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Main Mane against the big boys - Liverpool jump over sorry Arsenal in battle for top four

00:58 GMT 05/03/2017
HD Milner Coutinho Firmino Liverpool celebrate
The Reds were on the right end of a 3-1 scoreline against the Gunners, but need to replicate that in tussles with the lesser sides


Both managers had been in agreement ahead of kick off on Saturday evening - crucial to securing victory under the floodlights at Anfield was “starting the game with a positive attitude.”

As Jurgen Klopp leapt around his technical area with his right fist swinging in the air, Arsene Wenger sloped into his seat, shaking his head while smothering his face with his palm. 

Match report: Liverpool 3-1 Arsenal

It took just nine minutes for Liverpool to resume normal service against the Premier League’s elite with Roberto Firmino ousting Petr Cech at his far post, prompting the rubbing of hands over Arsenal TV’s post-match content. 

There was not to be a crumb of content for the Gunners throughout the rest of the first-half, beyond the fact the hosts could’ve been so much further in the ascendancy before Sadio Mane made it 2-0. 

The opening 45 minutes had fitted the typical narrative for both teams: Liverpool flexing their superiority against the league's big boys and Arsenal, akin to a Flake, once again crumbling in a decisive clash.

Lallana: Liverpool in right direction

Klopp’s side are unbeaten in their nine fixtures against the current top six this season, triumphing in five of them. The Gunners, meanwhile, haven't won any of their last 11 top-flight away games against the same opposition.

Wenger had anticipated the worst ahead of the encounter and altered his side’s approach. Wary of being too expansive and allowing Liverpool the opportunity to rob and ruffle them, the Frenchman omitted Alexis Sanchez from his starting XI, fielding Olivier Giroud and Danny Welbeck instead. 

The idea was to exploit the Reds’ weaknesses against direct, aerial play but it allowed the Merseysiders to start assertively and profit from a gameplan the visitors never looked comfortable with as they were nullified in midfield.

With Sanchez starting the second stanza, Arsenal finally possessed a dangerous dimension and pulled a goal back with the Chilean supplying Danny Welbeck.

But they didn’t demonstrate nearly enough to unsettle a resolute Liverpool, who were the anthesis of the team rolled over at Leicester City on Monday night. 

"Directly after that game, I found a few words and it was not asking for friendships. It was pretty clear," Klopp explained.

"But you are really silly then if you let the bad things have more influence on you than the good things. We have to remind ourselves of the good things and we are ready to go again, if you want. The boys showed again what they are capable of. I’ve said a few times now, I don’t like the fact that inconsistency is part of the deal in development.

"Usually, you win games and you lose against the big teams because at the beginning, when they are at a higher level, they are smarter and more experienced and you lose the games. We’ve chosen another way but it’s still part of the deal and we know that we have to keep on going – and we will."

This time a 3-1 scoreline had been in their favour after Gini Wijnaldum converted a goal born out of the intelligence and execution of Adam Lallana. Klopp’s major complaint about the humiliation at the King Power Stadium was that there were far too many poor individual performances from the collective. 

Liverpool's transfer solutions

Against Arsenal, though, it was difficult to settle on just one man of the match. 

Mane got the assist for the opener and scored the second, with Firmino contributing in the reverse. Lallana and Wijnaldum ran the midfield, with Emre Can doing a sterling job positioned in front of the centre-backs. 

Coutinho will wonder how he didn’t get the better of Cech given the chances he carved out, and there wasn’t a home player who didn’t emerge with credit at full time.

Liverpool have jumped to third, above Arsenal in the intense combat for Champions League football, with Klopp becoming the first Reds boss since Gerard Houllier in 1999/2000 to do a league double over Wenger in a single season.

But only upcoming duels with Manchester City and Everton stand out as the kind of fixtures that will suit the German’s charges as they look to ensure their return to Europe’s premier competition.

Burnley, who delivered Liverpool’s first defeat of the campaign, are up next with Bournemouth, Stoke City, West Brom, Crystal Palace, Watford, Southampton, West Ham and Middlesbrough still to play. 

Klopp has to formulate a way for Liverpool to scale the deep-defensive walls they’ll face and stop being - as per his own description - “the rollercoaster of the league.”