Liverpool kept pace with Premier League leaders Chelsea thanks to a thrilling 4-0 demolition of Arsenal during which Jurgen Klopp and Mikel Arteta nearly came to blows.
After 33 largely uneventful minutes at Anfield the game sparked into life when Liverpool boss Klopp and Arsenal counterpart Arteta were involved in a heated altercation in the dugout.
It proved the catalyst for an emphatic display of Liverpool's attacking might as they harnessed the fevered Anfield atmosphere to take a half-time lead through Sadio Mane's header before running riot in a devastating second-half blitz.
Diogo Jota brilliantly punished a costly defensive error within five minutes of the restart, Mohamed Salah finished a counter-attack from close range and then substitute Takumi Minamino added a fourth with his first touch as Arsenal endured another sobering trip to Merseyside.
The victory sees Liverpool return to winning ways, lifts them into second place in the table and ends Arsenal's eight-game Premier League unbeaten run, with the Gunners remaining fifth, three points outside the top four.
Liverpool: Alisson (8), Alexander-Arnold (8), Matip (7), Van Dijk (8), Tsimikas (7), Fabinho (7), Thiago (7), Oxlade-Chamberlain (8), Salah (8), Jota (8), Mane (8).
Subs: Henderson (6), Minamino (7), Morton (n/a).
Arsenal: Ramsdale (6), Tomiyasu (6), Gabriel (5), White (5), Tavares (4), Partey (6), Lokonga (4), Saka (5), Smith Rowe (5), Lacazette (6), Aubameyang (5).
Subs: Odegaard (5), Maitland-Niles (5), Elneny (n/a).
Man of the Match: Mohamed Salah.
Liverpool land knockout blow on Arsenal
After their contentious defeat at West Ham before the international break, the emphasis was on Liverpool to fly out of the traps and deliver an emphatic response, but the hosts took their time to get going, with Salah dragging a shot wide and Virgil van Dijk sending a header over in an uneventful opening quarter.
Arsenal were restricted to fleeting counter-attacks but should have taken the lead on 17 minutes, but Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's excellent covering challenge prevented Bukayo Saka from turning home Takehiro Tomiyasu's cross from close range.
- Thiago Alcantara and Kostas Tsimikas replaced Jordan Henderson and Andy Robertson as Liverpool made two changes from the 3-2 defeat at West Ham.
- Thomas Partey replaces Ainsley Maitland-Niles in Arsenal’s only change from the 1-0 win over Watford before the international break.
When Liverpool eventually settled into their rhythm just before the half-hour mark, they found Arsenal goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale in inspired form as he saved Thiago Alcantara's volley and then recovered instantly to prevent Mane from bundling the ball home after he fumbled.
Alexandre Lacazette walked the ball into the Liverpool net soon after, only to see his effort correctly ruled out for offside before all hell broke loose in the Anfield dugout.
Liverpool were still searching for that spark and it came in the form of feisty altercation between Klopp and Arteta, who had to be dragged away from each other after a heated exchange of words following Mane's foul on Tomiyasu directly in front of the technical areas.
The ill feeling spilled onto the pitch and into the stands, with Liverpool feeding off the energy and peppering the Arsenal goal in search of the breakthrough. Initially Ramsdale proved impenetrable, producing a double save to deny Salah and then a stunning fingertip save the thwart Trent Alexander-Arnold's rasping drive, but the pressure eventually told.
Alexander-Arnold sent a brilliant free-kick into the area where Mane emerged from a group of queuing Liverpool players to nod past Ramsdale, who got gloves to the ball and will feel he should have done better.
Arsenal managed to create an opening for Sambi Lokonga before the pulsating first half was up, but it was straight down the throat of Alisson Becker, a relative bystander in the Liverpool goal up until that point.
Liverpool continued to feast off the atmosphere in the second period, with Oxlade-Chamberlain coming within inches of doubling the lead against his former club. But Arsenal were the architects of their own downfall, with their insistence in playing out of the back backfiring on 52 minutes when Nuno Tavares had his pocket picked, and Jota glided past Ben White and Ramsdale before stroking Liverpool's second into the unguarded net.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was denied by the legs of Alisson as the Gunners captain missed the chance to halve the deficit with 25 minutes remaining, and it proved a costly miss as Liverpool put the game to bed.
After Ramsdale had produced another superb save to keep Jota's drive out, the Gunners stopper was beaten for the third time when Jota's brilliant headed through pass released Mane, who squared for Salah to turn into the unguarded net from all of two yards.
Three minutes later, insult was added to Arsenal injury when Alexander-Arnold set up substitute Minamino to put the icing on the cake with Liverpool's fourth with what was his very first touch.
Carra: Arteta will regret Klopp altercation
Sky Sports' Jamie Carragher:
"I think he'll look back at that and think it was a mistake. If that was a player on the pitch who did a silly challenge and lifted the crowd or the opposition - we've all been there in the dressing room and you come in at half time and the manager is saying: 'Look at what you've done. You've lifted this crowd.'
"I think he'll look back at that and think it's something he'll probably regret and won't get involved in situations like that again, certainly at a place like this where the crowd wasn't going quiet, but there wasn't a lot happening for Liverpool.
"It was a different Liverpool second half. I think Jurgen Klopp would have asked for more intensity. I think there was a change in the game, and that was Arteta and Klopp going head to head on the side of the pitch.
"That seemed to change the crowd and the game. It definitely lifted the whole place, then they got the goal as well. When Liverpool have the bit between their teeth it's virtually impossible to stop them. I think it's a really big win for Liverpool, I really do.
"For Liverpool and Man City, they've just got to stay with Chelsea, because they look devastating at the moment, but at some point this season they'll have a sticky period. City and Liverpool can't allow that gap to get to near double figures, just stay on their coattails."
Liverpool reserve best for Arsenal - Match stats
- Under Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool have scored more Premier League goals against Arsenal (37) than one side has against another since October 2015, whilst only versus Crystal Palace (11) have the Reds recorded more top-flight wins since the German took charge than the Gunners (8).
- Only Norwich and Watford (7) have failed to score in more Premier League games than Arsenal (5) this season.
- Since the beginning of the season in which Liverpool went on to win the Premier League (2019/20), no side has scored more top-flight goals via set-pieces than the Reds (37 - excluding pens), the same number as West Ham.
- Mohamed Salah's strike was Liverpool's 100th in the Premier League against Arsenal; only against Newcastle (105) have the Reds scored more in the competition.
- Since the start of the 2018-19 season, Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold has provided 38 Premier League assists, four more than any other player in this period.
- Arsenal (4) have conceded more Premier League goals following their own errors than any other side so far this season.
What the managers said…
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp: "All the games are opportunities for us. It was an exceptional performance. We grew into the game, we got better and better.
"We controlled the game in a good way and played exciting stuff in the right moments. It was a mixture of a mature and exciting performance. In games like this it's important you keep your opponent as far away from your goal as possible and be decisive in the other areas.
"We grew into the game. It was not always a super game it was just a controlled game. We had to find way to break them down. They were full of confidence. We found a way back in the game and it was a super performance all over."
Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta: "I think the first half was very competitive. We both had moments and we competed well. At 1-0 down we go to half-time, it is the moment we have to be patient but we were completely the opposite.
"We completely crashed. That's why we lose the game - the rest is a consequence of the frustration of having to chase the game. We know they will punish you. They can press, they are one of the best at it.
"Mistakes are a part of football. They have been the best team in Europe because they can dominate in every aspect. They were better than us today.
"It was a huge test. We showed for 45 minutes we could compete with them. We crashed for 15-20 minutes, we threw the game away and that is the learning from today. We take the things we have to learn from today and move on. We have to carry on and it is about how we react now as a team."
Man of the Match - Mohamed Salah
Mohamed Salah - Man of the Match 🍾— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) November 20, 2021
1 Goal 🥇
4 Shots 🥇
8 Dribbles 🥇
15 Touches in opp. box 🥇(joint-most in a PL match of any PL player this season)
11 PL goals this season, 2 more than at this same stage when he top scored with 32 PL goals in 2017-18 pic.twitter.com/awPeXGTURq
Sky Sports' Jamie Carragher:
"He was a thorn in Arsenal's side all game. He hit some lovely passes and eventually got his goal. He's been excellent again."
Liverpool host Porto in the Champions League group stages on Wednesday at 8pm, before Southampton head to Anfield in the Premier League on Saturday at 3pm. Arsenal host Newcastle in the Premier League on Saturday at 12.30pm.