Monday’s visit to Anfield offers the sternest test yet for an in-form Arsenal.
Read Mark Rowntree's Liverpool vs Arsenal preview
With a 2-1 win at the Emirates Stadium in July, Mikel Arteta’s Gunners were one of only three teams to take the prize scalp of Champions Liverpool last season.
However, their recent record at Anfield makes for dismal viewing with 3-1 (x2), 4-0 and 5-1 defeats all recorded in the Premier League since 2016-17. Monday’s clash serves to fill a hastily revised 8pm ‘prime-time’ slot on Sky Sports, with a swift return to the North West in the Carabao Cup later in the week also very much on Arteta’s radar.
The Gunners were undoubtedly a shade fortunate to take all three points in their last league game against an uber-resilient West Ham United, but make no mistake whatsoever the delight of their manager was evident in the immediate aftermath.
Arsenal were forced to demonstrate character in abundance in order to curtail the surprising attacking threat of the Hammers, a cause which possibly wasn’t made any easier tactically with Saed Kolasinac introduced to the starting line-up in place of an injured Kieran Tierney.
Eddie Nketiah was the hero off the bench, and the England under 21 striker was again on the scoresheet during the midweek victory at Leicester City. That third round Carabao Cup success was a sixth straight win (in all competitions) for the thriving
While we shouldn’t read too much into a penalty shootout win in the Community Shield, the fact that Arsenal (22) have collected just a single point fewer than their high-flying opponents Liverpool (23) since emerging from lockdown is testament to the level of progress made under the stewardship of Arteta and co.
Liverpool vs Arsenal, kick-off 8pm
Liverpool haven’t fully fired yet this season despite also taking maximum points from their opening two games.
Their traditionally ‘rock-solid’ defence found shifting sands against newly-promoted Leeds United, with Man City loanee Jack Harrison skinning Trent Alexander-Arnold and Virgil Van Dijk somewhat uncharacteristically serving up a gift for Patrick Bamford.
The Reds dominated possession during the first half of their second game at Stamford Bridge before Andreas Christensen saw red for a professional foul on a rampaging Sadio Mane.
After that incident late in the first half, the game was effectively ruined as a spectacle and the final outcome became all too predictable.
Klopp's tricky task
Jurgen Klopp faces the tricky task of integrating his various new signings into the first-team fold at Anfield, with Greek left-back Konstantinos Tsimikas (started against Lincoln City) likely to see far less game time than either Thiago Alcantara or £45 million winger Diogo Jota.
Former Bayern Munich man Thiago slotted seamlessly into the middle of the park (replaced Jordan Henderson) for the second half of the Chelsea game, although it is noted that he was responsible for conceding the penalty spurned by a usually proficient Jorginho.
Jota will provide greater competition for the Mane, Sale and Firmino front-line which has arguably lacked a degree of potency by their usual high standards since the resumption of the professional game.
Arsenal have taken a combined total of nine league points (from 30) at Anfield since 2010-11, with a 2-0 win (2012-13) courtesy of goals from Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski a standout result. Such statistics highlight the gulf which has grown between the two sides over the past decade, and explain why Liverpool are 4-9 favourites for this game.
In truth a draw (18-5) would represent a positive outcome for the Gunners maintaining an unbeaten run, building further momentum
However, the stark reality is that Mikel Arteta’s men are likely to find this challenge a step or two beyond the reach of their capabilities at this particular stage of the rebuilding process.
Liverpool set an aspirational benchmark for Arteta and Arsenal, and there’s certainly no shame associated with acknowledging that most elementary of facts.
Correct Score Combination:
Liverpool to Win 1-0, 2-0 or 3-0