LIVERPOOL, England (Reuters) - Liverpool crushed Arsenal 5-1 to move nine points clear at the top of the Premier League on Saturday but manager Juergen Klopp still would not get involved in any talk of winning the title.
Second-placed Tottenham Hotspur’s surprise defeat at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers allowed Liverpool to extend their lead by three points although Manchester City, who are 10 points off the pace, could cut the gap with a win at Southampton on Sunday.
Liverpool will, however, have an opportunity to take points off City when they play Pep Guardiola’s side at the Etihad on Thursday in what is the biggest game of the season so far.
Tiring of media questions about the title race, Klopp said he was wary of falling into the trap of talking up his team’s chances with 18 games of the 38-match campaign remaining.
“I’m not the smartest person in the world but I’m really not an idiot. It’s not important how many points you are ahead in December... If we drop three points the next headline will be: ‘Are they nervous?’” the German told reporters.
Asked to reflect on 2018, which has seen Liverpool finish as Champions League runners-up and now go unbeaten in the league to become the title favourites, Klopp said it was “not too bad.
“The boys have made a big step but it’s important to show it’s a positive process. In 2018 I have nothing to moan about,” he added.
The ex-Borussia Dortmund coach was pleased with his side’s reaction when they went a goal down to Arsenal after 11 minutes but he was particularly satisfied with Mohamed Salah’s decision to give a second-half penalty opportunity to Roberto Firmino.
The Brazilian had scored twice in the first half and, having never managed a hat-trick for the Merseyside club, Salah’s gesture allowed Firmino to complete his triple.
“Mo Salah gave the penalty to Bobby and I almost cried because we all know how much Mo wants to score goals. It was really nice,” said Klopp.
Liverpool’s Scottish left-back Andy Robertson, who received huge applause when he was taken off in the second half after another outstanding display, said all the focus was now on the trip to the Etihad.
“It is a huge one (that) everyone in the squad has been looking at. But in December we’ve knocked the games off one by one and we’ve now got a healthy lead. We look forward to it. We will rest now and prepare for that game,” he said.
Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Ken Ferris