By Toby Davis
LONDON (Reuters) - A five-point lead at the top of the Premier League should have been enough to put a smile on Arsene Wenger's face, yet it was the convincing manner of Saturday's 2-0 victory over Liverpool that most pleased the Arsenal manager.
On the back of home defeats to Chelsea in the League Cup and Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League, a third successive reverse at their Emirates Stadium would have put meat on the bone of Arsenal's doubters, who have questioned their ability to sustain their position at the summit.
As it was, they dominated possession and territory and stifled the Merseysiders' much-vaunted attacking talent, coming out on top thanks to superb strikes from Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey to move them to 25 points from their opening 10 games.
"We needed to respond today, because after the Chelsea game, it was important to convince people that we can win these big games; and to win it in a convincing way is even more important," Wenger told reporters.
"I am always confident, but of course there is a long way to go. Today it was an important win for the team and the club, nobody would dispute we deserved to win this game.
"It was vital to win, I said it before the game, had we not won today, people would say Arsenal cannot win at home the big games, it was done in a convincing way, with good solidarity and good focus."
While Liverpool, who now sit third five points adrift of the leaders and behind Chelsea on goal difference, had chances to claw a foothold in the match, the result looked almost forgone from the minute Cazorla followed up his own header against the post to volley them in front after 19 minutes.
A tactical change from Liverpool that introduced Philippe Coutinho from the bench at halftime briefly injected life into their efforts at the start of the second half, but Ramsey's stunning goal 14 minutes after the re-start crushed any lingering spirit.
The Wales midfielder collected a pass from Olivier Giroud and let fly with a right-footed thunderbolt past Liverpool keeper Simon Mignolet for his sixth league goal of a prolific campaign for the playmaker.
The result prompted Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers to reiterate that his side have a long way to go before they can sustain a genuine title challenge.
"It was a game they deserved to win, they had the greater control of the game," he said.
"They are five points clear but there is a hell of a long way to go. I said assess the league after ten games and we have made an excellent start.
"But that was a disappointing result for us. I look at the squads and that which is around us, teams that have been in the Champions League for a number of years, I can't ask anymore from the players because they are pushing everything into every game, but tonight, Arsenal's ability and quality won them through...
"I have always said we have a long way to go before we can compete consistently...
"People will look at it and maybe be a bit more realistic in terms of where we are at. For us the ambition is to be up there, to be in that top four and that's a challenge for us. We are ready to take on the challenge."
(Editing by Rex Gowar)