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Most intense game for 20 years, says Arteta after Arsenal draw at Anfield

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Premier League - Liverpool v Arsenal - Anfield, Liverpool, Britain - December 23, 2023 Liverpool's Darwin Nunez in action with Arsenal's William Saliba REUTERS/Carl Recine Acquire Licensing Rights

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta described Arsenal’s 1-1 draw with Liverpool as one of the most intense games in decades on Saturday as the north Londoners’ long wait for a league victory at Anfield continued.

Gabriel’s early headed goal gave Arsenal hope of a first league win at Liverpool since 2012 but Mohammed Salah struck a superb equaliser before halftime.

Arteta’s side finished strongly but could not force a winner, although they will head into Christmas with a one-point lead over Liverpool and Aston Villa at the top of the table.

The Spaniard said ahead of the clash that playing at Anfield was like being in a washing machine and he was not to be disappointed in a high-octane duel.

“An unbelievable game of football, one of the most intense I’ve witnessed in 20 years in this league,” Arteta said.

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“For many moments we were on top, in the last 20 minutes we wanted it more, but a draw is a fair result.

“To see our boys have the courage and belief to play like we have done here I think our players deserve big, big credit.”

Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp was effusive in his praise for Arsenal, while Arteta said Liverpool caused chaos.

“We were determined to attack and cause them problems. They are a team who cause chaos, they are so vertical and direct. They are the best in the world at doing that,” Arteta said.

“It was an unbelievable game of football with two teams that raised the bar to another level.”

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Arsenal will spend Christmas Day top for the second successive season, although they may have been knocked off their perch before they play again on Thursday.

Liverpool and Aston Villa, who are one point behind, are both in action on Tuesday.

“I’m happy to be where we are. Tomorrow we have a beautiful dinner with our families, then back to work,” Arteta said.

While Arsenal have won five of their last seven league games, Arteta said they still need to improve if they are to stay ahead in a tight title battle.

“Yeah of course there are certain things that we have to improve. Especially killing games,” he said.

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“Sometimes the results have been too close. But we have showed a good level with five key players out. That’s something we have to maintain.”

Liverpool counted the cost of their point with left back Kostas Tsimikas suffering a suspected broken collarbone, while Klopp was also left frustrated about his side not being awarded a penalty for an apparent handball by Martin Odegaard.

“I am pretty sure someone will come to explain it to me why it was not a handball but I don’t know how?,” Klopp said.

“I don’t say that the ref can see it because I don’t know where he was in that moment. But how can a guy in an office see that and not come to the conclusion that maybe, possibly it could be worth the referee having another look?”

-Reuters

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Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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