Jurgen Klopp bristled. Of course he did. After such an authoritative performance against “a top team in form”, he overheard Roy Keane in studio describe Liverpool as “sloppy on one or two occasions at the back” as he was readying to do his post-match interview on Sky Sports.
The champions of England did err defensively in a 3-1 victory against Arsenal, mostly notably with Andy Robertson’s miscued clearance, which gifted Alexandre Lacazette the opener at Anfield.
The forward had also been thwarted by superb goalkeeping from Alisson in the second half, but the wider truth from the encounter was a very dangerous counter-attacking unit had been nullified and restricted to a total of four shots in the entire encounter.
The flagging of a criticism in such a comprehensive victory jarred with Klopp.
“Did I hear right that Mr Keane said we had a sloppy performance, because I could hear you already? Did he say that?” the manager asked.
“This was a sloppy performance? Maybe he spoke about another game. It cannot be this game, sorry. That’s an incredible description. This was absolutely exceptional.”
To expect Arsenal – Arsenal – not to have any opportunities, especially on the break given the shape of the match, was bonkers.
“We kept them within 25 metres in front of their goal,” Klopp explained. “Each ball you lose is a potential counterattack; everyone knows the speed they have. It takes a proper mix between being brave, flexible, direct and being perfectly protected.
“You cannot defend Arsenal for 90 minutes with the quality they have. It’s completely normal that they have chances and you need a goalie for that, you need a block for that, you need all these kind of things.”
To expect total perfection from Liverpool, who had so much of the ball and designed so much of the game, is divorced from reality.
“To outplay Arsenal you need a quite expansive formation,” Klopp pointed out. “There is a risk with the high line, but how can you defend Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang with not having a high line?
“We punished them from time to time, killed a little of their match plan. They stuck to it, but we did it again and again.”
To expect Arsenal to rock up at Anfield, go toe-to-toe with a team Mikel Arteta believes have “set the bar, probably the best standard that the Premier League has seen in many years” and bloody them was also nonsensical. As is slamming the North Londoners for trying to contain the standout side in the division at “the hardest ground to come to”.
Liverpool had to “be really creative because they defend well”, per Klopp. “They defend in a 5-4-1 until it develops and then in a 5-5 and that makes it really difficult. And you know, one ball at their feet and Aubameyang is on his bike and that’s then really hard to sort.”
Liverpool were supremely relentless in and out of possession on Monday night, making light work of all the weapons Arsenal had hoped to hurt them with.
“We tried to put them under as much pressure as we could and we were really aggressive trying the high press in many moments, but Virgil van Dijk plays a 60-yard pass to Mo Salah's chest and they are out,” Arteta said.
“Then you have to travel about 50 metres and this is real quality.
“We are in a different journey to Liverpool. They’ve been together for five years and they weren’t able to do what they've done two or three years ago, that’s for sure.
“They have a lot of good work, a lot of belief in the way they play, great recruitment and they’ve improved the players that they have. This is what we have to try to do.”
Both managers assessed the action fairly and rationally. And so perhaps it was some of the external analysis, the unrealistic expectations, that were sloppy.