Mohamed Salah was substituted midway through the second half as Liverpool lost at Arsenal to fall further behind the Premier League pace-setters on Sunday afternoon.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has revealed he withdrew Mohamed Salah against Arsenal with his team’s defensive requirements in mind.
Last season’s top scorer Salah made way midway through the second half at the Emirates Stadium with the scores level at 2-2, with Fabinho replacing the Egyptian international. The substitution didn’t pay dividends, though, with a penalty from Bukayo Saka settling the game in Arsenal’s favour.
The 3-2 defeat leaves Klopp’s team in mid-table, some 14 points adrift of league leaders Arsenal. It was no surprise to see the former Borussia Dortmund boss asked about his changes after the defeat, and he explained what was going through his mind when he made his tweaks.
We had to defend again on a high level and we tried to put Hendo [Jordan Henderson] on that side there,” Klopp said. “Mo did unbelievable, a lot, really big, big workload, he put in a real shift.
“Sometimes it’s very intense and that’s why we thought we could do it with Hendo. We wanted still to win, even when we took a striker off.”
Liverpool fell behind inside a minute, with Gabriel Martinelli on target for the home side, with Darwin Nunez drawing them level with his first league goal since August. Saka and Roberto Firmino then exchanged goals either side of the half-time break, but Arsenal’s 76th-minute winner sent them back to the top of the league table.
Liverpool’s next game is against Rangers in the Champions League, with a victory at Ibrox potentially putting them on the verge of a last-16 spot. After that, they have another tough test against Manchester City in the league, with the reigning champions still unbeaten after beating Southampton on Saturday.
“Is that the perfect opponent for finding confidence back? Probably not. But we will go out there and fight and that’s what we have to do and that’s what we will do,” Klopp admitted.
“And we are not here for being happy with the situation we are in and stuff like this and thinking about last year and nearly there and nearly there – not at all, nobody of us is like that. But it is always like this, in a situation like this: you can ask all the questions, but my answers, I cannot change really a lot. If you are winning, there are five million things we could talk about, ‘He’s great, he’s great and he’s super, and the goals were outstanding.”
Liverpool finished just a point behind Manchester City last season, but are 13 adrift of their rivals ahead of next weekend’s game (albeit with a game in hand). Perhaps more worrying for Klopp is the six-point gap to fourth spot, which is now occupied by Chelsea after the Blues’ victory over Wolves on Saturday.