Wenger backs Liverpool to improve

Arsene Wenger still believes shattered Liverpool can be a force again this season, once they have regained their broken confidence.

Wenger's Arsenal hit back from a goal down at the break to win yesterday's crunch Barclays Premier League clash 2-1 at Anfield.

It means Liverpool have won just three of their last 15 games and have suffered a double humiliation of Champions League exit and domestic defeat in five days on their own ground.

Gunners boss Wenger said: "Liverpool are a good side and when they find their confidence they can beat anyone in the league.

"They have Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard back, Alberto Aquilani will get fitter and many teams will drop points at Anfield.

"They played in the first half with an impressive level of performance."

Wenger's praise is scant reward for Liverpool, who fell apart in the second half after Glen Johnson's own goal put Arsenal level following Dirk Kuyt's first-half opener.

Andrey Arshavin then cracked a stunning winner as Wenger's verbal broadside at half-time had the desired effect.

Captain Cesc Fabregas revealed that Wenger was so angry that he told them "they didn't deserve to wear the shirt".

That was enough to galvanise Arsenal into a victory to send them back to third place in the table, six points behind leaders Chelsea with a game in hand.

Wenger said: "I will not explain what I said at half-time. I will only say that Liverpool dominated the first half and Arsenal dominated the second period.

"Liverpool played at a pace above us and won all the 50-50s in the first period, and at half-time a score of just 1-0 down was good for us.

"I never speak about what I say at half-time. You respond to what you believe your team needs. I try to be composed. I was quite composed.

"But it is good that, after 13 years as manager, I can still surprise the players like that."

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez was angry that referee Howard Webb denied his side a penalty early on.

He said: "It would have been so much different had we been awarded that penalty (when William Gallas tripped Gerrard).

"It does not matter whether the ball has gone away from the player, it is still a penalty if you foul him and bring him down. These decisions can make a massive difference.

"We paid for not making the most of our first-half dominance. It is hard to explain after we were on top of them so much.

"Torres had a great chance, we were denied a clear penalty when Gerrard was brought down and then everything changes when we give away an own goal at the beginning of the second period.

"It was difficult to explain after we were playing so well.

"But the players have suffered so many problems this season, it is hard to keep their heads up when they suffer yet another one like the own goal."

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