Tonight sees a major clash in the Premier League between two of the competition’s giants – champions Liverpool and Arsenal.
Mikel Arteta’s Gunners have gotten off to a tremendous start in their 2020-21 Premier League campaign, dispatching of both Fulham and West Ham United. But the Reds promise to be a very different proposition for them.
Jurgen Klopp’s reigning champions have also won their first two games, beating Leeds United and most recently, Chelsea.
But can Arsenal spring a Premier League upset and defeat the champions? Here are five reasons why they could.
#1 Arteta is 2-0 against Klopp
Since his arrival in the Premier League back in October 2015, Jurgen Klopp has completely transformed Liverpool’s fortunes. Not only has he guided them to their first Premier League title – their first league title in 30 years – but he even led them to the top of the mountain in Europe when they won the Champions League in 2019.
The German boss is undeniably one of the greatest managers in the modern game. He’s overcome clubs managed by fellow greats like Jose Mourinho, Mauricio Pochettino and Pep Guardiola in Premier League action. But has he met his match in the form of Mikel Arteta?
The Gunners boss is highly inexperienced at the top level, as the Arsenal job is his first in management after years coaching under Guardiola. However, in a short period of time, he’s already overseen plenty of change at Arsenal, and the effect has been tremendous.
One of these effects? Arteta’s Gunners have beaten Klopp’s Liverpool on both occasions that they’ve faced off. The most recent match between the two was the Community Shield this past August and saw Arsenal win a penalty shoot-out after the game finished 1-1.
So does Arteta have a psychological advantage over Klopp? Well, there’s no denying that his side has been the superior one both times they’ve faced off thus far. That means that this is a challenge Klopp hasn’t faced in the Premier League before – and so it could give Arsenal an advantage tonight.
#2 Their last Premier League meeting was won by Arsenal
As was previously mentioned, Arteta is already 2-0 in matches against Klopp’s Liverpool. However, while the Community Shield is little more than a glorified friendly, a lot more can be taken from the Gunners’ Premier League victory over the Reds in July.
At that point, Liverpool were still chasing the 100-point mark, but needed to win all three of their remaining games in order to reach it. However, despite opening the scoring early through Sadio Mane, some uncharacteristic defensive errors allowed Arsenal back into the game.
First, Alexandre Lacazette took advantage of a poor back-pass from Virgil van Dijk to equalise, and then shortly after, Reiss Nelson capitalised on a bad clearance from Alisson to score the winner.
But the fascinating thing about Arsenal’s win at the Emirates was the way in which they achieved it. Arteta’s side only had 31% of the possession and scored with their only two shots on target. Liverpool, meanwhile, took 24 shots, but only managed eight on target and simply couldn’t break Arsenal’s defence down.
Naturally, on another day the Reds could’ve won this game. But the fact is that the majority of the Premier League’s defences simply folded under Liverpool’s pressure during 2019-20. The Gunners, on the other hand, absolutely refused to fold.
If Arteta comes into tonight’s match with the same gameplan and his players follow the same backs-to-the-wall mantra, there’s every chance they can spring an upset again and come away with the win.
#3 Liverpool’s defence has looked vulnerable in their opening two games
In a twist of fate, in both the 2019-20 season and the current 2020-21 Premier League campaign, Liverpool’s first game was against a promoted team. But while both games – against Norwich City and Leeds United respectively – saw the Reds score four goals, the manner of their wins couldn’t have been more different.
Klopp’s side largely dismantled Norwich, exposing their defensive frailties time after time. But while they also exposed Leeds’ somewhat flimsy defence too, they also looked far more vulnerable themselves in the process.
Of Liverpool’s four defenders, only Andrew Robertson came away from the Leeds game with any true credit, as Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joe Gomez, and Virgil van Dijk all struggled badly.
It’s true that all three men are proven, top-class Premier League defenders – but with Liverpool somewhat short on cover following the departure of Dejan Lovren, Klopp ought to be worried if they’re all struggling for form at the same time.
More to the point, tonight’s game sees the Reds’ defence faced with one of the Premier League’s most dangerous forwards in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. And Arteta can also call upon other threatening attackers like Alexandre Lacazette, Eddie Nketiah, Bukayo Saka and Willian.
So can the Reds really keep them all at bay if indeed, their defence is out of form? Arteta will probably believe the answer is no – and that should give the Gunners plenty of hope.
#4 Arsenal have had a great start to the Premier League campaign
The 2020-21 Premier League campaign has already thrown up some shocking results. From Leicester’s 2-5 win over Manchester City to Crystal Palace’s upset win over Manchester United. However, one big side who have yet to wobble are Arsenal.
Sure, the Gunners have faced two of the Premier League’s strugglers – newly-promoted Fulham and West Ham, who could be seen as the competition’s crisis club. But every game in the Premier League is tough, and yet Arsenal have come through both.
More to the point, suddenly the Gunners look like a fully balanced, highly talented squad in all areas. Last season’s newcomers like Kieran Tierney and Dani Ceballos are performing well, this season’s new signings Gabriel and Willian have offered the Gunners depth they lacked before. And key man Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang looks as dangerous as ever.
To add to that, the Gunners’ academy products – the likes of Eddie Nketiah, Bukayo Saka, and Reiss Nelson – are all becoming more consistent under Arteta, and now look ready to play a much bigger role in Arsenal’s first XI.
Sure, the Gunners haven’t been tested by a top Premier League side yet, but that will change tonight. And judging by their showings so far – a one-sided win and a gritty victory that they had to dig deep for – there’s every chance that they rise to the occasion again.
#5 Liverpool have an injury crisis of sorts to deal with
If both Liverpool and Arsenal were able to call upon full-strength squads for this match, then on paper at least, you’d have to favour the Reds. However, Jurgen Klopp is probably sweating today