Mikel Arteta admitted back-to-back defeats have halted Arsenal’s Premier League momentum but warned against putting his side’s rocky run under the microscope.

Arsenal’s title challenge has faltered in recent matches following a home loss to West Ham on December 28 before they suffered another defeat at Fulham three days later.

The Gunners have slipped to fourth in the table, five points behind leaders Liverpool who they host in the third round of the FA Cup at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

“We were not at the level (against Fulham) and we were not good enough,” said Arteta. “I don’t think we deserved to lose but we didn’t do enough to win it.

“It affects momentum that we had. Until Christmas Day we were top of the league and six days later we are fourth.

“You can be very tempted to look at things with a microscope or take the telescope and look a little bit further ahead and treat things with a little bit more perspective.

“And my job, big time, is to look with the telescope, have perspective, analyse things in a broader way and not get affected by one performance; not results, just one performance.”

Arsenal had 30 attempts on goal in their defeat to West Ham – but it was a different story at Craven Cottage as Arteta’s side failed to create chances.

The club continue to be linked with a new striker, although Brentford manager Thomas Frank said only an “unbelievable” offer would force the Bees to sell Ivan Toney during this month’s transfer window.

“We are open to the transfer market,” added Arteta. “But the emphasis is on making the most of the players we have.

“We will work with the club and see if we have any good options but first, our focus is on the players here.”

Put to Arteta that Arsenal might not sign anyone before the window closes, he replied: “That’s a possibility.”

Arteta is likely to rotate his squad for the visit of Liverpool, with defender Oleksandr Zinchenko possibly back in the frame after missing the defeat against Fulham. Goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale is also set to be handed a rare start in place of David Raya.

And Arteta has challenged the Arsenal supporters to create a difficult environment for Jurgen Klopp’s visiting side.

“There is a big history between the FA Cup and the club and we have a big opportunity (against Liverpool) to start again and make a beautiful journey,” said the Gunners boss.

“We are really happy with the atmosphere that we have created at the Emirates Stadium and on Sunday can we make it even more hostile? I think we can.

“We have to be so grateful for what we are achieving in our home ground and Sunday is going to be a big one again.”

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp admitted he would be happy for Mohamed Salah and Wataru Endo’s international absences to be kept to a minimum as his side begin their fight on three fronts in January.

Salah is away with Egypt in the African Nations Cup, while Japan captain Endo is at the Asian Cup and both players are expected to go deep into the respective competitions.

That could mean a return in the second week of February but Klopp said he sent them on their way this week without wishing them too much success.

“I said if I wish you good luck it would be a lie,” he said ahead of the FA Cup tie at Arsenal.

“From a personal point of view, I would be happy if they go out in the group stage but that’s probably not possible. They can go on and win it.

“So it was ‘good luck and come back healthy’. We have to deal with it and we will deal with it. I am pretty positive that we will find a way.”

It is impossible to have a like-for-like replacement for Salah as he is one of a kind but Klopp does not really have a suitable player in the right-winger mould to take his place.

Midfielder Dominik Szoboszlai was touted as a potential option but he has been ruled out for at least two matches with a hamstring injury sustained in the New Year’s Day win over Newcastle.

“I can confirm it’s not a potential injury – it is an injury. Muscle, hamstring. But now we have to see,” added Klopp.

“Dom is very positive, doesn’t have a lot of pain but we have to wait a little bit. So, no chance obviously for Sunday, not for Wednesday (the Carabao Cup semi-final first leg at home to Fulham).

“And then we will see. After that, hopefully he might be back but we don’t know.”

Nevertheless Klopp was confident Liverpool could fill the hole left by Salah, even if he could not hope to replicate the Egypt international’s goal involvement.

“I think we played against West Ham (in last month’s Carabao Cup quarter-final) without Mo on that side and Harvey Elliott played there,” he said.

“We have different offensive options who can all play that wing in a different way.

“Nobody else can play like Mo, it is not possible – we just have to use the boys with their skills.

“Do we want to play without Mo? No. In the past we didn’t have to do it often but we always found a way.

“But we play Arsenal and you can lose to Arsenal with Mo Salah so it’s possible to lose to them without him.”

Liverpool midfielder Wataru Endo admitted it was difficult to leave Merseyside for the Asian Cup just when he had started to really find his form.

The Japan captain, a £16million signing from Stuttgart, started the last six matches as he deputised for the injured Alexis Mac Allister and that regular rhythm undoubtedly helped the 30-year-old find his feet after a tough introduction to English football.

But the New Year’s Day win over Newcastle – that extended Liverpool’s lead at the top of the Premier League table to three points – was Endo’s last game for a month as he flies out to Qatar to begin preparations for the tournament which begins next Friday.

 

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Unlike Mohamed Salah, who is now away with Egypt at the African Nations Cup, when he returns, Endo will have lost his place to Mac Allister, who has been first choice in the holding role all season, and will have lost the momentum he built up.

“Of course I want to stay here but as a national team player it is important for me as I am captain. I am now focused on the national team and just doing my best,” said Endo.

“I want to have good results at the Asia Cup, but that’ll mean I have to stay longer in Qatar.

“But Macca has come back now, so I can just stay focused on the national team. I’m sure we (Liverpool) will play well, 100 per cent.

“I want to come back with the Asia Cup title. I’m confident Liverpool can do well in the absence of me and Mo.”

Endo’s late arrival in mid-August meant his integration into the side took longer and, as a result, he was mainly restricted to starts in the Europa League and Carabao Cup.

However, Mac Allister’s injury and a heavy December workload meant manager Jurgen Klopp had little option but to play him every week and that made a significant difference.

“It has been the toughest Christmas and New Year in my life but to play football is amazing so I’ve enjoyed it also,” Endo added.

“It’s a very tough schedule but I needed to keep playing. Playing the games is the most important way for me to improve.

“We have so many injured players. I was thinking, I am a very important player on the pitch so I needed to show why I came here.

“I think the team played well and I also played better than before and we are now top of the table so I feel I did my job. I feel like I’ve got to grips more with playing in England.

“Confidence is a big thing also. The manager has shown a lot of faith in me. The other players know me better now as well, that’s also important for me to play better.”

Liverpool have recalled 20-year-old James Balagizi from his loan spell at Wigan, where he made just seven appearances – only three of which were in League One.

Liverpool captain Virgil Van Dijk will not entertain talk of a Premier League title race unless the team can get to March in a similarly-strong position.

A 4-2 victory over Newcastle extended their advantage at the top of the table to three points over Aston Villa but, more significantly, ensured they stayed out of reach of Manchester City five points back, with their match in hand.

January is a significant month for Jurgen Klopp’s side as they do battle on three fronts, starting with an FA Cup third-round tie at Arsenal at the weekend followed by the first tie in a two-legged Carabao Cup semi-final at home to Fulham.

Due to the winter mini-break there are actually only two more scheduled league matches before February and that could help their primary aim of adding to the Premier League title they won in 2019-20 as it lessens the impact of the absence of Mohamed Salah, who signed off with two goals before heading to the African Nations Cup with Egypt.

But Van Dijk said they were not looking as far ahead as that.

“I’m not going to speak about any of this, I never did and I won’t do it now either,” he said when asked about the title race.

“It’s far too early to do that. We are at the start of January, we have players leaving now, we have players coming back from injury so let’s see what it brings.

“If in February/March we are still up there, obviously we have to get the last push going and see if we can squeeze it out, but for now we just focus on the game ahead, don’t look at others and try to improve ourselves.

“That’s always been the experience and it brought us one success over the last six years to win the Premier League and hopefully we will see what happens at the end of the season.”

Salah’s departure – having racked up 14 league goals and eight assists – will undoubtedly be felt but it is Klopp’s job to lessen how much.

He does at least have Diogo Jota fit again after a month’s absence, while midfielder Alexis Mac Allister’s return after a six-game absence will offset the loss of Wataru Endo to the Asian Cup.

“Obviously we are going to miss Mo and his qualities, his leadership qualities as well. The situation is how it is and the same goes for Wataru,” added Van Dijk.

“Other players have to step up and stay fit and it was good Jota came back, Macca came back and everyone has to be ready for a big game at the weekend in the FA Cup and then the Carabao Cup and then hopefully a little break again.

“I think December was already a very big month and the way we coped with that was very good in my opinion.

“Now we are going to play in three competitions, we have a chance to go to Wembley if we go through the Carabao Cup and to the next round of the FA Cup but how we approach it is game by game.

“It could be a good month but we will take it game by game and see.”

Mohamed Salah believes Liverpool can win the Premier League after his inspirational display fired the Reds to a crucial yet hard-fought win over Newcastle.

Salah recovered from a first-half penalty miss to score twice and set up another as Jurgen Klopp’s side won a New Year’s Day thriller 4-2 at Anfield to move three points clear at the top.

It was his final game before joining up with Egypt ahead of the upcoming African Cup of Nations.

Salah told Sky Sports: “It’s a great result for us. The game was very intense and we managed to pick up three points and now we are top of the table. We need to stay calm and win every game.”

Asked about his side’s title chances, he added: “We believe a lot. We need to work hard and express ourselves on the field. If we manage to do that and work hard then we can keep winning.”

Salah was pleased not to be signing off from club duty on a low note after seeing a spot-kick – the first of two he had during the game – beaten away by impressive Newcastle goalkeeper Martin Dubravka.

He said: “I missed the pen – I didn’t want to leave with national team with that performance.

“The first one I was confused because the goalkeeper moved, but the second one I did like I did in training.”

Salah opened the scoring with a tap-in early in the second half. That effort was quickly cancelled out by Alexander Isak, but Liverpool took control through Curtis Jones and Cody Gakpo.

Sven Botman pulled another back, but Salah wrapped up the win the hosts – who racked up 34 shots – deserved after a foul by Dubravka on Diogo Jota.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said: “Nobody should be really surprised that Mo can change a game. The more goals you have, the more you are used to missing chances and understand what you have to do to keep going and improving, and that was what Mo did.

“It was a super game from start to finish, super high intensity. I loved so many aspects of the game except the goals we conceded.

“It was an unbelievable game with and unbelievable atmosphere.”

Newcastle boss Eddie Howe admitted his side were fortunate to get in goalless at half-time, but he had issues with both spot-kicks given against them.

“I’m still confused over the penalties we conceded. The second one especially didn’t look like a penalty,” he said.

“There are two ways to look at it: the challenge on Sean Longstaff (in the second half) was a pen for me and that changes the game massively and then they go up the other end and it wasn’t (a penalty).”

A fifth defeat in six league matches, and one win in 12 away games, has left Newcastle struggling to stay in reach of the top four.

“We have to do everything we can to protect that confidence so that is why I think we need not to over dramatise things,” Howe added.

“It was a really good performance from Liverpool, they made it very difficult for us – we did well to come in 0-0.

“Take away the penalty moments, the goals we conceded were disappointing.”

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp joked he is six times happier than he was a year ago with his team top of the Premier League.

Their position may have slipped by the time they play Newcastle on New Year’s Day as Arsenal could reclaim top spot by beating Luton the day before, but it will still not be as bad as 12 months ago.

On January 2 they lost 3-1 at Brighton to sit sixth, 15 points behind the Gunners who were the then leaders.

With just one defeat, and that a controversial one at Tottenham, all season and having dropped only four points at home, Klopp is pleased to see his side back on track and ahead of schedule.

“Six times happier! I can’t even remember (the first game of 2023),” said Klopp when asked how he felt compared to last new year.

“A horrible time last year. It feels better, no doubt about that, but it is not like we really think too much about it.

“We had a lot of good spells in games where we didn’t win or we had lesser-good spells in games we won and these kind of things, so it’s a process.

“This team is in the middle of something and we just try to make the best of it, to deal with different situations. We had a lot of injuries, we are now without key players – both left-backs are not in – but so far we found a way to compete.

“Obviously it’s better to be first than sixth, but both gives you a lot of work to do for the rest of the season.”

While much is made of Liverpool’s attacking options – they have scored in all but one of the last 37 matches – it is their defence on which the foundations of this season have been built.

Their 16 goals conceded is the best in the league and compares favourably with their title-winning 2019-20 campaign when they had conceded just 14 at the same stage. Last season it was 25.

“It started with the defensive record. Everybody buys into how we have to work,” Klopp said.

“How many goals did we concede, 16? Probably eight or nine of them were after we lose the ball and are a bit exposed and that was obviously last year even more a problem.

“We do better now. Recently we stepped up counter-pressing-wise, which helps as well, as that means everybody reacts better – front line, midfield line and in the last line.”

That defensive security also has a positive effect at the other end of the pitch as players know they are not likely to concede many, if at all, so there is rarely a necessity to score a lot.

“We are not desperate (to score) – we were a bit against Manchester United (a 0-0 draw) to be 100 per cent honest – because we don’t think we concede all the time and then we have to score immediately,” said Klopp.

“Even though we conceded quite a lot of times the first goal, but even in these moments we didn’t get desperate. That’s really important.”

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp faces a hugely-significant January without talismanic top scorer Mohamed Salah but is confident he can find an acceptable solution among the attacking options at his disposal.

Salah will leave for the African Cup of Nations after Monday’s visit of Newcastle, the first of at least six matches which includes an FA Cup tie at Arsenal and a two-legged Carabao Cup semi-final with Fulham.

The 16-goal forward, second behind only Erling Haaland in the Premier League goalscoring stakes with 12 in the top flight this season, will link up with Egypt as they head to the Ivory Coast next week and will potentially be away for over a month.

Klopp has had to deal with it in the past and remains confident his side will do so again as they seek to maintain their place as Premier League leaders.

“It is not the first time, it is a really at least very average situation that you lose your goalscorer but we had it even worse in the past when Sadio (Mane) and Mo left,” he said.

“We came somehow through it and traditionally one of them went pretty far in the tournament, which made it worse.

“We knew the Africa Cup of Nations from time to time appears and Mo has to go and we have (Wataru) Endo as a participant of the Asia Cup (played at the same time) as well, so it is like it is. We have to deal with it and we will.

“Each long-term plan I could have had depends massively on who is available so why should I think in October who I can use when Mo is away when I have no clue who is available?

“We would have solutions today, I hope we have that after the Newcastle game as well.”

The timely return of Diogo Jota after a month out injured is a boost as the Portugal international scored a comeback goal against Burnley on Boxing Day.

Jota’s versatility means he can operate across the forward line, as can Cody Gakpo, while Harvey Elliott has played in Salah’s position even though he is more of a midfielder in Klopp’s system.

“The return of each of the boys is super-important but Diogo especially. Everybody was quite positive about our five options, but I don’t think we had it that often to be honest,” added Klopp.

“Especially with the amount of games we play it is so important these boys can rotate and now with Mo leaving and Endo leaving we need everyone to get back.”

On Jota’s return, Klopp said: “The game is blessed with some of these players who really understand the game on a different level and he is one of them.

“It gives him the chance to see the situations slightly earlier, to adapt to different things the opponent is doing a little bit quicker. On top of that, he is both-footed, a great finisher.

“For these last few games, even when the results were not always outstanding, we found a good rhythm, good fluidity, which is really important.

“It gives you a good feeling, you’d probably call it momentum, and for that you need to be connected and be together in the right moment.”

It is not all good news, however, with left-back Andy Robertson’s recovery from a dislocated shoulder likely to keep him out now for the whole of January.

The Scotland captain, sidelined since October, was expected to return next month but that now may be delayed.

“Robbo still needs more range in his shoulder. Obviously it was a big surgery. (He is) still not even close to team training or whatever,” said Klopp.

“For sure, I think, the full January he has to get closer and closer.”

Liverpool’s Cody Gakpo is confident the forward line will step up to cover for the pending absence of Mohamed Salah.

Darwin Nunez ended a run of 12 matches without a goal, while Diogo Jota came off the bench to score after a month out injured in Tuesday’s 2-0 Premier League win over Burnley which took Jurgen Klopp’s side top of the table.

Salah has one more game – at home to Newcastle on Sunday – before he departs for the African Nations Cup with Egypt and the 16-goal winger is likely to be away for a month.

Therefore, Jota’s timely return boosts the numbers up top, while Nunez’s confidence has been lifted by his first Premier League goal since October.

Gakpo himself has seven for the season, the latest coming in last week’s Carabao Cup romp against West Ham after he was denied a goal at Turf Moor when referee Paul Tierney adjudged Nunez to have committed a foul in the build-up, and he believes they have enough firepower to see them through in Salah’s absence.

“For every attacking player who didn’t score for a few games, it’s always nice to get back on the scoresheet and Darwin did it with a very good goal,” said Gakpo.

“For Diogo as well. When you are injured and you come back and score that’s always nice and good for the confidence. So really happy.

“Mo is gone after the Newcastle game so we need the goals. Of course, I think I can contribute even more.”

Liverpool captain Virgil Van Dijk is also of the opinion they can handle Salah’s expected lengthy absence despite the Egypt international being their main threat for so many seasons.

“It’s always important for the guys up front to score goals. I am delighted for Darwin. Diogo, it’s the same story. It’s good to see the boys back on the scoresheet,” said the Netherlands defender.

“I also want to say that Cody was outstanding, in the first half especially. It’s good to see. Everyone has to keep pushing each other. That’s the only way we can get better.

“Others have to step up anyway. We have to deal with losing Mo and we have the players up front who can make the difference. Let’s see how we deal with it.”

Liverpool’s return to the Premier League summit probably has more significance to the outside world than it does within the squad, who are refusing to look beyond their next game.

“The table is not looking in a bad place but we have to take it one game at a time, don’t let our heads go everywhere all over the place, just stay focused and keep doing what we are doing now and even improve more,” added Gakpo, who is enjoying his first taste of the English festive programme.

“It’s the first time I played with this intensity – a lot of games in a few days – and it’s nice as if you play a good game you can play again and if you play a not-so-good game, you can make it good in the next game as it’s coming nice and quick,” he added.

“Everybody wants the three points – also the opponents – so you have to work really hard every game and you have to be able to win games different ways.”

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was delighted to see both Darwin Nunez and Diogo Jota score – for different reasons – in the 2-0 win at Burnley.

Nunez ended a run of 12 games without a goal with the first-half opener and Jota came off the bench after a month out to kill the game off in the 90th minute – his 50th goal for the Reds.

“(Nunez) is an incredible finisher but if a striker doesn’t score, the whole system is not the same,” said Klopp.

“You question everything. It’s not just the outside world, but you question everything. But it was just in the moment and he has it so it’s all good.”

Jota’s return could not be more timely with top scorer Mohamed Salah set to depart to the African Nations Cup after the weekend’s visit of Newcastle.

“Diogo is an incredibly important player for us. Having him changed the whole dynamic, that’s true. The goal he scored today is the goal of a boy full of conviction,” Klopp added.

Victory returned Liverpool to the top of the table, with Arsenal not due to play until Thursday.

“So, 42 points, that’s really pleasing, to be honest. That’s really cool because the first part of the season (is) done and it was absolutely alright what we did. Not perfect but it was alright,” Klopp said.

“And if I’m right, we cannot be more than a point away from the top of the table, if Arsenal win (against West Ham on Thursday). That’s obviously in punching distance, let me say it like that.”

Burnley boss Vincent Kompany said deficiencies up front cost his side the chance of getting something from the game and admits the chance of him adding a proven quality striker in January are slim.

“We had our moments, we can’t prevent them from having their moments as they are a top side, but we had our moments as well,” he said.

“The team fights, the team is alive, the team is entertaining – it just lacks the little bit of final touch to reward ourselves.

“The problem is that final touch in the Premier League, what is that? Down the bottom it is (Dominic) Solanke, (Raul) Jimenez – that’s the level you need and it’s difficult to go out in the market and find that level of player for us.

“We have to see a progression in the players we have but if there is something smart we can do we will see.”

Liverpool moved top of the Premier League after Darwin Nunez ended his goal drought in a 2-0 success at second-bottom Burnley.

Nunez fired Jurgen Klopp’s men into a sixth-minute lead at Turf Moor with his first strike in 13 matches in all competitions before substitute Diogo Jota sealed victory late on with his 50th goal for the club.

Mohamed Salah hit the crossbar and Harvey Elliott saw his second-half strike ruled out for offside with the score still 1-0, while Jacob Bruun Larsen almost snatched an equaliser for the Clarets.

Victory for the Reds lifted them two points above Arsenal, who host West Ham on Thursday, while lowly Burnley are five points from safety following a 14th defeat of the season.

Chris Wood retuned to haunt Newcastle with a stunning hat-trick as Nottingham Forest handed new boss Nuno Espirito Santo the first Premier League victory of his reign.

Wood, who joined Forest from the Magpies in January, produced two fine second-half finishes to secure a 3-1 comeback success at St James’ Park.

Newcastle went ahead through Alexander Isak’s 23rd-minute penalty but slipped to a sixth defeat in seven games in all competitions after Wood tapped home Anthony Elanga’s cross just before the break and went on to complete his treble in style.

Forest remain two points above the relegation zone after 18th-placed Luton pulled off a 3-2 success at bottom club Sheffield United thanks to two late own goals.

Blades pair Jack Robinson and Anis Ben Slimane each turned the ball into their own goal during the final 14 minutes of a chaotic clash at Bramall Lane.

Chris Wilder’s hosts had looked set for a vital three points after second-half strikes from Oli McBurnie and Anel Ahmedhodzic overturned Alfie Doughty’s 17th-minute opener.

In-form Bournemouth continued their remarkable resurgence by moving into the top half of the table thanks to a thumping 3-0 victory over Fulham.

Justin Kluivert put the Cherries ahead just before half-time at Vitality Stadium before Dominic Solanke’s eighth goal in seven games – a penalty after Joao Palhinha brought down Antoine Semenyo – doubled the lead.

Substitute Luis Sinisterra sealed an emphatic success late on as Andoni Iraola’s hosts made it 19 points from the last 21 available.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has played down fears of a left-back crisis after Kostas Tsimikas joined Andy Robertson on the injured list.

The Greece international broke his collarbone in the 1-1 draw at home to Arsenal after a challenge from Bukayo Saka saw him collide with his manager in the technical area before falling heavily.

With Robertson, who has been out since October with a dislocated shoulder which required surgery, still a few weeks away from returning, it leaves utility man Joe Gomez, the central defender who has been filling in at right-back to give Trent Alexander-Arnold a break, as the only realistic option.

Even left winger Luis Diaz, who has occupied the role this season as more of an attacking option when Liverpool were chasing the game, is an injury doubt after sustaining a knee problem against the Gunners.

The 18-year-old Luke Chambers has made Europa League and Carabao Cup appearances this season, but is unlikely to be given the responsibility at Burnley on Boxing Day, at home to Newcastle or in the FA Cup away to Arsenal, but may have to provide some support.

“Can Joe play all the games now until I don’t know when? I don’t know, we’ll have to see,” said Klopp.

“Robbo will be back (next month) and Kostas will be definitely out for a long while. I didn’t have time to think it through yet, but it is really tough for us now.

“You have injuries sometimes and you have to accept all of them, but a broken collarbone is really bad because it takes so long to heal.

“Robbo had a different injury, but it takes a long time to recover as well. We all know we need luck in these moments and now we have to just make sure we put Joey in cotton wool and make sure he is ready for the game.”

The injuries to Tsimikas and Diaz adds to an already lengthy list which includes Robertson, Joel Matip (ACL), Thiago Alcantara (hip), Diogo Jota (hamstring), Alexis Mac Allister (knee) and Stefan Bajcetic (calf).

Even with the January Premier League break, Liverpool still have at least seven matches – eight if they progress in the FA Cup – in the next month with a two-legged Carabao Cup semi-final against Fulham adding to the congestion at an already busy period.

But Klopp has increasingly fewer options to rotate and with Burnley buoyed by their win at Fulham, he knows he cannot afford to take their trip to Turf Moor lightly.

“I don’t need the Burnley result to understand their quality,” he added.

“Burnley could have easily had much more points because they had so many good spells in the games where they never saw the situation off, because of young players and some decisions.

“If they could finish these situations off they would definitely win more games. I respect Vinny (Vincent Kompany) a lot because he keeps pushing his idea through.

“I’m impressed with what they are doing and we know if you win once and are coming back to your home stadium you want to win again, and that is what we expect from them.”

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was bemused as to why his side did not get a penalty for Martin Odegaard’s handball in the first half of their 1-1 draw with Arsenal at Anfield.

VAR ruled referee Chris Kavanagh had not made a clear and obvious error in not penalising the Gunners captain after his low hand prevented Mohamed Salah getting past him.

Klopp disagreed, telling BBC Sport: “The penalty situation is a weird situation, I don’t know if the ref can see it, but you look at it and I’m not sure how you can say it’s not a penalty.”

In his post-match press conference the Liverpool manager added: “I didn’t see it in the game, I saw it after and I think we all agree it was handball.

“But I always wait until Mr Dermot (Gallagher) explains it the next day (in his role as a TV analyst) what’s really the case.

“He will find a way to explain to me why it was not handball. For me it’s a clear handball. I have no idea if it would have influenced the result.”

Gabriel’s early header was cancelled out by a brilliant goal by Salah to earn a point and leave the two teams first and second in the table at Christmas.

However, the hard-earned point was not without cost as Klopp has a big problem at left-back now as Kostas Tsimikas, deputising for Andy Robertson who has been out since October with a dislocated shoulder, broke his collarbone in a collision which also floored his manager after being pushed by Bukayo Saka.

“The problem I had in that moment, I thought, ‘OK, I am fine,’ so I was assuming that Kostas was fine as well and he’s actually obviously not fine,” said Klopp, who is hopeful a knee injury to Luis Diaz is only minor.

“He’s broken his collarbone at least. It’s really bad for us. I cannot say anything about that (Saka challenge). You have to judge that, not me.”

Mikel Arteta, who played in the last Arsenal team to win at Anfield in the league in September 2012, is hopeful the experience of being in a title race last season will stand his side in good stead as they hold top spot on Christmas Day.

That will be particularly important as three of the last six occasions a team top on December 25 did not go on to win the league involved the Gunners.

“They are certainly more experienced. What they have done today on this pitch, in this stadium, with the atmosphere they created as well, that was something else,” he said.

“The maturity and the courage that we showed I think we should be really proud of our players. We have experience of being where we are today.

“We should be really happy because that shows a lot of consistency for this new group in the best league in the world to lead two years in a row.

“But that’s it. We are where we want to be right now, both in the Premier League and the Champions League.

“Of course there are things that we have to improve, especially killing games. With the amount of dominance we are showing, some of the games are too close.”

Arsenal reclaimed top spot in time for Christmas but their wait for a win at Anfield stretches into a 12th year after an absorbing 1-1 draw which ensured Liverpool kept pace in the title race.

Gabriel’s early goal was cancelled out by a Mohamed Salah stunner and, despite both pushing for victory, the Premier League’s top two deservedly shared the spoils.

Being top for December 25 is no guarantee of future performance, however, as both these clubs are well aware; on the last six occasions a team has failed to go on and lift the trophy from this position it was one of them.

So while nothing has been decided, it at least provided some early festive fun and was the very antithesis of last weekend’s game here when Manchester United showed no attacking intent.

Arsenal were fully engaged, and while they left with the same point United did, it was achieved in a much different manner during a draining 90 minutes of high press and high intensity.

For the hosts centre-back Ibrahima Konate was imperious, Trent Alexander-Arnold visionary and Salah threatening, while Arsenal had their own rock at the back in William Saliba, with Declan Rice covering plenty of ground just in front of him.

On the bench Jurgen Klopp had a wry smile to himself as the atmosphere ramped up just before kick-off, just as he had planned with his carefully chosen comments about fan apathy.

But that smile was soon wiped off his face when Gabriel headed home Martin Odegaard’s fourth-minute free-kick.

It was a perfectly executed training ground routine to expose Liverpool’s high line; the four furthest-advanced players dropping back just before their captain delivered the cross which resulted in Cody Gakpo playing the Gunners centre-back onside.

The visitors sensed an opportunity and their midfield press created a three-on-three which saw Gabriel Jesus fire over.

But roared on by an Anfield crowd which still had Klopp’s admonishment ringing in their ears, Liverpool could have had a penalty when Odegaard stuck out a low left hand to stop Salah going past him, with only thing possibly saving him in the eyes of VAR was his loss of footing.

The equaliser was not long in coming, however, with Alexander-Arnold, at times dropping so deep in his hybrid role to almost be a third central defender, unsurprisingly the architect.

From 20 yards inside his own half his searching pass dropped over the head of Oleksandar Zinchenko, which Salah anticipated, who was then beaten easily as the Egypt international executed a trademark cutback to beat David Raya for pace at his near post.

Liverpool soon had left-back problems of their own when Bukayo Saka pushed Kostas Tsimikas, deputising for the long-term injured Andy Robertson, into Klopp and while both took a tumble in the technical area the Greek came off worse as he departed with what appeared to be either a shoulder or collarbone injury.

Replacement Joe Gomez saw Saka race past him to cut into the penalty area where Gabriel Martinelli fired wide with Alisson Becker out of his goal and only Gomez and Alexander-Arnold guarding the goalline.

Gomez, who has never scored a senior goal, almost ended his nine-year drought by curling a shot just wide early in the second half with Dominik Szoboszlai also off target as the hosts began to dominate the chances created.

The triple 68th-minute substitution of Darwin Nunez, Harvey Elliott and Ryan Gravenberch added new impetus as both sides started to show signs of having run themselves into the ground, with Leandro Trossard replacing Martinelli.

Elliott and Nunez both had chances either side of a five-on-two counter-attack launched by Salah after Odegaard and Zinchenko collided on the edge of Liverpool’s penalty area.

There were three team-mates queuing up to shoot but when Alexander-Arnold was teed up the ball bobbled and his shot smashed against the crossbar.

Kai Havertz’s penalty claim was quickly dismissed by VAR as neither side paused for breath in a thrilling finale.

Mikel Arteta is hoping his Arsenal side can avoid the Anfield “washing machine” to secure a long-awaited victory at Liverpool and top the Premier League table on Christmas Day.

The Gunners boss will be aiming for a clean sheet after likening the challenge of playing away to Liverpool as being stuck on a spin cycle.

Arsenal have not won at Anfield since Arteta was part of the side that secured a 2-0 victory in September 2012.

The Spaniard knows first-hand the challenge of getting a result at Liverpool, having also gone there with neighbours Everton before his stint at Arsenal.

Victory, though, would be enough to keep the north London side top of the tree over the Christmas period but Arteta – who once piped ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ around the training ground in a forlorn attempt to prepare his side for the atmosphere of Anfield – knows it will not be easy.

“It is different, different like Old Trafford,” he said.

“Old Trafford has a beautiful atmosphere as well and something that historically is an unbelievable place to go. There are a few in this country. The Emirates is one of them as well.

“I think I explained that sometimes when you don’t feel at your best and you feel that they are on top of you and you cannot get out of that washing machine.

“You try to overcome those situations but that’s a learning — it happened once and it didn’t happen again.”

Asked how to counter such a problem, Arteta said he wants his own team to put the hosts in a spin by “putting on our washing machine that is very powerful”.

Not someone who is afraid to air his dirty linen in public, two years ago Arteta was involved in a touchline spat with Liverpool counterpart Jurgen Klopp that seemed to galvanise the home supporters as Liverpool once again ran out victors.

Speaking ahead of Saturday evening’s clash, Klopp has called on Liverpool’s fans to bring the noise and said it should not take him clashing with an opposing manager to find a spark.

But Arteta said “there won’t be any” trouble on the touchline after he picked up his fourth booking of the season in last weekend’s win over Brighton.

Instead, Arteta has now challenged his Arsenal side to end another hoodoo and win at Anfield for the first time in 11 years.

Having toasted four years as Arsenal manager earlier in the week, Arteta has already overseen wins at Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham, while this season they beat Manchester City at the Emirates Stadium.

Next up is to leave Anfield with three points and Arteta added: “We have done it at Old Trafford, we have done it at Stamford Bridge and many other places where we haven’t done it for years.

“This is the next challenge. Go there and win. If you want to be at the top you have to go to those places and be dominant. That’s what we’re going to try to do.”

Liverpool supporters’ group Spirit of Shankly “have no argument” with Jurgen Klopp’s criticism of Anfield’s atmosphere but expressed concerns of the effect tickets prices have had on football fan culture.

Reds boss Klopp was not impressed with the home crowd during the Carabao Cup quarter-final demolition of West Ham in midweek and told fans to give their tickets away if they are not prepared to get behind the side against Premier League title rivals Arsenal on Saturday.

The Spirit of Shankly group, which was founded in 2008, admitted the atmosphere is a concern among supporters and is in talks with the club over how the situation can be addressed.

“We have no argument with Jurgen Klopp highlighting issues around the Anfield atmosphere, or lack of it, at times,” a statement from the group read.

“It’s something our fans discuss regularly, it is central to the club’s and Anfield’s identity, and something the most passionate among us are keen to protect.

“It is no accident that opposing teams, coaches and fans speak about the ‘Anfield effect’. We all know how intimidating the crowd can make it for visiting sides, how the atmosphere can be second to none – ask Barcelona, or (Borussia) Dortmund or (Manchester) City, or Arsenal last season.

“We do have concerns though about the lack of opportunities for young supporters to go to the game, catch the bug and preserve this decades-long culture of the Kop, and deep-rooted worries that our culture is being watered down by greater corporate offerings and out-of-reach ticket prices – echoed by supporters across the Premier League.

“We are in constant dialogue with the club to explore ways we can improve the situation, get more youngsters to experience Anfield and create the best atmosphere possible. Every game.”

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