Thursday 19 September 2019

'Our identity is intensity and that is how the boys showed up' - Jurgen Klopp hails Reds after Gunners blitz

Liverpool 3 Arsenal 1

Liverpool's Mohamed Salah scores their third goal in the Premier League win over Arsenal at Anfield. Photo: Reuters/Carl Recine
Liverpool's Mohamed Salah scores their third goal in the Premier League win over Arsenal at Anfield. Photo: Reuters/Carl Recine

Carl Markham

Liverpool opened up a three-point gap at the top of the Premier League with a 3-1 win over Arsenal which highlighted why the chasing pack are still so far behind them and Manchester City.

By their own admission Jurgen Klopp's side had not been close to finding their best form in four matches this season but faced with the top flight's only other team with a 100 per cent record, they stepped up a couple of gears.

As if to make a statement they dismantled the Gunners, who arrived at Anfield with a containment-first approach, with a power game allied to clinical efficiency.

Mohamed Salah, with a penalty and a superbly-taken individual effort, made it three for the campaign after Joel Matip's first league goal in 11 months broke the deadlock just before half-time, with substitute Lucas Torreira scoring a consolation five minutes from the end.

The game started at a frenetic pace, with the hosts setting a high tempo which penned Arsenal back in the final third. Within 80 seconds Andy Robertson had fizzed a ball across the six-yard area which Roberto Firmino only narrowly missed.

Unai Emery's tactics were to defend deep with eight men behind the ball in an attempt to draw their opponents in before trying to release the explosive pace of £72million summer signing Nicolas Pepe, given a full debut at the expense of Alexandre Lacazette.

Liverpool's Joel Matip celebrates opening the scoring for Liverpool
Liverpool's Joel Matip celebrates opening the scoring for Liverpool

However, a flaw in the plan was that the Gunners never looked comfortable in possession in and around their own penalty area and regularly fell foul of Liverpool's high press.

But the incessant pressure on Arsenal's defence began to tell and after Salah held off Granit Xhaka to cleverly turn and fire wide, the breakthough came.

From a corner Trent Alexander-Arnold finally found his range and Matip benefited from the space created by Virgil Van Dijk's tangle with Matteo Guendouzi to power home a 41st-minute header.

Mane should have done better with his header in injury time but if the interval was a period for Arsenal to clear their heads, no-one told David Luiz who, in a moment of madness four minutes after the break, tugged on Salah's shirt.

The Egypt international confidently dispatched the penalty and added a second by brilliantly converting a three-pass move which eliminated most of the opposition.

Started by Adrian to Alexander-Arnold, Fabinho then flicked forward an inviting ball allowing Salah to skip past Luiz with embarrassing ease 40 yards out and run into the penalty area before cushioning a shot inside the far post with his left foot.

From that point it was an exercise in damage-limitation for the visitors, with Emery's first change being to send on combative midfielder Torreira for the anonymous playmaker Ceballos.

Lacazette, scorer of 19 goals last season and one in one match this, was not introduced until the 81st minute - and even then it was Torreira who eventually found the net, drilling home a loose ball 15 yards out.

Klopp maintained the result was the most important thing. He said: "We should have kept the ball better because they did not attack us really.

"But we are not Disneyland so that we have to excite everybody in each second of the game. It was intense, and yes our decision making could be better."

The German added: "The boys, though, did what we wanted them to do, and scored wonderful goals.

"The work rate of the boys was just exceptional. Our identity is intensity and that is how the boys showed up today.

"We were completely in charge and won the game as we deserved."

Arsenal boss Emery felt the second goal was key. He said on Sky Sports: "We worked hard in defence, but we need to take space for the transition and we did that and had chances to score.

"We did not want to defend deep, but we still had possibility to take our moments to score.

"Maybe the best chance of the first half for us was with Pepe, but the key was the second goal, which was a very soft penalty, I think it is not enough (to be given) for that holding."

The Spaniard, though, feels his side can take confidence into next week's north London derby against Tottenham.

"We have to think how we can progress with different players and can be positive," he said.

"We were pushing at the end, and taking the chance to be closer to their box, that is the style and spirit we wanted to create."

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