Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp says he “couldn’t care less” that his side have turned a 14-point gap to Manchester City into a one-point gap – because it’s where they sit at the end of the season that matters most. The Reds beat Arsenal 2-0 at the Emirates on Wednesday night to truly ignite the title race with nine games of the season to go.
The quadruple-chasing Reds, who won the Carabao Cup last month, have now won all of their last nine Premier League matches to catch up to Pep Guardiola’s reigning champions. At Arsenal, Diogo Jota and his replacement off the bench, Roberto Firmino, scored within eight second-half minutes of each other after Alisson had crucially denied Martin Odegaard at 0-0.
And that means City, after their goalless draw with Crystal Palace on Monday, are now just one point ahead. Liverpool face the Citizens at the Etihad on April 10, but take on Watford at Anfield before then on the same day that City travel to Burnley (April 2).
Klopp was asked by Sky Sports after the full-time whistle at Arsenal: “Psychologically does it change now? Guardiola said you’ve been annoying them, you’ve been snapping at their heels and chasing them. Now, I know it’s still a point but it almost feels like an even fight between two great teams…”
But the German’s response was that he “couldn’t care less”, and he added: “The only thing I’m really interested is and concerned about is how we can prepare for the next game, how we can get through this and face the problems in a game and find solutions and work and fight through it.
“It’s so difficult with the games – I think it’s game number 13 since we met Arsenal last in the semi-final Carabao Cup. For them it’s seven – that’s six more games in that spell. It’s tough even if we make changes. We don’t complain about it, we want it like this. Let’s keep going and we’ll see.
“In 10 years, do you think somebody will say you should be proud [of finishing second by one point]? Probably not. That’s now how the world is or how people are. We know we have a special group here together and we’re trying to squeeze everything we can out of the situation we’re in.
“We’ll see where we end up. We’ll see. In the moment I’m just focused. We’ve obviously had a good period. It’s what we need. We’re one point behind [Man City], but it’s still the same. We have to win football games.
“We then face City, then all the others. We have FA Cup and hopefully all the players come back fit from internationals. Then we have an early kick-off against Watford, thank you very much. They want to fight for the league so no game is easy. We have to keep going and of course it’s better to be one point behind than 14 points.”
Klopp leapt to the defence of Trent Alexander-Arnold post-match as he also hailed his team’s efforts as “pretty special” to win in north London after a substandard first-half performance. He continued: “It was pretty clear, obviously both teams had spells of possession where the other team was patient, closing the centre and didn’t want to step out. We had to step out. Apart from the diagonal balls to Martinelli, which Trent defended incredibly.
“Martinelli, such a talented boy. and it’s really tricky. If anybody tells me Trent can’t defend, come to me, I’ll knock them down. Honestly I cannot hear that anymore. I don’t know what the boy has to do. Then we scored two fantastic goals and played much more football in the second half.
“It was a sensational save from Alisson [before the opening goal]. For me it was a goal, to be honest. With their quality, they often finish situations like that often. Ali didn’t let it happen. In general these things should not happen.
“When you always try to find a football solution like Thiago then things like this can happen – I would have kicked the ball into the stand probably. He tried to keep it in the game. In the first half we should and could have improved body language-wise, we weren’t surprised that it was hard but we didn’t enjoy that it was hard.
“In the second half we did, I saw more enjoyment in the boys’ eyes. It’s really special. Coming here in our situation and not having a brilliant first half and turning the game in the right direction is pretty special.”