Liverpool players will have yearned for that era in the opening minutes, before Mikel Arteta, when goals were guaranteed – given to them by the holographic defense – and they could pick their opponents at will, with ease.
The English champions finally did what they did, winning largely at Anfield to extend their unbeaten streak on floor to 61 games.
But it was different, it was grueling and it required them to be utterly relentless in and out of possession, choking visitors with press and flooding them with offensive strikes. Not that the Merseysiders ever care.
Arteta’s game plan had worked a treat in the early stages. His men allowed possession of Liverpool – perhaps more than the manager would have liked – and made them work hard for a first game.
Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Roberson delivered posers for the opposition on either side, while Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane sculpted pretty patterns and opportunities.
But, a mistake and as if by magic, Arsenal were in the lead with their only shot of any kind in the game at 25 minutes.
It was also their first menacing counterattack after shattering Liverpool’s press with Alexandre Lacazette supplying Ainsley Maitland-Niles on the left.
He didn’t apply the best cross, but Robertson made the worst clearance, handing the ball straight to Lacazette.
The forward turned around and also missed his effort, but the volley bounced off Alisson.
Arsenal barely had time to take advantage of their fortunes, before Liverpool played like the best team in the league and stung them twice.
Referee Craig Pawson played the lead after David Luiz blocked Naby Keita. Firmino recovered the free ball, feeding Salah who mercilessly eluded Kieran Tierney and forced Bernd Leno to push back his shot. Mane followed and put Liverpool on a level playing field.
Six minutes later, another dangerous Alexander-Arnold cross slipped a header from Hector Bellerin to Robertson, who chested him and passed Leno. The left-back had atoned for his mistake and Liverpool were turning all the screws.
“You have to suffer for periods,” Arteta warned before the match and it was Arsenal’s torment on the move. Liverpool squeezed and probed, squeezing a little more and probing a little more. The total number of shots in the first half was 11-1, with the Gunners having just 31% possession.
They weren’t badly bruised on the scoreboard though, and that was an encouragement in the second half. Alisson refused Lacazette in a head-to-head, but the forward was flagged offside.
The goalkeeper, who passed a late fitness test, then thwarted the Frenchman, coming out quickly to narrow the angle and standing up straight to block the shot after Dani Ceballos intelligently played Lacazette.
Substitute Diogo Jota later opened his account for Liverpool on his top flight debut after Luiz led the Alexander-Arnold cross in his direction. The Portugal international controlled with his chest and flew into the corner.
Arteta predicted that Liverpool “are able to force the opponent to do very little against them and they can dominate long stretches of matches. The Basque’s claim was correct, but his Arsenal was a different proposition.
Champions, on the other hand, are the same machine that is quite difficult to live with.
“It’s still very early in the season, but that kind of performance is just ‘wow’,” Klopp said.
Liverpool have collected nine out of nine points after hosting Leeds and Arsenal, sandwiched by a trip to Chelsea. The question of whether they can maintain their desire after ending a 30-year title drought has so far been answered in the affirmative.