- Liverpool manager irritated by talk of team as title favourites
• ‘It does not matter how far ahead you are in December’
Paul Wilson at Anfield
Jürgen Klopp said he would prefer to deliver his verdict on Liverpool’s first half of the season after the game against Arsenal, and following another handsome win that took his side nine points clear he was true to his word.
“Nothing to moan about at all,” was the manager’s summary of 20 games unbeaten in the Premier League, even if he did go on to say Liverpool can still play better. “It is not every day you beat Arsenal 5-1 but there were times in the game when we could have played better, and there were certainly times when we could have defended better,” Klopp said.
“I still like the performance, though, because we showed a lot of fight. You never know quite what the reaction will be when you go behind early, but this one was absolutely brilliant. The second goal was outstanding, and it started with brilliant defending when Sadio [Mané] won the ball, for Bobby [Firmino] to go through the Arsenal backline. I loved it when we won a penalty in the second half and Mo Salah gave the ball to Bobby to complete his hat-trick, it’s one of the nicest things I’ve ever seen.”
A subdued Unai Emery said Arsenal needed to be better defensively, possibly the understatement of the weekend, though he did admit his side had been overrun in midfield. “We lost the balance,” the Arsenal manager said, after confirming Mesut Özil missed the game because of a knee injury. “We started well but when Liverpool began to push us they did so with great determination.”
Liverpool have put themselves into a tremendous position at the halfway stage of the season, though Klopp becomes irritated at any mention of the size of their lead or their status as apparent title favourites. “I am not the smartest person in the world but I am not an idiot either,” he said. “It does not matter how many points you are ahead in December. We might be nine points in front now but we have to go to Manchester City in five days. Talking about how many points you are in front at this stage is a game for supporters and journalists. We cannot play that game and we don’t.
“When the Tottenham result came through before kick-off there were plenty of people laughing and celebrating but I can tell you that in our dressing room there was absolutely no reaction. No smile on the face, nothing, because we were all absolutely concentrated. We could not avoid knowing the score from the earlier match because it was everywhere on screens and people were talking about it, but I think we showed in our performance that we did not allow it to influence our game.
“We are running a marathon and this is halfway. Our first target is to qualify for the Champions League and I don’t feel we have done enough to be sure of that yet. All that matters is to be ready for the next challenge.”