Liverpool 3-1 Arsenal: Only three games in - but can anyone keep pace with champions?

By Phil McNultyChief football writer
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp praises new signing Diogo Jota after home debut goal

Liverpool have taken just three games to make it clear that every single point dropped by their rivals will be a wound to any hopes they harbour of taking the Premier League title away from Anfield.

Jurgen Klopp's champions have used two of their opening three matches to impose their iron will on Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and Arsenal here at Anfield, already establishing themselves as the team to beat with the season in still in its infancy.

Manchester City, rightly, are regarded as the side most likely to mount a challenge to Liverpool but old frailties and a few new ones surfaced in their embarrassing 5-2 capitulation at home to Leicester City on Sunday.

Pep Guardiola hopes he has plugged the gaps that hurt City so badly in nine league defeats last season by adding £65m Ruben Dias from Benfica to £41m signing from Bournemouth Nathan Ake at the heart of his defence.

Whether Dias is the answer remains to be seen but there is a vulnerability about City, a sense they can be got at, which simply does not exist in a Liverpool side that holds psychological as well as footballing supremacy over their opponents.

When City went behind against the Foxes they fell apart in a shambolic display. When Liverpool went behind here they flew at Arsenal, almost insulted at the perceived slight. It was not long before they were ahead.

Could anyone seriously imagine Liverpool being as vulnerable to pressure in defence as Manchester City were last season and again on Sunday? It is possible but highly unlikely - and pretty much unthinkable as any sort of regular occurrence.

Liverpool are throwing down the challenge to their rivals already. Can you live with us? Can you afford to drop any points? Each point dropped will increase the pressure.

Who can actually live with them?

Leicester City and an Everton side revitalised under the management of Carlo Ancelotti have looked superb in these opening games but it stretches realism to breaking point to suggest they will keep pace with Liverpool - this is not an insult to those two teams who have started so impressively and with such verve, simply a statement of fact.

City and Guardiola have an awful lot riding on Dias, Chelsea and Manchester United look miles off being challengers, Spurs are already falling back and Arsenal had the gulf between the sides exposed right in front of them in Monday's 3-1 win.

Kevin de Bruyne and Kyle Walker
A Pep Guardiola-managed team had never conceded five goals until Manchester City's 5-2 defeat by Leicester on Sunday

Liverpool have had three potentially hazardous opening fixtures. They faced a maverick and newly promoted Leeds United side on the opening day then met two clubs who believe they live in the same company, in Chelsea and then Arsenal.

The upshot? Nine points.

There is an irresistible drive about this Liverpool side that not only demands excellence but also a desire to chase lost causes and make amends for mistakes.

We saw it at Chelsea when Sadio Mane responded to losing possession by furiously chasing down keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, forcing him into a mistake that rewarded the Senegal striker with a goal.

And we saw it against Arsenal, with Andrew Robertson's desire to make up for a bad mistake that allowed Alexandre Lacazette to give Arsenal the lead driving him forward for a close-range finish to put Liverpool in front.

It must be stressed again that the season has barely kicked off but it is no exaggeration to suggest Liverpool's potential rivals will be looking at their start and getting a sinking feeling, even City, who looked a team full of problems (not to mention injuries) in that horrible capitulation against Leicester.

And what is more, despite suggestions of a low-key summer in the transfer market, Liverpool conducted two pieces of business with great efficiency to hugely strengthen what was already one of the most powerful squads in European football.

While the likes of Manchester United fret and flirt around the margins of the market, to the growing frustration of their supporters, unimpressed by their two opening performances this season, Liverpool did the business.

Bayern Munich's much-coveted Champions League winner Thiago Alcantara arrived to give Liverpool added control, unpredictability and passing quality in midfield while a surprise £45m move for Diogo Jota from Wolverhampton Wanderers has already reaped rewards.

Thiago, along with captain Jordan Henderson, was absent here with what was described as "a minor injury issue" but showed what he can bring in 45 minutes at Chelsea.

Here it was the turn of Jota, who packed plenty into a 10-minute cameo as a substitute for man-of-the-match Mane.

The 23-year-old Portugal forward ended one dangerous run by shooting wide, should have scored with one chance when he hit the side-netting, and had another taken off his toe rather selfishly by Mohamed Salah before eventually firing a low finish past Arsenal keeper Bernd Leno to confirm Liverpool's win.

Not bad for starters. And in just 10 minutes.

Liverpool moved into second place three games into the season. And even after only those three fixtures, it is a brave individual who would bet against them finishing first.

Klopp's team look that ominous.

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