Liverpool closed the gap on Manchester City at the top of the Premier League to just one point by beating Arsenal on Wednesday but Gabriel Martinelli was one of the stars of the night.
The Reds travelled to the Emirates knowing they could pile the pressure on Pep Guardiola’s side after they were held to a goalless draw with Crystal Palace on Monday and after a tough first half Liverpool took advantage.
Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino scored the crucial goals for Liverpool, who could overtake Man City when the pair meet at the Etihad after the international break. It was Jota’s fifth goal in three visits to the Emirates, one of his favourite away grounds.
However, it wasn’t just Liverpool stars on display. Despite losing, Arsenal forward Martinelli was praised by those watching on, neutrals, pundits and even his opponents.
Speaking after the game to BBC Match of the Day, Klopp admitted he needed to put two players to keep Martinelli quiet: “Mo Salah said he was fine but you still need to try him in training and we had a full session with the other boys so we stuck to that.
“It was clear he would come on. He was very lively and kept Kieran Tierney quiet. That helped Trent Alexander-Arnold, who was exceptional. Gabriel Martinelli, you need two at least. Sensational game for Andy Robertson too.”
It’s not the first time Klopp has spoken highly of Martinelli, with the Liverpool boss saying in 2019: “He’s really unbelievable. So young, looks so mature already, is a proper threat. Yeah, he looks like a really decent player.
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“But I didn’t want to put any backpack [pressure] on his back with this thing [his earlier remarks] but I just really like good football players and obviously he’s a very good one.”
Klopp went on to praise Alexander-Arnold for his work in defending against Martinelli in Wednesday’s win, telling Sky Sports: “Obviously both teams had spells of possession where the other team was patient and didn’t want to step out, but we had to.
“Trent did exceptionally well against Gabriel Martinelli. If anybody tells me Trent can’t defend, I’ll knock them down. I don’t know what the boy has to do anymore.”
However, Gary Neville didn’t exactly agree with Klopp, believing Martinelli had been getting the upper hand over Alexander-Arnold in parts.
“He’s got Alexander-Arnold on toast,” said Neville during Sky Sports coverage. “It’s absolutely outstanding from Martinelli.
“He’s got a bit of the Pires about him. That run was Pires-like.”
Martinelli never stopped running at Liverpool and looked like Arsenal’s best route to goal, completing all three of his take-on attempts, having six touches in the opposition box and four passes into the opposition box.
While it was not enough to get Arsenal any points against Liverpool, they remain in control of the race for the Premier League’s top four, one clear of Manchester United with two games in hand.