Jurgen Klopp's big calls help dominate Arsenal
Liverpool verdict - Potent Mohamed Salah's prediction comes true as Jurgen Klopp's big calls help dominate Arsenal
Ian Doyle's match verdict as Mohamed Salah inspires Liverpool to 3-1 win against Arsenal at Anfield
24 AUG 2019
Mohamed Salah – Liverpool hero, Egyptian talisman, goalscorer supreme. And clairvoyant.
“The impact of VAR on the season? More penalties for me, you will see that,” said the Reds forward when asked about the new technology earlier this week.
Mind you, it didn't take a replay to note the ridiculous tug on Salah's shirt from Arsenal defender David Luiz that gave the Reds man the opportunity to make good his prediction.
Instead, the cameras dotted around Anfield beamed back to millions watching at home what those inside the stadium witnessed on another stirring evening for Jurgen Klopp's side.
Salah, now three seasons into his Liverpool career, remains as potent as ever.
Just ask Luiz. The shock-haired Gunner was frightened into the clear penalty awarded by referee Anthony Taylor four minutes after half-time, Salah slotting the perfect penalty into the top corner.
But better was to come 10 minutes later. Found by Fabinho's perceptive pass on the right flank, Salah demonstrated his chief qualities in a devastating passage of play.
With one touch, the Egyptian changed the direction of the ball, left Luiz pondering his very existence and then hared down on goal before despatching a patented left-footed finish into the bottom corner beyond Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno.
So good, so Salah, a sixth goal in five games against the Gunners.
And it ensured Liverpool now have the only 100% record remaining in the Premier League and sit clear at the top of the table, a 12th successive top-flight win matching a 29-year club record.
Early days, of course. But this was a statement of intent that Klopp's side, along with Manchester City, remain the standard-bearers in the top flight.
The Reds had huffed and puffed for much of the first half, confounded by Arsenal's new-found resistance.
But once Joel Matip met Trent Alexander-Arnold's corner four minutes before the break, the Gunners wilted, as they have done on so many occasions in this fixture. Klopp still hasn't lost to the Londoners since arriving at Anfield.
The only negative was the concession of a goal to Arsenal substitute Lucas Torreira five minutes from time, leaving Liverpool still seeking a first clean sheet of the campaign and a reminder work remains to reach the level that concluded last season.
Arsenal close the gap – for a while
Arsenal have slowly become a different proposition under Unai Emery, understandably taking time to become accustomed to the manager's methods after so long under Arsene Wenger.
This latest iteration is far closer to his intended vision, not least in defence, where the visitors sat deep, refused to budge, and were further helped by a midfield shield.
Going through the middle was simply playing into Arsenal's hands. Instead, Liverpool had greater joy when feeding possession out wide to full-backs Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson.
That was until it came to the final ball, resulting in a frustrating opening period as Arsenal, with Luiz prominent, continually headed the ball clear.
Arsenal were content to sit back and wait for the opportunities to show their pace on the counter-attack.
Fortunately for Liverpool, they weren't taken. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang should have done better with a lob after a miscommunication between Virgil van Dijk and Adrian – making his first Anfield start for his new club – left him an open goal, while Nicolas Pepe curled one wide before being denied by good goalkeeping after a rare Jordan Henderson error sent the £72million man racing clear.
But the relentless raining of balls from the flanks eventually bore fruit for Liverpool four minutes before the break.
Alexander-Arnold swept a corner in from the right and with Arsenal's players preoccupied with attempting to remove Van Dijk's shirt, it allowed Matip a free run to bullet home a header.
Matip now had two goals for the campaign, while Alexander-Arnold can claim nine assists in his last 10 Anfield outings, directly contributing to a goal in each of his last five.
An unmarked Sadio Mane powered a similar chance shortly afterwards as the Gunners wobbled, while Roberto Firmino once again revelled against his favourite opponents, outrageous with one flick and shot before the break and then, shortly after the restart, playing the pass around the corner which left Luiz no option but to haul back Salah.
Midfield makes it mark
Liverpool's domination – firing in 25 shots compared to Arsenal's nine – came from their control in midfield, Klopp having recalled Fabinho and Henderson to join Gini Wijnaldum in the engine room.
While Adrian continued to deputise for the stricken Alisson Becker, it was otherwise the same side that started the Champions League final. Such quality ultimately told, while the difference in composure between the teams was at times almost embarrassing.
It meant Henderson reached a century of games as Liverpool captain, an achievement he marked with an excellent performance, particularly during the first half.
He wasn't alone. Wijnaldum was the sprightliest yet this campaign – drawing purrs of appreciation from the Anfield crowd with one piece of skill in front of the dugout – while Fabinho, notably sitting a little deeper, also raised his level, his pass to set in motion Salah's second deserving particular praise.
The battle won, Liverpool eased off as they had done against Norwich City on the opening day and leaked Torreira's late strike.
It would, though, be hyper-critical to point the finger. Liverpool and Salah had once again put an improving Arsenal in their place. Their title challenge is truly up and running once again.
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