Both Arsenal and Liverpool are flying high with success and momentum blowing in their wings; the result of hard work and meticulous planning from their visionary managers.
So far this season, Arsenal have actually gathered more points than Liverpool including all competitions. The Gunners have collected 37 points from 15 games, Liverpool have 32 from 14 – although the Reds have met significantly tougher opponents in the Champions League.
The two surging teams usually clash hard against each other, having played 3-3, 0-4, 1-3, 3-4 and 3-3 in their last five meetings. It tends to be as chaotic as a Mad Max melee. A historically bloody fight of two teams that want to fly as high as possible – the burning sun is the only thing that can stop them.
Emery and his staff will have worked overtime preparing their famous tactical presentations before this match-up, as there are lots of issues to address.
What to look out for
Liverpool hits the ground running, Arsenal really don’t, as Emery has admitted himself.
Considering the Reds’ explosive attack and new-found defensive stability, Arsenal can’t afford not to do the same. The Gunners might have managed to come from 0-2 behind to a 3-3 draw against Liverpool back in December 2017, but that won’t happen now that Klopp has finally put the finishing touches on his once shaky defence.
Talking about shaky defences: Arsenal’s dubious backline. The Gunners have conceded 17 goals in 15 games this season and the individual performances from most defenders have been fluctuating. What’s more, Monreal, Kolasinac, Sokratis and Bellerin are all “questionable” to start the game. A backline of Maitland-Niles or Jenkinson, Holding, Mustafi and Lichsteiner up against Salah, Firmino and Mane is a terrifying thought indeed. Liverpool have only conceded nine in 14 games, four in the league.
Both teams’ strengths and best players are in attack, and goals have not been scarce between them this season. Arsenal are averaging 2.46 goals per game so far and Liverpool are averaging 2. With no injuries to star attackers for either team, Saturday’s clash should be a bloody one (again).
The hype around Liverpool is justified in numbers, but also considering they are at the apex of Klopp’s time at the club. Having had the time and resources to build his empire, this is the season for the German to show how far he can go in the Premier League. This cannot be said about Emery’s Arsenal, which is just getting started, where Klopp was three years ago (with worse results than Emery I’ll add).
Additionally, Liverpool have had more time to prepare, as they didn’t play in the Carabao Cup this midweek and played a day earlier last weekend than Arsenal.
A game of statements
Emery’s sideline coaching during the game, most likely an explosively eventful affair in which improvisation will be needed, will be pivotal. Everything will be up in the air as the whistle blows and everything will come down fast, Emery needs to stand ready.
A win, or an even draw, for Arsenal will prove great short-term progress but also legitimise Emery’s talent and work so far at Arsenal. It will be his biggest game yet at Arsenal, and a great chance to make a statement that the Gunners haven’t been lucky or overperforming this season – and take a big step into the warmth of the top four. For Arsenal to get a positive result, however, Emery will have to address the main issues so far this season: the poor starts and stabilising the defence.
A Liverpool win is most likely, but Klopp will feel the pressure as well. This is the season for him to prove his long-term ambitions for Liverpool are fruitful, while the momentum from the last year is still blowing in their wings.