Jurgen Klopp attributed Arsenal’s poor performance against Liverpool to his own side’s effective display in a dominant 3-0 win.
The defending Premier League champions closed to within two points of the top four with a deserved success at Emirates Stadium in which substitute Diogo Jota scored either side of a Mohamed Salah strike.
Liverpool did not get their breakthrough until the 64th minute but had been in command from the outset, dictating 65.4 per cent of the possession in the first half.
Arsenal had only a single shot before the break – their lowest Premier League tally in more than five years – and scarcely improved following the restart, finishing with just three attempts.
The home team’s average positions told the story: strikers Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette were primarily stationed inside their own half.
But Klopp disputed the suggestion Arsenal’s tepid showing was “surprising”, instead hailing his players, who won 62 duels to their opponents’ 49.
“I think the answer to this question is probably the good performance of my team,” Klopp said.
“The first five, six, seven minutes were quite an open game – it didn’t happen a lot – but after that we were in charge of the game, dominant, played good football.
“We did it against the Arsenal line-up with all this counter-attacking threat, so what was the most important thing was how our counter-pressing was.
“That was absolutely exceptional, in my opinion. It was very important. We took that quality away with the counter-press.”
Mikel Arteta – overseeing his 50th Premier League game and 17th defeat – gave Liverpool credit but ensured Arsenal did not escape criticism for their part in the one-sided encounter.
“When you don’t do any of the basics right against this level of opponent, you don’t have even a chance to compete,” he said. “That is exactly what happened.
“This is a shock to the system, because we have been really competitive against the big sides, when we beat Chelsea here, when we beat Spurs, when we drew with Manchester United.
“But today they were really good – a lot of credit to them, because they were really good – but we were extremely poor.”
Arteta refused to cite injuries as a mitigating factor – “I hate excuses,” he said – and twice apologised in his post-match news conference.
The Arsenal manager added he “absolutely” now expected a “statement” in their performance against Slavia Prague on Thursday.
For Liverpool and Klopp, this game was that statement.
“For us, it was a very important statement, because we need to show that we will fight for [the top four],” Klopp said.
“We cannot only talk about it, we need to show that on the pitch. We did that, especially with the way we defended.
“If we defend like this, we are difficult to break down; if we are difficult to break down, we have a basis to play good football. That’s what we had and that’s why it was so important.”
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