Liverpool and Arsenal met on the opening day of the Premier League in a match that was filled with energy, enthusiasm and electricity. Just around seven months later, both teams are in a similar state of mind and form. The managers too are under the microscope for their questionable efforts even though Wenger has undertaken far more scrutiny.
The Reds have been flat on too many occasions this year and have been held by the likes of Plymouth, Wolves, Swansea, Hull and Leicester, who were performing woefully till they faced Klopp’s men. The upside for Liverpool is that they have managed to draw against the top teams they have faced this calendar year as well, extracting a point against Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester United in between the struggle. They have reason to be positive against Arsenal as well.
The Gunners have only managed to win against a top-six side this season back in September when they beat current league leaders Chelsea. They’re also not in great form with three losses in the last five games in all competitions. To get a result against Liverpool, Arsenal should ideally play like the “smaller” teams do – pack the defence, sit back and let Liverpool have the ball. It is unlikely, though, with the presence of attackers like Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, that Arsenal decide to approach the game in that manner.
It is a key match for both the managers, who alarmingly enough, look short of answers in recent weeks. Both sides are in very similar positions. Both are exquisite to watch when on song, and flat and lacklustre while being frustrated.
A lot is at stake when these two teams take each other on, with both carrying the risk of missing out on a place in the top four. Manchester United are in the sixth place, just a point behind Liverpool and can leapfrog Liverpool as well as Arsenal with a win earlier in the day against struggling Bournemouth. Even though there are still more than ten matches left to be played, the result of this game can put a lot of pressure on either of the two managers. A win, however, can put Liverpool a bit on track as they prepare for the remaining season, only focused on the Premier League and with the goal of finishing in the top 4. Three points for Arsenal at Anfield would also give them some confidence for the second leg fixture against Bayern Munich.
This weekend’s game certainly promises great entertainment, considering the teams involved. With so much at stake, both managers need to get their tactics spot on and also provide more flexibility in their particular approach to the game. Too often, Wenger and Klopp’s stubbornness has cost them the match.
Chelsea are the overwhelming favourites for the title, but Arsenal have to show their grit and capability of at least fighting it out. They have to do this with their manager’s future along with star player Alexis Sanchez’ future at Arsenal in considerable doubt. Meanwhile, Liverpool went from being “title challengers” to “struggling for a Champions League berth next season” in a span of a few weeks. What adds to their woes is a staggering lack of depth and a manager who looks clueless in his endeavour to overturn the rot.
It will be tough.