European champions Liverpool take on Europa League finalists Arsenal in what is widely expected to be an entertaining clash at Anfield over the weekend.
The Reds carry a perfect record into the third matchday of the Premier League, keeping stride with Arsenal at the top of the pile.
Both teams have taken six points from a possible six, making this an early opportunity for Jurgen Klopp‘s side to take the psychological advantage by pulling ahead of the embryonic title-race pack.
After his side’s win against Burnley, Arsenal defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos suggested the Gunners’ next game against the Premier League leaders may be slightly easier.
Theoretically that should see Arsenal’s fans travelling to Anfield on Saturday in good spirits, unfortunately, the statistics beg to differ.
Arsenal have conceded 22 goals in their last six games at Anfield, most recently a 5-1 defeat last season.
A further trip down memory lane shows this fixture, in general, has recently been a nightmare venue for the Gunners.
Last season they lost 5-1. The season before that it was 4-0 to Liverpool, the season before that it was 3-1.
Though there were a couple of high-scoring draws sandwiched in between, a stalemate always felt like a “win” for Arsenal and disappointment for Liverpool.
The absolute standout horror show as far as Arsenal were concerned was a 5-1 drubbing on Brendan Rodgers’ watch in 2014 when Luis Suárez, Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge ran riot to such an extent the visitors barely dared to cross the halfway line after the first half-hour.
Although this is a “different” looking Arsenal now and there is growing optimism the Gunners can leave Anfield on a positive note this weekend.
Arsenal have improved a bit defensively but it will take time. There are still some shaky doubts at the back.
David Luiz could make mistakes or he could have a man-of-the-match performance. Sokratis doesn’t look assured enough and they are still vulnerable in the full-back areas.
Liverpool are strong favourites, but there is some intrigue in seeing Arsenal try and take on Liverpool’s defence at the moment, especially with Adrian in goal instead of Alisson and the presence of extra firepower in the Gunners record signing Nicolas Pepe.
The Premier League is still just in the early stages and it is too premature to assume where the fate of any side lies. But ultimately, this is a key fixture with many implications lying in wait.
Let’s take a look at how this fixture could potentially play some part in influencing the title race.
A win for Liverpool
On paper, this seems like the most likely option. A 4-0 scoreline or a 3-1 scoreline in favour of Liverpool will honestly not shock anyone.
What this will mean though, should Liverpool go on to win the game is that they have taken the first “big step” in the title race.
For all of their rich attacking potents, a lot of top pundits still believe the Reds were a “fluke” last season and don’t have enough steam this time around to go neck to neck with City like they did last term.
A win and even better a heavy win will help squash such notions early on. Also, the fact that Liverpool are currently without Alisson means if they win they have all bragging rights to say they did it without arguably their most “irreplaceable” player on the pitch.
The manner of both Liverpool wins this season have been questionable and a win against Arsenal, their first “real” threat, assumably, will go a long way to boost the morale of Klopp’s men and could be the igniting factor that gets them back to their dominating best.
A win for Arsenal
The Premier League always likes a surprise and a win for the Gunners at Anfield will be the perfect example of that.
Though Arsenal are looking “different”, the weak-links defensively are still evident and they will be wary of the likes of Salah and Mane exploiting them.
However, a win for the Gunners brings a potentially interesting twist to the title race.
Firstly, a win against Liverpool will mean Arsenal will go top with at least two points regardless of other results this weekend. The early stay at the top, even if it’s for a short while will go along way in bringing a good feel factor back to the club.
The mentality and ambitions of the Arsenal squad have been questioned and a win over Liverpool sends a clear message the Gunners are indeed a refreshed side and are ready for a spot back in the Champions League or even better.
On the part of the new signings, they will feel the victory also hinges on their addition to the side and a morale booster for the likes of Nicolas Pepe and David Luiz can go all the way to re-define the Arsenal squad.
On the part of Liverpool, a defeat to Arsenal will see lots of people questioning their ambitions and a major criticism from a lot of their fans (considering they are the European Champions). The players could lose a lot of morale and it could be all City need to make the title-race one-way traffic.
Arsenal take on fierce rivals Tottenham after the Liverpool game so Emery will be hoping his side take some positive momentum going into that game.
The Reds face stern opponents In Burnley but in all honesty, it’s a more straight-forward tie compared to that of Arsenal.
Giving Liverpool the advantage in the sense that they can afford to offload full fire-power against the Gunners and rotate their squad against the Clarets in a fortnight.
It might just be matchday three but the clash between both sides could go a long way in determining both their seasons and potentially the title race as well.