LONDON — Goalkeeper Bernd Leno has told ESPN FC that Arsenal’s performance against Liverpool shows they can play with the Premier League’s best teams.
The Gunners drew 1-1 against Jurgen Klopp’s side on Saturday after Alexandre Lacazette’s late goal cancelled out a strike by James Milner in a crowd-pleasing heavyweight clash at the Emirates.
It was Arsenal’s first point against a top-four rival this season after opening the campaign with losses to Manchester City and Chelsea,
Asked by Raphael Honigstein for ESPN FC what Saturday’s test meant for the club, Leno said: “That we can take on the big ones. That we can dominate the big ones.
“I believe we were the better side today and that’s how we must continue. We have difficult matches ahead of us. Wolves next week, probably a whole different match. But you could see that they recognise what we play. Liverpool had a lot of respect. They didn’t dare to go all in on the pressing. I believe this, in any case, must give us courage.”
Coach Unai Emery said he felt the display was a big step forward for his side.
“Today was a test of how we are against a team like Liverpool. After City, after Chelsea, maybe today we are more near in our performance to be in front of them. But we need this quality in every match,” Emery said.
“Of these three matches [against top teams], I think today is a more complete game for us. … We need more. We need more in our work, tactically also. But today the spirit is like the spirit we want. And the atmosphere today is a very big atmosphere. The supporters were pushing for 90 minutes, today I think was a good spectacle for every supporter, for them, for us, and also for football.”
Arsenal shook off their habit of getting off to slow starts in games as they came out attacking from the start and had the lion’s share of chances in the first half — although Liverpool often looked dangerous on counters and hit the post through Virgil van Dijk before the break, while Sadio Mane’s goal was questionably ruled out for offside.
After shaky goalkeeping from Leno allowed Milner to put the visitors ahead, substitute Alex Iwobi helped Arsenal fight back as he set up Lacazette’s goal with a clever through-ball.
Of the Liverpool goal, Leno, whose diving intervention of a dangerous cross placed the ball at Milner’s feet, told ESPN FC: “It’s a bit unfortunate. For a goalie it’s a bit like getting the s— of the stick. You stay away, the guy at the back scores, maybe nobody will blame you. If you go into it and the one in the middle scores, all say parry in another way.
“It’s not that easy in this situation because I completely tried to get there. You can’t really say where it’ll go, and then the ball falls flat on Milner’s feet. And that’s the goal.”
Leno called the pulsating encounter a “wicked match” that lived up to his image of Premier League football and credited Arsenal supporters for their part in the home side’s coming-from-behind effort.
“It shows a bit the squad’s character right now, also of the fans,” he said of the fight Arsenal showed. “I don’t know how things were in the past. But at the beginning of the season, you had the feeling the fans become very uneasy, but the fans immediately pushed us forward.
“Every player feels that, and there was this feeling after the 1-0 we could still win the match. We scored 10 minutes from time. Every player wanted to win it. It didn’t work, sadly. But the atmosphere and the character of the team right now is very good.”
Emery praised Iwobi’s impact off the bench but also challenged the midfielder to become more of a scoring threat.
“We need every player. The characteristic each player has is important, and Iwobi can impact on the match,” Emery said.
“His energy also is important, and his quality. But he can improve, he can do better also. Because he scored against Chelsea, and I want him to be more in the box, to have more chances to score. And he can. He’s very young and he’s improving but also with the ambition [that] he can do more.”
Emery also avoided a question about a possible European Super League, after reports that the continent’s top clubs — including Arsenal — have held talks about a possible breakaway competition.
When asked what he thinks about the idea of a Super League, Emery said: “I don’t know, exactly. Maybe it’s a discussion that is bigger and needs more time for people in the football world to explain together, which is the best competition in the world. It’s a discussion that I think is more big and deep.”