With European hopes hanging on by a wing and a prayer, Arsenal host 2019/20 Premier League champions Liverpool at the Emirates Stadium this evening.
Good day one and all.
The size of the job facing Mikel Arteta was once again laid bare for all to see during Sunday’s 2-1 North London derby defeat. Of course, with two-thirds of possession we weren’t necessarily outplayed, but it took us a wonder-strike to go a goal up, only to then just gift them both goals without reply.
With our dropped points from winning positions now at 21 for the season, a swing that could have had us up at 3rd in the league table – just one point behind Man City, it yet again raised all too familiar questions about our mental strength and character.
Be that as it may, we need to acknowledge that Mikel came in to do a repair job and not allow our frustrations to take away from the noticeable improvements since. Before the NLD loss we were on a run of five games without defeat (W4, D1) and we are still unbeaten at home in the league this calendar year.
So for me, the doomsday prophecy of us descending into mid-table mediocrity is over the top. We did well before the lock-down and always knew following the restart, especially with the congested schedule, that we were heading for a rough patch with 4 away fixtures on the bounce, bit of a breather vs Norwich only to go again for four straight league games against teams above us on the log and then, just because the football gods have a sense of humour, an FA Cup semi-final against Man City.
Our issues precedes Mikel’s arrival and I believe he’s committed and deserving of patience from the Arsenal faithful. I take encouragement from this words in his pre-match presser:
“At the end of the season we are going to have to assess where we are in terms of the club, what is the ambition and where we want to head.”
Meanwhile, Liverpool is flying as high as that bird on their crest and their fans couldn’t be more happy. However, with Jurgen Klopp now chasing the all-time English top-flight points record, things hasn’t all gone his way.
Since being crowned champions The Reds have won just two of their four games (D1, L1). And this “drop in form” is something Klopp want an improvement on, because if they are to break Man City’s 100-point haul they have to win each of their last three outings.
But whatever happens… nothing will take the shine away from their remarkable league campaign.
Arsenal will once again be without the suspended Eddie Nketiah but Mesut Özil was back in full training. However, his involvement in this game may be subject to a late fitness test; at best he could make the bench and hopefully get a cameo towards the end to give him a run before our FA Cup match at Wembley.
The Gunners haven’t beaten The Reds in all competitions since 2015. However, the visitors had to share the spoils on their last two trips to the Emirates.
Overall the expectation is that this should be a routine win for the league champs, but with Liverpool chasing a record and Arsenal needing an immediate reaction after recent slip-ups… this could be an open and very entertaining game. COYG!