Thiago Alcantara's sublime long-range strike set Liverpool on their way to a 2-0 Champions League win over Porto at Anfield.

The Reds had already qualified as Group B winners with two matches to spare, so teenager Tyler Morton made his Champions League debut as Jurgen Klopp rung the changes.

Liverpool maintained their perfect record in Europe this season despite being without key men, Thiago scoring his first goal of the season in style with a magnificent second-half finish.

Mohamed Salah added a second as Porto were made to pay for missed opportunities, leaving them facing a decisive final group match against Atletico Madrid in the battle for a place in the round of 16 along with Liverpool.

Porto should have had an early lead when Otavio somehow failed to hit the target with the goal gaping after Luis Diaz showed great pace to burst away and unselfishly set him up.

The Primeira Liga leaders had a let-off when goalkeeper Diogo Costa's poor attempted clearance struck Sadio Mane on the head and fell nicely for Salah, but the prolific forward could not apply the finish.

Porto lost captain Pepe to an injury before Mane had a goal disallowed for offside in a first half that saw Sergio Conceicao's side pose a threat without having a cutting edge.

Mateus Uribe almost capitalised on slack Reds defending when he spun sharply in the penalty area and drilled a right-foot shot narrowly wide as Porto continued to probe after the break.

Thiago made them pay for their profligacy seven minutes into second half, firing into the bottom-right corner from 25 yards out with a stunning first-time drive after Porto failed to clear an Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain free-kick.

Takumi Minamino had a goal ruled out for offside, but Salah doubled Liverpool's lead when he took a pass from Jordan Henderson and surged inside before finding the bottom-right corner with his left foot to take his tally for the season to 17.

Emerging Serbian striker Dusan Vlahovic has a long list of admirers.

The 21-year-old netted 21 Serie A goals last season.

Vlahovic scored a double in Fiorentina's 4-3 win over Milan last weekend too.

 

TOP STORY – NEWCASTLE STILL KEEN ON VLAHOVIC

Cashed-up Newcastle United will still pursue hot property forward Dusan Vlahovic despite Fiorentina's €80million (£67m) asking price according to Corriere Fiorentina.

The bottom-of-the-table Premier League club are determined to land the Serbian who has also attracted interest from Juventus.

Juventus want Vlahovic in January and are still front-runners to land the 21-year-old, who has already netted 12 goals this term.

 ROUND-UP

- Sky Germany reports that Borussia Dortmund are preparing a new contract offer for Erling Haaland to keep him at the club, amid interest from Real Madrid, BarcelonaChelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City.

- Barcelona are considering moves for either of Chelsea pair Timo Werner or Hakim Ziyech as an alternative to Manchester City winger Raheem Sterling claims ESPN.

- Liverpool, Leicester City and Newcastle are all monitoring Olympiacos' 20-year-old midfielder Aguibou Camara reports The Sun.

- Milan have entered the pursuit to sign Arsenal's Alexandre Lacazette claims Calciomercato. Atletico MadridBarcelona and Newcastle are all interested.

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola will be looking to seal top spot in Group A of the Champions League on Wednesday with a win against Paris Saint-Germain at the Etihad Stadium, having lost the reverse fixture 2-0 in the French capital in September.

Carlo Ancelotti and Real Madrid will also be seeking revenge as they visit Sheriff after the Moldovan outfit famously won 2-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu on matchday two.

After losing their first league game of the season at the weekend, Milan must find the first win of their European campaign if they are to keep their hopes of qualification alive when they travel to Atletico Madrid.

Stats Perform picks out the key Opta facts ahead of Wednesday's Champions League action.

 

Manchester City v Paris Saint-Germain: Messi aims to smite Guardiola again

Despite failing to find the net in Paris, only Bayern Munich (17) have scored more goals than Manchester City (15) in the Champions League this season. The Citizens are averaging 3.4 expected goals per game in the competition this term; since the start of 2013-14, this is the highest per-game average by a team in the group stage in a single Champions League campaign. 

PSG are winless in their past three away games in the Champions League (D2 L1), and could go without an away victory in the group stage of the competition in a single season for the first time since 2004-05. 

Lionel Messi, who fired home a brilliant second in the reverse game, has scored seven goals in seven Champions League appearances against City, the second-most by a player against an English club in the competition after his own haul of nine goals in six appearances against Arsenal.

7 - Lionel Messi has scored more UEFA Champions League goals against Man City (7) than any other player, while his seven goals against sides managed by Pep Guardiola (two vs Bayern Munich, five against Man City with him as manager) are also the most of any player. Haunting. pic.twitter.com/wPAYIZTx2R

— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 28, 2021

 

Sheriff v Real Madrid: Can Benzema keep up his form?

Real Madrid have won both of their away games in the Champions League this season without conceding a goal (1-0 v Inter and 5-0 v Shakhtar Donetsk), while they last managed this in three consecutive away games in the competition between October 2014 and February 2015, during Carlo Ancelotti’s first spell in charge of the club.

After their famous win in Spain this season, Sheriff could become just the fourth team to win their first two meetings with Madrid in European competition, after Liverpool (1981, 2009), Galatasaray (2000, 2001) and Benfica (1962, 1965).

One rather big obstacle to stop that from happening is Karim Benzema, who has scored in each of his previous three Champions League appearances (four goals), and will be looking to do so in four in succession for the first time since 2016-17. His brace against Shakhtar last time out took him to 100 direct goal involvements in the Champions League (75 goals and 25 assists). 

 

Atletico Madrid v Milan: Must-win for the Rossoneri

Stefano Pioli's side need a win to keep their slim hopes of qualification for the knockout stages alive, having amassed just one point from their four games, but the numbers do not bode well for the Rossoneri. Atletico Madrid have a 100 per cent record against Milan in European competition, winning all three of their meetings, which have all been in the Champions League – 1-0 away and 4-1 at home in 2013-14, and 2-1 away from home this season. 

Joao Felix has been directly involved in four of Atletico's previous five goals at the Wanda Metropolitano in the Champions League, scoring three times himself and providing an assist for Antoine Griezmann against Liverpool in October.

Milan have only won one of their past 16 games against Spanish opponents in the Champions League (D6 L9), beating Barcelona 2-0 at home in the round of 16 in 2012-13. Indeed, they are winless in their previous six such games (D1 L5), suffering defeats in each of the most recent four. 

 

Liverpool v Porto: Salah still a threat despite no jeopardy for Reds

Liverpool may have already sewn up top spot in Group B, but they will want to keep up their impressive record against Porto. The Reds are unbeaten in their nine meetings in European competition (W6 D3), with five of those games coming during Jurgen Klopp's reign (W4 D1). 

Since the start of 2017-18 – Mohamed Salah's first season as a Liverpool player – the Egypt star has scored 30 goals in 47 Champions League appearances. Only four of these have been penalties, with Robert Lewandowski (33) being the only player to have netted more non-penalty goals in the competition than Salah (26) during this period.

Porto defender Pepe could make his 100th career start in the Champions League in this game. In doing so, he would become just the second Portuguese player in the history of the competition to start a century of games, after Cristiano Ronaldo.


Other fixtures:

Besiktas v Ajax

5 – Besiktas have lost all five of their meetings with Ajax across all European competitions – only against Dynamo Kyiv (six) have they suffered more defeats.

4 – Ajax are one of only four teams with a 100 per cent record through the opening four matchdays of the 2021-22 Champions League. The Amsterdam side will be looking to become only the second Dutch team to win their opening five games of a European Cup/Champions League campaign, after Feyenoord in 1971-72.

Inter v Shakhtar Donetsk

0 – The previous three meetings between Inter and Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League have finished goalless, with all three coming since the start of last season. There have been 66 shots recorded in these previous three games (43 by Inter and 23 by Shakhtar), without a goal being scored.

2 – Shakhtar Donetsk have only lost two of their past six away games against Italian sides in the Champions League (W2 D2), going unbeaten in the most recent two – 2-1 versus Atalanta in October 2019 and 0-0 v Inter in December 2020.

Club Brugge v Leipzig

1 – Club Brugge have only won one of their past 15 home games in the Champions League (D6 L8), with that lone victory coming against Zenit in December 2020 (3-0). This was the only game in this run in which the Belgian side managed to score more than one goal, netting just 10 across the 15 games in total.

0 – RB Leipzig are winless in their past six Champions League games, suffering five defeats in this run (D1). The Bundesliga outfit have also conceded more goals in the competition in 2021 than any other team, shipping 17 in six games this calendar year.

Sporting CP v Borussia Dortmund

– Only Salah (3.01), Lewandowski (4.77) and Sebastien Haller (5.51) have accumulated a higher xG tally (excluding penalties) in this season's Champions League than Sporting's Paulinho (2.96), who has scored with three of his six shots on target to date.

– Without Erling Haaland, who is already ruled out of this contest through injury, Dortmund have managed just five goals in four Champions League matches (1.25 on average), compared to 20 in 12 with him in the side (1.7) since his debut for the club in February 2020.

Liverpool playmaker Thiago Alcantara has not considered a return to Barcelona, insisting he is "100 per cent' happy with his choice to move to Anfield.

Thiago has not had it easy with injuries since his transfer to Liverpool from Bayern Munich in 2020.

The Spain international contracted COVID-19 shortly after his arrival, before suffering an injury due to a tackle from Everton's Richarlison during his full debut in October last year.

He played just 24 league games last season, starting 20 of them, scoring once.

More niggling injury issues have restricted the 30-year-old to eight appearances across all competitions so far this term. However, he does seem to be rediscovering something close to his best form, at least from a creative standpoint.

Per 90 minutes played, Thiago creates on average 2.2 chances, tied with Mohamed Salah for third place in Liverpool's squad behind Trent Alexander-Arnold (3.2) and Konstantinos Tsimikas (2.7), while 305 of his 345 attempted passes have found a team-mate (an 88.4 per cent accuracy).

Following Xavi taking over from Ronald Koeman at Barca, however, there had been reports linking Thiago with a return to his former club, with the Blaugrana's new coach reportedly keen to reunite with his old team-mate.

Thiago, though, says he is perfectly happy at Anfield.

"As always, I am a guy who plays football," he told a news conference ahead of Liverpool's Champions League meeting with Porto on Wednesday.

"I am not focused on the rumours, I am focused on the duty I have with my team, the years that I have on the contract and I just want to know about this new adventure that I have here in the Premier League, trying to win all the trophies that I can with this team."

"One hundred per cent I made the right choice, the right move," he added when asked if he had any doubts over his move to the Premier League due to the amount of injuries he has sustained.

"The injuries stop the frequency to play, and to know how the team performs on the pitch.

"You can watch football and all the time it's awesome but putting it into practice is even better. It's a pity football has [injuries] but it's part of football, part of life, when we are fit we have to put in as high performances as we can.

"I think the first year was very interrupted because of the COVID situation, injury. I had a quick adaptation. We struggled last season, for many reasons.

"This year, you know much better your team-mates, the runs that they make, the way they prefer to receive the ball, the way they defend, how they attack. To me the most important thing is to try to win in the way we want to win."

Thiago has collected four LaLiga titles, seven Bundesliga crowns and three Champions League winners' medals across a glittering career, working under some of Europe's top coaches, including Carlo Ancelotti, Pep Guardiola, Hansi Flick and, now, Jurgen Klopp.

"First of all, I had the luck to play with great players, great teams. I remember the time with Pep was different to Ancelotti and time with Tito [Vilanova] was different to Pep also," he said when asked to compare playing under Guardiola and Klopp. 

"With these two coaches [Guardiola and Klopp] we can see, they both have the same charisma. Also, they have the group in their hands, they make them perform better. The similarities are there. 

"The difference is how the teams play. One is much more possession. It's great both are doing what they want in the greatest way football can bring."

Jurgen Klopp was adamant that his Liverpool team will not step off the gas when they face Porto in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Liverpool host Porto in their fifth game of the Champions League campaign with top spot in Group B already secured.

The Reds have taken 12 points from 12 on offer so far, with a 2-0 win over Atletico Madrid last time out guaranteeing their position as group winners.

Porto were hammered 5-1 in the reverse fixture, though a win at Anfield could see them through should Atleti lose to Milan.

Klopp suggested he will look to rotate his side as the fixture list begins to become even more hectic, though insisted that does not mean Liverpool - who trashed Arsenal 4-0 on Saturday - will change their full-throttle approach.

"When you sign a contract for Liverpool as a manager or player you pretty much have to win all the games," he told a news conference.

"It means there's a lot of pressure on their shoulders. We don't have to win the game tomorrow but we want to win the game. I hope it gives us the freedom to play but have the desire to defend and all those kinds of things.

"In our Champions League history since I was here we always had to fight until the last second of the last game to get through the group, that's the only difference but actually it's not in my mind. I know it's a difference, but we try to win the game.

"We know that our opponent will be motivated in the highest level, for two reasons, because we won there in the other game in a way they didn't like and another is if they win they have a final against Atletico in the last match of the group, so that's what they want.

"It will be a difficult game for us, I really hope everybody at Anfield is at their best, we always show up to win the game. We never take this thing for granted, I hope nobody is doing that, we need to put a proper fight together, I'm pretty confident we can do that."

Liverpool also played in a Champions League dead rubber last season, with Klopp's decision to field a strong team backfiring when Diogo Jota sustained a serious injury.

"It's really easy to sit there and say leave him out, leave this player out," Klopp hit back when asked if he regretted that decision.

"It's very easy to sit in your chair, we have to line up a team to win the game and the Diogo situation was very unlucky and I hated it. Would I have done the same decision again? Yes.

"We need stability, we cannot play football games with one line up and then the next game change the team and then bring them back again, the players need rhythm, all these kinds of things.

"It's not fair that you bring it up this old story that a player got injured. These things happen in football and hopefully nothing happens tomorrow."

Jordan Henderson and Andrew Robertson are, according to Klopp, fit after returning from injuries, though he is unsure if either will play a part against Porto, who have never beaten Liverpool in nine competitive meetings.

One player set to feature is Takumi Minamino, who scored less than a minute after coming on from the bench against Arsenal.

Klopp said: "He played for Japan in the last few games because he's in good shape, he's in exceptional shape, we knew that.

"That's why it's important for us. He's pretty much our first option for changing five positions, that says a lot, because he can play all the different positions and when he came on it was a wonderful moment, 40 seconds on the pitch and scoring a goal.

"You can see the confidence now and how good a player he is. He will get his minutes, definitely."

Premier League football was back with a bang this weekend following the international break.

It left Ole Gunnar Solskjaer feeling especially frustrated as he paid the price for another defeat, while Mikel Arteta's Arsenal were brought back to reality by Liverpool.

That win for the Reds further highlighted their excellent record in meetings with other members of the 'big six', while Rodri once again showcased his effectiveness from distance.

Below, Stats Perform looks at some of the weekend's quirkier Opta facts.

Salah's collector's item

Another weekend, another devastating performance from Mohamed Salah.

After a quiet start, the Egyptian once again proved to be extremely effective against Arsenal, even if he was only able to score once.

Salah's goal was something of a collector's item as it was with his right foot, which in itself brought to light just how much he relies on being so good with his left.

Of his 108 Premier League goals, 87 have been with his strongest foot – that equates to 80.6 per cent, which is the greatest proportion of strikes netted with the left foot among the 31 players with at least 100 goals.

Interestingly, his Liverpool team-mate Sadio Mane is also in the top six (26.5 per cent) despite being predominantly right-footed.

Solskjaer has no defence

A 4-1 defeat at Watford brought Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's time as Manchester United manager to an end, and he could have few complaints about that.

While the Norwegian's work at United has largely been well received, as he leaves the club and squad in much better shape than when he took over from Jose Mourinho, it's fair to say the writing had been on the wall.

United have been especially poor defensively this season, not just in the Premier League, averaging 1.7 concessions every match across all competitions.

Remarkably, relegation-threatened Newcastle United (2.08) and Norwich City (2.14) have a worse record in that regard among Premier League clubs.

Whoever his interim replacement is will surely look at sorting United's ailing defence out as soon as possible.

Liverpool's big-six domination

For much of the Premier League era, Manchester United were the team to beat, and while they obviously wouldn't win every game, they seemed to rise to the biggest occasions.

But since Alex Ferguson's departure in 2013, it's Liverpool who have arguably become the best at dealing traversing contests with the other so-called 'big six'.

Liverpool's defeat of Arsenal took them to 142 points from such matches since the start of 2013-14, putting them ahead of Manchester City by a point – though the Reds have played one game less.

Granted, City boast the most victories (42 to Liverpool's 39), Liverpool have suffered eight fewer defeats.

Chelsea's 124 points is the third-most, while Man Utd are on 110 points, having lost to both City and Liverpool comprehensively in the past month.

Arsenal and Tottenham are a fair way adrift with 86 and 85 points respectively.

Acts of Rodri

Manchester City haven't been doing too badly without a recognised striker this season, with Pep Guardiola boasting plenty of midfielders who can find the net.

Defensive midfielder Rodri might not be one of those whom you'd associate with goalscoring, but he's making long-range piledrivers something of a habit.

His latest, in the defeat of Everton, was a blistering 25-yard drive.

That was his fourth goal from outside the box for City, with only Kevin De Bruyne (seven) and Riyad Mahrez managing more since Rodri joined in 2019.

Rodri's four is 57.1 per cent of his overall Premier League haul, which is the highest proportion in the City squad during that same period.

Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Mohamed Salah have all been nominated for the 2021 The Best FIFA Men's Player award.

Chelsea midfielders Jorginho and N'Golo Kante, Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski and Paris Saint-Germain stars Kylian Mbappe and Neymar are also on the shortlist.

Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland, Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne and Real Madrid's Karim Benzema complete the 11-man list.

There are seven nominees for the Best FIFA Men's Coach prize, including City boss Pep Guardiola and Italy coach Roberto Mancini, who led his side to Euro 2020 glory.

Hansi Flick is nominated after significant success with Bayern before taking the Germany job, along with Chelsea's Thomas Tuchel, Atletico Madrid's Diego Simeone and new Tottenham head coach Antonio Conte.

Lionel Scaloni, who guided Argentina to a Copa America triumph, completes the list.

Liverpool's Alisson, PSG's Gianluigi Donnarumma, Chelsea's Edouard Mendy, Bayern's Manuel Neuer and Kasper Schmeichel of Leicester City are up for the Best FIFA Men's Goalkeeper award.

The shortlist for the Best FIFA Women's Player includes four Barcelona players, among them Alexia Putellas and Jennifer Hermoso.

Pernille Harder leads a four-woman Chelsea contingent, while City duo Ellen White and Lucy Bronze are nominated, as is Arsenal's Vivianne Miedema.

Barcelona's Lluis Cortes, Sweden's Peter Gerhardsson, Chelsea's Emma Hayes, Canada's Beverly Priestmann and England boss Sarina Wiegman are up for the Best FIFA Women's Coach prize.

The candidates for each category were selected by respective panels of experts for men's and women's football. A public vote will run until 23:59 CET on December 10, after which three finalists in each category will be announced ahead of the ceremony on January 17.

Lewandowski won the Men's Player prize in 2020, ahead of Ronaldo and Messi, while Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp took the Men's Coach award.

Bronze was named the Best FIFA Women's Player and Wiegman the Best FIFA Women's Coach.

Saturday provided no shortage of talking points as the Premier League returned after the international break.

Manchester United suffered another heavy defeat, this time at the hands of Watford, and it will likely be one too humiliation too many for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

There was also a harsh dose of reality fed to Arsenal and Mikel Arteta, as they were given a bruising by Liverpool at Anfield.

But two new managers began their respective tenures with victories, as Aston Villa and Norwich City each hope to enjoy a prolonged 'new manager bounce'.

Below, Stats Perform looks through the pick of Saturday's Opta facts…

Watford 4-1 Manchester United: Writing's on the wall for Solskjaer

Another week, another humiliating defeat for United and Solskjaer – Watford were the latest side to toy with the Red Devils.

United's loss was their biggest league defeat to a promoted side since a 5-1 reverse to Manchester City in September 1989, and it took them to 20 goals conceded this season already.

Only in 2001-02 (11 games) have United conceded 20 or more after fewer than in 2021-22 (13 games), while this is the first time Watford have ever beaten them in successive home league games.

United were still in with a shout at 2-1 until Harry Maguire's first red card in 121 appearances for the club, but it all fell apart thereafter.

It looks set to be the result that costs Solskjaer his job.



Leicester City 0-3 Chelsea: Foxes intimidated by pacesetters again

Most would have expected Chelsea to get a proper examination of their title credentials here – who knows, maybe this was a real statement.

Either way, Thomas Tuchel's men saw off Leicester City with great authority, or so it seemed.

In reality, Leicester actually have a dreadful record against teams starting the day top of the table. Granted, the side at the summit is usually fairly handy, otherwise they wouldn't be setting the pace, but Leicester's run is particularly poor.

They are now winless in 17 league games against the team that started the day top of the table, conceding 40 goals at a rate of 2.35 per game.

In the process of winning here, Chelsea moved level with Tottenham and Manchester City with the most away wins (five) at the King Power Stadium in the top tier.

Liverpool 4-0 Arsenal: Gunners come crashing back to reality as Reds continue domination

Although Arsenal came into the weekend in good form, having not lost any of their previous 10 matches in all competitions, there was more than a hint of predictability about their Anfield defeat and the manner of it.

Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool have scored more Premier League goals against Arsenal (37) than any top-flight side has against another opponent since October 2015, which in itself is a fairly damning indictment of the Gunners' fall from grace.

Mohamed Salah got Liverpool's third goal of the game, which was also their 100th against Arsenal in the Premier League, a haul they can only better in meetings with Newcastle United (105).

It was the fifth time this season Arsenal have failed to score in a league game, with only Norwich and Watford (both seven) having a worse record.

The Gunners aren't "back" yet.

Aston Villa 2-0 Brighton and Hove Albion: Gerrard off to winning start

Steven Gerrard began his tenure as Villa boss in positive fashion, seeing off Graham Potter's Brighton.

It was a largely unspectacular bow for Gerrard but Villa eventually got the job done with two goals late on, making the Liverpool legend only the club's third permanent manager to begin with a win in the Premier League.

Ollie Watkins was the man to get the first goal of the Gerrard era, taking his tally to a club-high 17 strikes since the start of last season in the top flight.

There was also a first assist of the season for Ashley Young, who set up a Villa goal for the first time in 10 years and 189 days.

Norwich City 2-1 Southampton: Smith lifts Canaries off the foot the table

The man who made room for Gerrard at Villa, Dean Smith, also began the latest chapter of his career with a victory.

Norwich initially trailed to Che Adams' goal, but they turned things around as the Canaries came from behind to win a Premier League game for the first time in five-and-a-half years, or 36 matches.

But if they were going to end that run against anyone, the Saints would have been a good bet – since Ralph Hasenhuttl took charge in December 2018, they have dropped more points from winning positions than any other team in the Premier League (67).

Grant Hanley got Norwich's winner, his first Premier League goal in nine years and 324 days since netting for Blackburn Rovers against Manchester United in December 2011.

Mikel Arteta believes Arsenal "crashed" at the start of the second half in their 4-0 defeat to Liverpool on Saturday and "threw the game away".

Arsenal came into the contest off the back of a 10-game unbeaten run in all competitions - eight games without defeat in the Premier League - but were dismantled at Anfield.

The first half had been closely contested and Sadio Mane's header from a free-kick was all that separated the two sides at half-time, but the Gunners' nervy start to the second period saw Nuno Tavares gift the ball to Diogo Jota for Liverpool's second goal and the visitors never recovered as Mohamed Salah and Takumi Minamino rounded off the rout.

Arteta bemoaned that poor spell after the break, which he explains was the turning point in the match as Liverpool's high press repeatedly caught Arsenal as they tried to build from the back.

"At 1-0 down we go to half-time, it is the moment we have to be patient and start to build the game in our favour, and we did completely the opposite," Arteta said to Sky Sports after the game. 

"The first 15, 20 minutes, we just crashed. We started to give the ball away in the first 25 metres of our build-up phase and that’s why we lost the game, because the rest is just a consequence of the frustration of having to chase the game.

"We know they will punish you. They can press, they are one of the best at it. Mistakes are a part of football. They have been the best team in Europe because they can dominate in every aspect. They were better than us today.

"It was a huge test. We showed for 45 minutes we could compete with them. We crashed for 15-20 minutes, we threw the game away and that is the learning from today. We take the things we have to learn from today and move on. We have to carry on and it is about how we react now as a team."

Arsenal goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale agreed with his manager's assessment of the team's two contrasting halves, while also insisting that the defeat would not significantly impact the success or failure of the Gunners' season.

"[Anfield is] one of the toughest places, if not the toughest, to come," Ramsdale said to Sky Sports. "We did well for the first 45 minutes, they might've had more of the ball but we contained them.

"The second half showed we have got a lot of improvement to come, we made mistakes but that's life and football. We got punished and that's what the top teams do. At the start of the second [half], we were a bit naive and we needed to make better decisions on the pitch."

"This game will not define our season – we had a tough start to the season then went 10 games unbeaten. We are realistic, we know it's a tough place to come and we'll be prepared now. We will come in on Monday head up chest out, we won't be moping around."

Jurgen Klopp explained his touchline row with Mikel Arteta was because the Spaniard and his coaching staff attempted to get Sadio Mane sent off during Liverpool's 4-0 demolition of Arsenal.

Mane, who has only scored more Premier League goals against Crystal Palace (13) than he has against Arsenal (eight), netted the opener in the first half at Anfield, before Diogo Jota, Mohamed Salah and Takumi Minamino sealed an emphatic win for the Reds, who moved up to second place.

The Senegal forward's header came shortly after an altercation between the managers on the sidelines, after Mane had been involved in a collision with Takehiro Tomiyasu.

Arteta and his staff were furious, seemingly suggesting Mane had intentionally elbowed the Arsenal defender. Klopp retaliated, with some verbal tennis taking place between the pair before referee Michael Oliver came over to settle the fracas, booking both managers.

Asked about the incident by Sky Sports, Klopp said: "It was about the situation that it was no foul from Sadio but the Arsenal bench went up like it was a red card. I asked what they want in that situation.

"We had to take Sadio off against Atletico [Madrid in the Champions League] because they wanted him to get a yellow card.

"The referee did really well in this situation, I deserved a yellow card. It wasn't okay and that is what I said. It just happened in the moment."

Arteta, too, was asked for an explanation.

"He was defending his team, I was defending my team, that's it," he told Sky Sports. "It doesn't matter. These moments are left on the pitch."

Under Klopp, Liverpool have scored more Premier League goals against Arsenal (37) than one side has against another since October 2015.

They had their 25-game unbeaten run ended by West Ham last time out, but put the onus back on Manchester City, who will need to beat Everton on Sunday to go back into second behind leaders Chelsea.

"We grew into the game," Klopp added. "It was not always a super game it was just a controlled game. We had to find way to break them down. They were full of confidence. We found a way back in the game and it was a super performance all over.

"All the games are opportunities for us. It was an exceptional performance. We got better and better.

"We controlled the game in a good way and played exciting stuff in the right moments. It was a mixture of a mature and exciting performance. In games like this it's important you keep your opponent as far away from your goal as possible and be decisive in the other areas.

"This league is incredibly intense. Now the most intense part of the season is ahead of us. December and January will be insane. We have players coming back, but the boys who played today did really well and did exactly what they had to do. 

"It feels great because it was really good, we should never take something like this for granted. You have to fight through different phases in a game and in a season. It's another point from when we go on."

Liverpool returned to winning ways in emphatic fashion as they slammed Arsenal 4-0, with Trent Alexander-Arnold lauding an "outstanding" second-half display.

The Reds lost 3-2 to West Ham before the international break and had drawn their last Premier League game at Anfield but bounced back in style on Saturday.

Sadio Mane, Diogo Jota, Mohamed Salah and Takumi Minamino were on target in the victory, with the latter three scoring after the break.

Alexander-Arnold, who assisted three of England's goals in the 10-0 win over San Marino on Monday, set up two of Liverpool's strikes.

He provided a wicked cross for Mane's opener and also layed up Minamino's effort, which came just 56 seconds after the forward had come on from the bench.

Since the start of the 2018-19 season, the full-back has now provided 38 Premier League assists, four more than any other player in that period.

"A team of our quality shouldn't be losing games," a bullish Alexander-Arnold told Sky Sports after Liverpool put themselves into second place, four points behind leaders Chelsea.

"The way the league is going, any loss is a bad loss. We have bounced back the best way we could. A very good performance.

"It was exactly what we needed, nothing more and nothing less. They came as two banks of four and were tough to break down but we scored our goals and put the game to bed. To see out the clean sheet is very good.

"First half we had that aggression but didn't capitalise on it. The first 15-20 minutes of the second half were as good as we've pressed all season. We were all over them – they were just seeing red blurs all over the place. That second half was outstanding.

"It's always good to contribute to the team. Scoring, creating goals is what my game is based on. I'm happy with that, I just need to keep up that form. 

"I'm feeling good out there. I'm playing with freedom and finding myself in positions I haven't previously. It's going really nicely. These are the levels I expect of myself."

Alexander-Arnold created a game-leading four chances in total, while the cross he put in for Minamino's goal resulted in an opportunity with an expected goals value of 0.829, the best chance of the match.

Only two outfield players (Fabinho and Thiago Alcantara) registered a better passing accuracy than Alexander-Arnold (93.5 per cent).

Of Alexander-Arnold's 46 attempted passes, 12 came in the final third – with only Salah (16) and Jota (13) attempting more – while he also delivered eight crosses, two more than any other player in a superb individual performance.

"He's a good player, for him with his right foot, it's a no brainier," said Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp. "The goals were all great, all important. Something to enjoy."

A 5-0 demolition by Manchester City at the end of August had Mikel Arteta hanging on to his job by a thread.

Everything pointed towards the Spaniard being one of the first – if not the first – Premier League managers to lose their job this season, with there being precious little sign of improvement from last season.

A run of 10 matches without a defeat followed, including a 3-1 win over rivals Tottenham and Arteta also won the Manager of the Month award for September. They even went into Saturday's trip to Anfield knowing a win would put them above Jurgen Klopp's men.

Whether they were caught believing the hype is up for debate, but what isn't is the fact they were utterly outclassed eventually by Liverpool, who dealt out a 4-0 defeat that put Arsenal firmly back in their place.

As you would've expected, Liverpool were the controlling force, though for the most part Arsenal looked content with how the match was progressing during the first half-hour – after all, their average of 46.8 per cent possession is their lowest seasonal record since Opta began collecting such data (2003-04), so they're used to having less of the ball.

That's not to say Liverpool didn't threaten, though. Aaron Ramsdale had to be alert to keep a Thiago Alcantara volley at bay and he then managed to tip Sadio Mane's follow-up effort around the post as the pair scrapped for the ball on the ground during an otherwise tame opening.

A flashpoint on the sidelines in the 33rd minute finally brought a little spice to proceedings, however, as Arteta and Klopp clashed following a collision between Mane and Takehiro Tomiyasu.

That seemed to increase the volume inside Anfield and it translated to greater intensity on the pitch, with Ramsdale producing fine saves to deny Mohamed Salah and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in a two-minute period soon after as the England goalkeeper continued to show the kind of decisiveness that has drawn him considerable praise in recent times.

But he was soon made to look culpable as Liverpool went in front, Mane heading in Trent Alexander-Arnold's free-kick with Ramsdale failing to keep it out despite the ball bouncing under him in a fairly central position relative to the posts.

Arsenal initially showed some invention at the start of the second period, with Emile Smith Rowe slipping a lovely pass in behind Virgil van Dijk for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, only for the Dutchman to make a fine last-ditch tackle to end the danger.

That was not a sign of things to come, however, as the Gunners fell right into Liverpool's trap with their insistence to play out from the back. 

Arsenal's possession share increased from 35.1 per cent in the first half to 55 per cent between the second-half resumption and the hour mark, and that brought Liverpool's biggest strength into play.

Klopp's men went into the weekend with a league-leading 122 high turnovers (when the ball is won within 40 metres of the opposition's goal) and it was during the early stages of the second half that they found their groove in this regard.

Alexander-Arnold even touched on it in his post-match interview with Sky Sports, saying: "The first 15, 20 minutes of the second half was probably as good as we've pressed this season. They continued to play out from the back and we were all over them. They were just seeing red blurs all over the place, and that's what we want."

The Reds' pressing was relentless in the Arsenal half and that forced the visitors into numerous mistakes – Albert Sambi Lokonga, Gabriel Magalhaes and Nuno Tavares were all guilty of being caught in possession inside their defensive third, with the latter seeing his error punished.

Tavares' loose pass just outside his own box was pounced on by Diogo Jota, and the Portugal star showed immense composure to casually saunter past Ramsdale and convert into an empty net.

For all the praise that's come Arsenal's way in recent times, Liverpool were providing a timely reminder that they remain some way behind the Premier League's best – and it still got worse for them.

Ramsdale produced another excellent stop to deny Jota a second, but it was only a matter of time until Liverpool got a third as they continuously broke into the spaces vacated by Arsenal.

Salah got a deserved goal as he nudged over the line after Mane raced beyond the Gunners' backline and crossed, with both then playing a major role as they made it 4-0.

Mane chased another ball over the Arsenal defence, this time courtesy of Jordan Henderson. He held the ball up, found Salah and he slipped Alexander-Arnold in to smash across goal for Takumi Minamino to bury with his first touch since coming on.

What was billed as Arsenal's first opportunity to show how much better they are since getting battered by City turned into another brutal mauling.

There's much to be optimistic about for Arsenal, given the young talent they have in their squad, but Liverpool brought them crashing back to reality here.

Arsenal's unbeaten run came to a shuddering halt as Liverpool cruised to a thumping 4-0 victory at Anfield.

With Liverpool losing to West Ham last time out, Arsenal went into Saturday's match holding the longest unbeaten run of any side in the Premier League, but their streak was ended in emphatic fashion.

Sadio Mane put Liverpool ahead in the 39th minute, with Diogo Jota capitalising on Nuno Tavares' error to double the lead.

Aaron Ramsdale did his best to keep the score down but Mohamed Salah got in on the act before substitute Takumi Minamino scored within 56 seconds of coming on to add further gloss to a win that sends Liverpool second.

It took a touchline fracas that resulted in both managers being booked to spark the match into life, shortly after Alexandre Lacazette had a goal rightly disallowed for offside.

That incident seemed to fuel Liverpool's fire and Salah should have opened the scoring but instead directed a close-range attempt at Ramsdale, who subsequently flicked over Trent Alexander-Arnold's shot.

Yet the pressure finally told when Mane met Alexander-Arnold's brilliant free-kick, with Ramsdale unable to keep the header out despite getting a hand to it.

Liverpool's second was of Arsenal's making. Tavares' dreadful pass across his own box fell to Jota, who coolly rounded Ben White and Ramsdale to slot home.

Ramsdale denied Jota a second before the hour, lunging bravely at the forward's feet after Salah's wonderful first-time pass, before making a fantastic save from the Portugal international in the 68th minute.

But Arsenal's run of conceding at least three goals at Anfield was extended to six league matches when Salah nudged in from Mane's cross, with Minamino then prodding in with one of his first touches to round off the scoring.

What does it mean? Mind the gap

Arsenal's previous defeat was the 5-0 hammering at Manchester City, and despite their form since that loss, Liverpool served up a reminder of just how big the gap is between the Premier League's leading lights and the chasing pack.

Yes, all of City, Chelsea and Liverpool have slipped up recently, but as far as title contenders go they are way out in front on their own. As Salah tucked in Liverpool's 100th Premier League goal against Arsenal, it was difficult to imagine the gulf in quality between these two sides has ever been quite so prominent.

Familiar foes haunt Arsenal

Only against Crystal Palace (13) has Mane scored more Premier League goals than he now has against Arsenal (eight), with the Senegal star finding the net in five of his six such games at Anfield.

Jota also loves going up against the Gunners, with his strike his fifth goal against them, more than he has netted against any other team.

Tavares' Anfield nightmare

It seemed a brave decision from Mikel Arteta to play youngster Tavares at left-back, up against Salah and Alexander-Arnold, despite having Kieran Tierney available, and it is safe to say it did not pay off.

Tavares' performance will be remembered for his calamitous mistake for Liverpool's second goal, but he was run ragged all match, with Salah revelling in the space he found, having a game-leading four attempts, while Alexander-Arnold joined in the fun, creating a game-high four chances.

What's next?

Already sure of their place in the last 16, Liverpool host Porto at Anfield in the Champions League on Wednesday. Arsenal welcome Newcastle United to Emirates Stadium in their next outing in a week's time.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp insists his reign is "far from being over" and he appreciates Steven Gerrard's comments after taking over at Aston Villa this week.

Former Anfield star Gerrard, often tipped as a future Liverpool manager, has left Scottish champions Rangers to join Villa in his first Premier League job.

But Gerrard rejected a suggestion he had taken the role as a stepping stone to managing Liverpool in the future.

He then claimed he would be happy if Klopp signed a lifetime contract, given how well he has done with the Reds.

Klopp is under contract at Anfield until 2024 and while he has not thought about a new deal, he was grateful to Gerrard and reiterated there is plenty of time left for him in his current job.

"I thought Stevie said a lot of nice things, a lot of smart things," said Klopp, whose side host Arsenal in the Premier League on Saturday, when he was asked about his contract.

"I don't have to think about these kind of things at the moment - thank God - because we are in the middle of the season.

"I think I spoke before about this, but no other manager gets asked so often about things that could happen in two or three or four years.

"I didn't think about it, I don't want to think now about it, it's all fine how it is. It's over when it's over, but it's far from being over."

Gerrard will face Brighton and Hove Albion in his first match at Villa, in the hours before the Liverpool v Arsenal clash.

Klopp revealed he had been in touch with Gerrard, with their two respective teams due to do battle next month.

"After he signed the contract we sent messages," said Klopp. "And they are messages, otherwise I would have posted them [online], which I don't do, because they are private. 

"I'm looking forward to meeting him, I'm really happy for him. But what we said will stay private."

Liverpool are hoping to keep up a strong track record against Arsenal this weekend – they have won their last five home Premier League matches against the Gunners, netting at least three goals in every victory.

And since Klopp took charge of Liverpool in 2015, Arsenal have won just one of 11 Premier League games against the Reds, with three draws and seven defeats part of that sequence.

Jurgen Klopp insists Liverpool have only been hindered by the latest international break.

The Reds' 25-game unbeaten run came to an end before the latest round of international fixtures, with West Ham winning 3-2 at London Stadium.

That defeat followed on from a draw with Brighton and Hove Albion at Anfield, with the two results leaving Liverpool four points behind leaders Chelsea ahead of Saturday's home game with in-form Arsenal.

Given Liverpool's patchy form, Klopp was asked if the final international break of the year had given the team a chance to reset, but the former Borussia Dortmund boss laughed off the suggestion.

"No. I hate international breaks, and it didn't help from an injury point of view," said Klopp, who confirmed Jordan Henderson, Andrew Robertson and Fabinho would undergo late fitness tests, though Sadio Mane will be fit to play.

"If we had have played the week after, not another three days, but a full week then all the players who had no games would have had two days off.

"With their national teams they train through pretty much all this because the coaches have their own targets and they very often think they have to do physical work with them as well.

"No, I don't like it. So it was not helpful. I would have loved to play the weekend after [the West Ham game]."

Arsenal head to Anfield on the back of a 10-match unbeaten streak in all competitions and a win on Merseyside would see Mikel Arteta's side leapfrog Liverpool into the top four.

"It says a lot, it's not so much for the title race, it's a bit early for that but it shows that if you want to stay around the top of the league you need results and we didn't have enough good results in the last few weeks," Klopp said.

"Yes, we lost against West Ham but even with a draw there it wouldn't have been massively different. That's it. We know that we have to perform, know that we have to fight."

Arsenal were bottom of the Premier League after their first three games, but seem to be clicking under Mikel Arteta. They are now on the longest unbeaten run of any side in the Premier League (8 – W6 D2). The Gunners last had a longer run without defeat in the competition between August and December 2018 (14 games under Unai Emery).

"It's great," Klopp said of the turnaround. "The season starts, if you win your first match 4-0 you get questions about can you win the league, you think it's really early. If you lose the first games you are directly in the relegation battle.

"Obviously with the quality of Arsenal they were never going to stay where they were in the first games of the season. The way they came back is not normal because since then they've had an incredible run of results.

"We are not surprised that Arsenal are a really good team but we need to make sure nobody forgets we are a really good team."

Liverpool are unbeaten in nine Premier League home games (W5 D4), having lost six in a row at Anfield before this. However, the Reds let a lead slip to draw their last two home league games 2-2, dropping as many points from winning positions in those matches as they had in their previous 23 at Anfield combined (four).

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