Premier League • England

Mikel Arteta lauds Arsenal man who was ‘a nightmare’ for Liverpool; says Klopp’s men were ‘there for the taking’

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta

Mikel Arteta has heaped praise on Arsenal winger Gabriel Martinelli following his man of the match display against Liverpool, while also claiming the Reds were ‘there for the taking’.

Arsenal shocked Liverpool by taking the lead just 58 seconds into the game. Martin Odegaard received the ball from Bukayo Saka in a good position and he played Martinelli in behind Trent Alexander-Arnold. The Brazil winger did well to finish past Alisson and net his fourth goal of the season.

Arsenal were pegged back in the 34th minute when Luis Diaz caused their centre-backs problems and put the ball across for Darwin Nunez. Liverpool’s summer signing managed to slide in and make it 1-1.

The two teams looked set to head down the tunnel with the score level. However, Saka restored Arsenal’s lead in the fifth minute of first-half injury time.

Martinelli caused Liverpool issues out wide and Alexander-Arnold left his position, allowing Martinelli to pick out Saka at the back post. The winger finished well to send Arsenal fans wild.

Roberto Firmino, who had replaced Diaz in the first half, equalised for Liverpool in the 52nd minute with a nice left-footed finish.

There was a penalty box scramble 20 minutes later and Liverpool failed to deal with it. Granit Xhaka then put a cross in and Jesus met it, where he was fouled by Thiago. The referee gave a penalty, though it did seem rather soft.

Saka stepped up and made it two goals on the day by beating Alisson with pure power.

During a post-match interview with Sky Sports (via BBC Sport), Arteta said: “There were a lot of moments and the threat they have they can open you up, but we showed a lot of composure and character.”

On Martinelli’s early goal, Arteta continued: “It was the best way to start because of the belief it generates in the stadium, so we’re really happy.

“We could not get out [before half-time] because we were not good in our build up and to play the ball inside is very difficult. We started to lose some duels and we needed to hang in there to get to half time.”

Mikel Arteta reacts to ‘lively’ game

When asked about his half-time team talk, Arteta revealed how he told his players Liverpool were ‘there for the taking’.

“It was lively but we wanted to give confidence and tell them the game was there for the taking,” the manager said. “[In the second-half] the organisation was better, the timing of the press, we won every second ball.

“I was really happy. You are always in doubt with the changes and how many players they were putting on our last line but the players dealt with it with a lot of maturity and composure.”

When quizzed about Martinelli’s performance, the Spaniard labelled him ‘phenomenal’ and ‘a nightmare’.

“When you see where he is a year ago from when he played against Brentford to where he is today is phenomenal,” Arteta said. “But it is his desire to train hard every day. It is a nightmare to play against him and we know we have a real threat up front.”

Arteta also spoke about Saka’s winning penalty, adding: “He practices every day but it’s different in training when we put him under pressure to here today but credit to the boy, especially with what happened a year ago.”

Arsenal goalscorer happy with ‘special’ victory

After the win, Saka said: “In the past two or three years, Liverpool have been a team we have struggled against. To win in front of our fans is special and it shows how much we are progressing.

“It gives us more confidence because they are a fantastic team and we have a lot of respect for them. I feel like we deserved to lead at half-time so to get that goal was crucial. I want to score more now.”

On his penalty, Saka added: “I had what I was going to do in my mind and I stuck with it.”

Martinelli was interviewed alongside Saka. The attacker said: “It means a lot for us. We have been working hard and we deserve the win and we need to keep going because the season is long and we want to achieve good things.

“We are running for each other and we are a family, everyone is on their toes and we deserved the win.

“It doesn’t matter your age, it’s your heart and how much you want to achieve in football and life. That is the most important thing. We need to believe and go game by game trying to win all of them.”

Meanwhile, Arsenal are reportedly in ‘advanced talks’ as they try to tie down a rising star to a new contract.