Liverpool made a mockery of Arsenal's status as Premier League leaders by handing out an emphatic beating at Anfield.

The Gunners arrived on Merseyside high on confidence at the top of the table, but were demolished as Liverpool scored four in a devastating opening 20-minute burst that could have brought them even more goals.

'Breathtaking' display delights Rodgers

Martin Skrtel turned in two set-pieces and when Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge also hit the target for rampant Liverpool, a shell-shocked Arsenal's confidence was reduced to tatters.

Liverpool, unsurprisingly, were unable to maintain that level of dominance in the second half, but Sterling added his second before Mikel Arteta pulled a goal back for Arsenal from the penalty spot.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger must now rebuild morale and belief before Wednesday's home meeting with Manchester United and an FA Cup fifth-round tie against Liverpool next weekend, leading into the Champions League confrontation with holders Bayern Munich.

Wenger has maintained confidence in his Arsenal side all season, but this will now be their severest test after a defeat that was far more comprehensive than even the scoreline suggests.

Telling set-pieces

Martin Skrtel

Martin Skrtel's two early strikes took Liverpool to 22 goals from set-pieces this season, more than any other Premier League side. Arsenal, with 43%, have conceded the highest proportion of set-piece goals in the league.

As for Liverpool, they continue an impressive pursuit of a top-four place and a return to the Champions League - and they are now only five points behind Arsenal.

Liverpool swept away the Gunners in exactly the same manner as Everton were beaten here at Anfield, in a storm of speed, pressing and deadly finishing that was a testimony to the growing threat of Brendan Rodgers's team.

The signals for a harrowing 90 minutes to come were posted inside the first minute when Skrtel cashed in on some flat-footed Arsenal defending to divert Steven Gerrard's angled free-kick past Wojciech Szczesny.

Liverpool's only moment of anxiety in a magical first half came when goalkeeper Simon Mignolet inexplicably punched a clearance straight at Jon Flanagan - but otherwise Arsenal were overwhelmed.

Liverpool's second came via Skrtel and another set-piece, the defender showing great agility to head Gerrard's corner past Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the goal-line.

The speed with which Arsenal's effort and performance deteriorated in the immediate aftermath of that goal will have horrified Wenger as Liverpool ran riot.

Sturridge should have added a third but a rare blemish in front of goal saw him put a lofted finish just wide before sending in a low cross that just failed to find Luis Suarez.

'Passive' Arsenal were poor - Wenger

Suarez almost added what could have been the best of his collection of brilliant Anfield goals this season with a volley of stunning quality and technique that struck the angle of post and bar with Szczesny helpless, Kolo Toure wasting a chance from the rebound.

Liverpool were inflicting wave after wave of attacks on Arsenal and the third eventually came, Sterling steering in a simple chance from Suarez's cross.

And as Wenger stood motionless in his technical area, Sturridge made it 4-0 after only 20 minutes, taking Philippe Coutinho's perfectly weighted pass in his stride to beat Szczesny.

If Arsenal expected respite after the break, it did not arrive and Sterling added the fifth in the 52nd minute. Once again Arsenal were ruthlessly exposed by Toure's pass and even though Szczesny saved Sterling's first effort, he was able to turn in the rebound in front of the Kop.

Arsenal's next four matches

12 Feb - Man Utd (home)

16 Feb - Liverpool (home) FA Cup

19 Feb - Bayern Munich (home) Champions League

22 Feb - Sunderland (home)

Wenger made a triple change on the hour, sending on Kieran Gibbs, Lukas Podolski and Tomas Rosicky for Nacho Monreal, Olivier Giroud and the desperately poor Mesut Ozil.

Suarez demonstrated his brilliance once more with an angled free-kick that was heading for the top corner until Szczesny's intervention.

Arsenal finally got on the scoresheet after 69 minutes when Gerrard upended Oxlade-Chamberlain and Arteta scored from the spot, the Spaniard almost adding a second immediately as Mignolet did well to see his free-kick through a crowded area to save.

Liverpool closed out the win to leave Arsenal facing the most searching questions of their impressive season.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers:

"It was breathtaking, some of our play. The intensity of our pressing and the goals were fantastic. It gave us a great platform.

"We've been doing it most of the season. Obviously this is a high-profile game and everyone is looking at it.

"The players have been brilliant with their hunger and appetite of the game. We've a lot of young players who want to learn and improve and when you mix that with experienced players, it's a great mix."

Check out photos from Saturday's Premier League matches on the BBC Sport Facebook page. 

Lineup, Bookings (3) & Substitutions (6)

Liverpool

  • 22 Mignolet
  • 38 Flanagan
  • 20 Cissokho
  • 08 Gerrard (Ibe - 76' )
  • 37 Skrtel
  • 04 Kolo Touré
  • 14 Henderson Booked
  • 10 Coutinho
  • 15 Sturridge (Allen - 66' )
  • 07 Suarez (Iago Aspas - 86' )
  • 31 Sterling

Substitutes

  • 01 Jones
  • 06 Luis Alberto
  • 09 Iago Aspas
  • 12 Moses
  • 24 Allen
  • 33 Ibe
  • 34 Kelly

Arsenal

  • 01 Szczesny
  • 03 Sagna
  • 17 Monreal (Gibbs - 61' )
  • 10 Wilshere Booked
  • 04 Mertesacker
  • 06 Koscielny
  • 15 Oxlade-Chamberlain
  • 08 Arteta
  • 12 Giroud Booked (Podolski - 60' )
  • 11 Özil (Rosicky - 61' )
  • 19 Cazorla

Substitutes

  • 07 Rosicky
  • 09 Podolski
  • 21 Fabianski
  • 23 Bendtner
  • 25 Jenkinson
  • 28 Gibbs
  • 44 Gnabry
Ref: Michael Oliver
Att: 44,701

Match Stats

Shots

22 11

On target

12 6

Corners

6 6

Fouls

14 14

Live Text Commentary

Full time

Full Time Match ends, Liverpool 5, Arsenal 1.

90:00 +3:12 Full time

Full Time Second Half ends, Liverpool 5, Arsenal 1.

90:00 +2:59

Attempt missed. Aly Cissokho (Liverpool) left footed shot from the left side of the box misses to the right. Assisted by Philippe Coutinho.

90:00 +1:04

Attempt saved. Lukas Podolski (Arsenal) header from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Mikel Arteta with a cross.

90:00 +0:38

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

90:00 +0:38

Foul by Aly Cissokho (Liverpool).

89:44

Foul by Tomas Rosicky (Arsenal).

89:44

Raheem Sterling (Liverpool) wins a free kick on the right wing.

89:28

Attempt blocked. Santiago Cazorla (Arsenal) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked.

89:03

Corner, Arsenal. Conceded by Aly Cissokho.

89:00

Attempt blocked. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Santiago Cazorla.

86:47

Attempt missed. Jordon Ibe (Liverpool) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the right. Assisted by Philippe Coutinho.

85:43

Corner, Liverpool. Conceded by Wojciech Szczesny.

85:42

Attempt saved. Raheem Sterling (Liverpool) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Aly Cissokho.

85:14 Substitution

Substitution Substitution, Liverpool. Iago Aspas replaces Luis Suarez.

80:45

Bacary Sagna (Arsenal) wins a free kick on the right wing.

80:45

Foul by Jordon Ibe (Liverpool).

79:04

Offside, Liverpool. Luis Suarez tries a through ball, but Raheem Sterling is caught offside.

78:56

Attempt blocked. Luis Suarez (Liverpool) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Philippe Coutinho.

78:00

Corner, Arsenal. Conceded by Raheem Sterling.

75:36 Substitution

Substitution Substitution, Liverpool. Jordon Ibe replaces Steven Gerrard.

74:06

Attempt blocked. Tomas Rosicky (Arsenal) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Santiago Cazorla.

73:22

Attempt saved. Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Jordan Henderson.

72:43

Foul by Mikel Arteta (Arsenal).

72:43

Luis Suarez (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

71:56

Attempt saved. Mikel Arteta (Arsenal) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom right corner.

71:17

Jack Wilshere (Arsenal) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

71:17

Foul by Jon Flanagan (Liverpool).

68:25 Goal scored

Goal! Goal! Liverpool 5, Arsenal 1. Mikel Arteta (Arsenal) converts the penalty with a right footed shot to the high centre of the goal.

67:51

Penalty Arsenal. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain draws a foul in the penalty area.

67:51

Penalty conceded by Steven Gerrard (Liverpool) after a foul in the penalty area.

66:26

Attempt missed. Jordan Henderson (Liverpool) right footed shot from the right side of the box misses to the left. Assisted by Philippe Coutinho with a through ball following a fast break.

65:31 Substitution

Substitution Substitution, Liverpool. Joe Allen replaces Daniel Sturridge.

64:49

Offside, Liverpool. Philippe Coutinho tries a through ball, but Raheem Sterling is caught offside.

64:00

Offside, Liverpool. Jon Flanagan tries a through ball, but Luis Suarez is caught offside.

63:46

Mikel Arteta (Arsenal) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

63:46

Foul by Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool).

63:09

Offside, Liverpool. Jon Flanagan tries a through ball, but Daniel Sturridge is caught offside.

62:20

Corner, Liverpool. Conceded by Wojciech Szczesny.

62:19

Attempt saved. Luis Suarez (Liverpool) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the top right corner.

61:49

Foul by Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal).

61:49

Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

60:40

Attempt saved. Jack Wilshere (Arsenal) left footed shot from outside the box is saved in the top right corner. Assisted by Lukas Podolski.

60:14 Substitution

Substitution Substitution, Arsenal. Kieran Gibbs replaces Nacho Monreal.

60:07 Substitution

Substitution Substitution, Arsenal. Tomas Rosicky replaces Mesut Özil.

59:52 Substitution

Substitution Substitution, Arsenal. Lukas Podolski replaces Olivier Giroud.

59:29

Jack Wilshere (Arsenal) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

59:29

Foul by Jordan Henderson (Liverpool).

58:11 Booking

Booking Jack Wilshere (Arsenal) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

57:58

Foul by Jack Wilshere (Arsenal).

57:58

Raheem Sterling (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

57:32

Mesut Özil (Arsenal) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

57:32

Foul by Jon Flanagan (Liverpool).

56:59

Attempt saved. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by Mesut Özil.

56:33

Attempt saved. Olivier Giroud (Arsenal) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Mikel Arteta with a headed pass.

55:49

Corner, Arsenal. Conceded by Steven Gerrard.

54:23

Attempt saved. Raheem Sterling (Liverpool) right footed shot from the left side of the six yard box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Luis Suarez.

54:22

Attempt missed. Luis Suarez (Liverpool) header from the centre of the box misses to the left. Assisted by Steven Gerrard with a cross following a set piece situation.

53:37

Foul by Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal).

53:37

Luis Suarez (Liverpool) wins a free kick on the right wing.

51:07 Goal scored

Goal! Goal! Liverpool 5, Arsenal 0. Raheem Sterling (Liverpool) left footed shot from the centre of the box to the bottom left corner.

51:06

Attempt saved. Raheem Sterling (Liverpool) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Kolo Touré.

50:29

Foul by Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal).

50:29

Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

49:00

Corner, Liverpool. Conceded by Mikel Arteta.

48:56

Attempt missed. Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool) with an attempt from the centre of the box is high and wide to the right. Assisted by Luis Suarez with a cross following a set piece situation.

48:18

Foul by Mikel Arteta (Arsenal).

48:18

Jordan Henderson (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

46:41

Corner, Arsenal. Conceded by Luis Suarez.

46:38

Attempt blocked. Santiago Cazorla (Arsenal) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.

46:13 Booking

Booking Olivier Giroud (Arsenal) is shown the yellow card.

46:10 Booking

Booking Jordan Henderson (Liverpool) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

45:46

Jack Wilshere (Arsenal) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

45:46

Foul by Jordan Henderson (Liverpool).

45:00

Second Half begins Liverpool 4, Arsenal 0.

45:00 +3:01 Half time

Half Time First Half ends, Liverpool 4, Arsenal 0.

45:00 +1:43

Corner, Liverpool. Conceded by Laurent Koscielny.

45:00 +0:45

Attempt missed. Luis Suarez (Liverpool) left footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Jordan Henderson.

44:20

Foul by Jack Wilshere (Arsenal).

44:20

Steven Gerrard (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

43:30

Foul by Jack Wilshere (Arsenal).

43:30

Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

40:40

Bacary Sagna (Arsenal) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

40:40

Foul by Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool).

40:07

Delay over. They are ready to continue.

39:13

Delay in match Nacho Monreal (Arsenal) because of an injury.

37:34

Attempt missed. Olivier Giroud (Arsenal) header from the centre of the box misses to the right. Assisted by Nacho Monreal with a cross.

30:54

Foul by Olivier Giroud (Arsenal).

30:54

Jon Flanagan (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

26:08

Foul by Bacary Sagna (Arsenal).

26:08

Raheem Sterling (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

24:20

Mesut Özil (Arsenal) wins a free kick on the right wing.

24:20

Foul by Steven Gerrard (Liverpool).

19:17 Goal scored

Goal! Goal! Liverpool 4, Arsenal 0. Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool) left footed shot from outside the box to the bottom left corner. Assisted by Philippe Coutinho with a through ball following a fast break.

17:05

Foul by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal).

17:05

Raheem Sterling (Liverpool) wins a free kick on the left wing.

16:00 Goal scored

Goal! Goal! Liverpool 3, Arsenal 0. Raheem Sterling (Liverpool) right footed shot from very close range to the bottom left corner. Assisted by Luis Suarez.

15:27

Jack Wilshere (Arsenal) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

15:27

Foul by Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool).

14:18

Corner, Arsenal. Conceded by Aly Cissokho.

12:48

Attempt missed. Kolo Touré (Liverpool) right footed shot from the centre of the box misses to the right following a corner.

12:46

Luis Suarez (Liverpool) hits the left post with a right footed shot from outside the box. Assisted by Steven Gerrard following a corner.

12:06

Corner, Liverpool. Conceded by Jack Wilshere.

11:25

Attempt missed. Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool) left footed shot from the centre of the box misses to the right. Assisted by Luis Suarez with a through ball.

11:02

Santiago Cazorla (Arsenal) wins a free kick on the left wing.

11:02

Foul by Jordan Henderson (Liverpool).

10:35

Olivier Giroud (Arsenal) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

10:35

Foul by Kolo Touré (Liverpool).

9:28 Goal scored

Goal! Goal! Liverpool 2, Arsenal 0. Martin Skrtel (Liverpool) header from the centre of the box to the top left corner. Assisted by Steven Gerrard with a cross following a corner.

8:53

Corner, Liverpool. Conceded by Wojciech Szczesny.

8:52

Attempt saved. Jon Flanagan (Liverpool) right footed shot from a difficult angle on the right is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Daniel Sturridge.

7:21

Corner, Arsenal. Conceded by Martin Skrtel.

4:32

Santiago Cazorla (Arsenal) wins a free kick on the left wing.

4:32

Foul by Jon Flanagan (Liverpool).

4:06

Attempt saved. Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool) left footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Jordan Henderson.

2:10

Foul by Nacho Monreal (Arsenal).

2:10

Luis Suarez (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

0:51 Goal scored

Goal! Goal! Liverpool 1, Arsenal 0. Martin Skrtel (Liverpool) right footed shot from very close range to the centre of the goal. Assisted by Steven Gerrard with a cross following a set piece situation.

0:28

Foul by Per Mertesacker (Arsenal).

0:28

Luis Suarez (Liverpool) wins a free kick on the left wing.

0:00

First Half begins.

0:00

Lineups are announced and players are warming up.

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