Dropping Alexis Sanchez from Arsenal's starting XI was not the main reason for the damaging 3-1 defeat at Liverpool, manager Arsene Wenger has insisted.
Sanchez was a surprise omission from the Gunners' starting line-up at Anfield with Wenger opting to go with Olivier Girioud and Danny Welbeck up top.
First-half goals from Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane for Liverpool meant that Wenger called for Sanchez at half-time and he made a swift impact with the assist for Welbeck to haul Arsenal back into the match.
Georginio Wijnaldum scored a late third, though, as the Reds leapfrogged Arsenal into fourth in the Premier League, but Wenger says the result had little to do with his decision to only name Sanchez on the bench.
"Yes [Sanchez] had an impact in the second half]," Wenger told BT Sport when asked about Sanchez's performance after coming on.
"But I felt the strikers suffered in the first half because we did not dominate in midfield. Things were easier in the second half. You could see that Welbeck and Giroud did much better in the second half
"It is always debatable."
Wenger concedes that Arsenal's first-half display was nowhere near the level required and rued the softness of Liverpool's goals.
"We had problems to get in the rhythm in the first half. We were not really at the races," he added.
"We conceded cheap goals, direct balls from the goalkeeper. You do not expect that in a big game like this.
"We got back into it in the second half and responded well. We had opportunities to get back in it. But we did not perform at our level in the first half."