm has now passed.
Nobody should be drawing sweeping conclusions, good or bad, from games against an Arsenal side that remains wildly inconsistent. But there was perhaps enough in Saturday’s 3-0 win at the Emirates for Liverpool to begin to recover some faith in themselves and their methods.
But first the caveats. When Liverpool won 7-0 at Crystal Palace a week before Christmas, the feeling was that they had found their rhythm at last, that they’d worked through the scratchiness of the early part of the season. It turned out the scratchiness had been the good bit.
They didn’t win any of their next five, but then won impressively at Tottenham and West Ham, where Mohammed Salah scored one of the season’s great goals.
Blip over? It had barely begun: they lost six of their next seven in the league. So however dominant they were against Arsenal, it’s probably worth reserving judgement for a while.
The fixture list shows a worrying absence of further league games in London, where they have dropped just two points in six games this season, although there could be a Champions League semi-final second leg at Stamford Bridge. (Memo to John W Henry: if you do decide to push ahead with this super league idea, maybe consider moving the franchise to the capital? Daniel Levy may have a stadium to offer you.)
But what happened on Saturday showed the quality that remains in this Liverpool side. The press looked sharp again to the point that Arsenal could barely get out of their half before the break, and it led directly to the third goal.
Again it must be acknowledged that Arsenal are a side who regularly get themselves into trouble playing out from the back and that their structure might not have been so vulnerable had they not been without five key players, but still, the remorselessness of Liverpool, in the first half particularly, was a reminder of how, at their best, they can smother opponents.