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National media question “what might have been” for Liverpool as “statement” denied

The watching media dissected a fascinating clash between Liverpool and Arsenal, with both sides showing their Premier League title credentials.

The Reds were hoping to go top of the table on Saturday evening, but as soon as Gabriel opened the scoring early on, it was clear that it was going to be difficult.

Mohamed Salah‘s brilliant effort restored parity at Anfield, but despite the game becoming open and Trent Alexander-Arnold‘s glorious chance, neither team could find a winner.

Here’s how the media reacted to Liverpool’s draw.

 

This was a pulsating game that ebbed and flowed…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, December 23, 2023: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah scores the first equalising goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Arsenal FC at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Richard Jolly of the Independent felt that a draw was fair in the end, but bemoaned Trent Alexander-Arnold‘s glaring miss:

“A high-speed spin of a game suggested the top two now may take, in some order, the podium places in May. In an evening overflowing with entertainment, Liverpool and Arsenal looked evenly matched in contrasting, compelling ways.

Arsenal had the set-piece prowess and the flying start, Liverpool the exquisite equaliser and so nearly the winner to reinforce their reputation as comeback kings.

“Their experience of competing with City for titles has taught them how narrow the margins can be.

Trent Alexander-Arnold’s match included an extraordinary assist but the abiding image may be of Liverpool streaking clear, Mohamed Salah leading a break of five attackers against two, heavily-outnumbered defenders, releasing the vice-captain and seeing him slam his shot against the bar.”

Oliver Holt of the Daily Mail also couldn’t separate Liverpool and Arsenal:

“Liverpool fans brought the noise to Anfield on Saturday evening, just as Jurgen Klopp had asked. Short of playing the game in Bedlam or on the top deck of a night bus to Kilburn, it could barely have been more raucous.

“But with top spot in the Premier League at stake, noise is not enough to get you to the Christmas number one.

“And so Liverpool had to settle for a draw with Arsenal. And Arsenal deserved the draw. Just. Mikel Arteta’s team were the better side in the first half, Liverpool overran them for 35 minutes after the break but could not get the second goal their domination demanded and Arsenal after left sitting pretty.”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, December 23, 2023: Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold and supporters react after a miss during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Arsenal FC at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The Guardian‘s Andy Hunter believes this was a case of “what might have been” for the Reds, though:

“There was no quarter given at Anfield, but no statement victory either.

Arsenal will top the Premier League at Christmas after taking a point at Liverpool, a ground where they have regularly suffered in the 11 years since last winning here. Jürgen Klopp will rightly ponder what might have been.

“The Liverpool manager was twice brought to his knees in the 100th league meeting between the clubs at Anfield, first when Kostas Tsimikas ploughed into his manager and suffered a potentially serious injury, and again when Trent Alexander-Arnold struck the Arsenal bar with only David Raya to beat late on.”

 

It was a night where the defending was at an elite level…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, December 23, 2023: Liverpool's Ibrahima Konaté during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Arsenal FC at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The Mirror‘s Mark Jones paid special attention to Ibrahima Konate:

“Being a centre-back for a top level football team is hard work these days. Gone is the time of the yard dogs and the stoppers, and they’ve been replaced by the need to be a physical specimen who can seriously move.

Ibrahima Konate is just that, and the young Frenchman – who hasn’t perhaps shown his best form for much of this season – was terrific here as a last line of defence for several Arsenal attacks, often nicking the ball away from a Gunner at the vital moment.

“Gabriel was impressive for the visitors too, as we were treated to an exhibition of very modern defending.”

This Is Anfield‘s Mark Delgado was similarly impressed:

“Amid a slew of impressive performers, the best was perhaps Ibrahima Konate – a genuine giant at the back all game, defending the right channel on his own at times and perfect almost throughout with his challenges.

“Twice in the first half he simply monstered Gabriel Martinelli off the ball as the Brazilian tried to go around him, while other challenges were simply brilliantly timed to stop the Gunners swarming forward.

“Ibou’s passing out was impressive, without being risky, while he also made a really strong block on Oleksandr Zinchenko’s shot with 10 minutes to play.

“In the absence of Joel Matip, who has been in form this season, the Frenchman’s return to his best couldn’t have been better timed.”

Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher knows a thing or two about defending, and he made his thoughts clear on X:

 

How is the Premier League title race shaping up?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, December 23, 2023: Arsenal's Gabriel Magalhães scores the first goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Arsenal FC at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Jolly feels the result has played into Man City‘s hands:

“Anfield, Mikel Arteta had said, is like a washing machine. The broader problem for Arsenal and Liverpool alike now is the winning machine.

“The victor seemed not Pep Guardiola’s greatest rival nor his former assistant but Guardiola himself.

Jurgen Klopp and Arteta are taking different ways to try and depose the Manchester City manager as champion but, as their sides battered each other to a standstill, the eventual beneficiaries may prove the side who had triumphed in Saudi Arabia a day earlier.

“No one is accelerating away from the Club World Cup winners in the title race.”

Mark Delgado believes Liverpool should simply focus on upcoming fixtures, rather than looking too far ahead:

“There’s no time to dwell on this result as the Christmas fixture list leaves no time for it.

“We’re straight back into action on Boxing Day, this time with a trip to Burnley – our first notable away game in a while after three on the bounce at Anfield, plus that dead-rubber in Belgium.

Burnley have been boosted by wins over Sheffield United and Fulham recently; while we’d hope to be seen as a very different class of team, neither of those opponents made life easy for the Reds and the Clarets will be more of the same.

“Ultimately, with so much still to play for, top spot shouldn’t really matter much one way or the other on a single day of the year (aside from the last one!), and Klopp’s job is simply to focus minds and freshen bodies across the next two days.

“Whatever the outcome ended up at Anfield, these teams – and Man City of course – would be ending up sorting the title between them anyway so its just about winning and winning and winning again for the Reds, with three trophies very much on the line right now.”