Liverpool were on course to get in at half-time level before they conceded on the stroke of half-time, with a quick Arsenal break ending in Bukayo Saka making it 2-1 to the Gunners.
Jordan Henderson couldn’t hide his fury as Liverpool’s attempt to blow Arsenal out of the water ended up with them falling flat on their faces.
The Reds approached their biggest game of the season looking to blow the confident Gunners out of the water, but their high-risk strategy is yielding no reward right now, and they were picked off by their hosts on the break twice, before losing to a contentious penalty.
This is a Liverpool side that have suddenly been transformed from a formidable, highly functioning unit into a team that exists on a high wire.
Jurgen Klopp’s insistence on fielding four forwards in a game is nothing new – he did it at home to Rangers of course, and he also did it away at Manchester City in the quiet, crowdless Covid season – but if he really is suddenly wedded to it surely it isn’t supposed to look like this?
There are moments, brief moments, where you see what it would look like on the Kirkby training pitch as the Reds spring forward at will and look so dangerous, but if they continue to insist on conceding the first goal against talented opposition that really isn’t going to count for much as they will continually be hit on the break.
The concession of the opener saw Arsenal invited into an enormous gap and emphatically accept that invitation, but it was the second Gunners goal just before half-time which really exposed whatever this is meant to be.
Liverpool had a free-kick in the Arsenal half, a perfect chance to regroup and go in level following that Darwin Nunez equaliser, but as quick as a flash the hosts had broken and were running at the Liverpool goal three on two.
You can sometimes get away with that, and if you’re a defender as good as Virgil van Dijk you sometimes expect to, but when players of this quality and confidence combine then you’re in trouble. Gabriel Martinelli found Gabriel Jesus, Jesus found Bukayo Saka, and Saka couldn’t miss.
There were initially hopeful appeals for offside from Alisson Becker, but Saka was already well away celebrating by then.
Then as Liverpool trudged back to for kick-off, Reds skipper Jordan Henderson first berated Virgil van Dijk as he held up his hands to demonstrate where the space should have been closed down. Van Dijk bit back, although not as much as he did to James Milner at Old Trafford, and then Henderson turned his attention to Trent Alexander-Arnold.
The Reds captain will know that attention usually falls on his right-back pretty much whenever Liverpool concede a goal, but it was clear that he expected more from his teammate in the same manner as he did Van Dijk.
Again there was a frank exchange of views, and before he knew it Henderson and his teammates were heading down the tunnel for half-time.
Had they gone in level then they would surely have had a much better chance of salvaging something from this match, and although they did get back into it in the second period – and have just cause to debate the penalty decision – they were ultimately beaten by a side who fed on the encouragement they gave them.
They simply can’t keep doing that.