One of the standout fixtures of the Premier League season will take place on Saturday evening when Liverpool welcome Arsenal to Anfield.
Just one place and two points separate the two sides in the table, with Liverpool sitting fourth and Arsenal fifth after 11 games of the campaign.
At the end of August, one would have been given long odds for Arsenal having the chance to leapfrog Liverpool in the table when the two sides met in gameweek 12.
At that stage, the Gunners sat rock-bottom having lost all three of their games, conceding nine times without registering once themselves in the process, while Liverpool had taken seven points from a possible nine and conceded only once.
Fast forward to the present day and the Premier League picture has changed significantly; for Liverpool, that is largely down to a two-game winless streak before the international break, including their first defeat of the season last time out.
A 3-2 loss to West Ham United on November 7 ended their 20-game unbeaten streak in the top flight, and a 25-game undefeated run across all competitions which stretched back to April.
The 2-2 draw with Brighton & Hove Albion which preceded the West Ham defeat was also a major blow as Jurgen Klopp’s side threw away a two-goal lead, with those two results leaving the Reds now four points adrift of leaders Chelsea.
It is by no means panic stations for Klopp and co just yet – they are after all still the league’s highest scorers, while only Chelsea and Manchester City can boast better defensive records – but there have been one or two worrying signs in recent weeks, which was not the case in the earlier stages of the campaign.
An immediate return to winning ways is imperative for Liverpool then, and the fact that they have already secured top spot in a difficult Champions League group means that they can pay Saturday’s showdown their full attention, rather than having one eye on Porto’s visit on Wednesday.
That is particularly important considering Liverpool’s growing injury concerns, which were exacerbated during the international break.
The Merseysiders do now have three home games in a row before the short trip to Goodison Park for the derby on December 1, which will come as welcome news for a team unbeaten in their last 13 games at Anfield, including nine in the Premier League.
Klopp’s men have dropped points from winning positions in their last two such matches, though – consecutive 2-2 draws with Man City and Brighton – while they have only won two of their five home league games so far this season, drawing the other three.
That should give Arsenal confidence for the trip up to Anfield, although they are unlikely to need any more of that given their fine form heading into the international break.
Liverpool’s defeat at West Ham means that the Gunners now boast the longest current unbeaten run in the Premier League, taking 20 points from the 24 on offer since those three defeats to start the season.
The eight-game run makes for Arsenal’s longest undefeated streak since December 2018, while in all competitions that record improves to eight wins and two draws from their last 10.
Mikel Arteta’s side have kept seven clean sheets in that time too, including three in a row before the break, and in their last 10 games combined they have conceded fewer goals than they did in their 5-0 defeat at Man City before this current run began.
All of that has catapulted Arsenal right back into the top-four race, and despite still only having a goal difference of 0 – 20 worse than Saturday’s opponents – a victory at the weekend would be enough to lift them into the Champions League places for the first time since October 2020.
The main concern for the Gunners this weekend may well be their record against Liverpool in recent seasons; Liverpool have lost just one of their 11 Premier League meetings with Arsenal since Klopp took charge, winning seven of those.
Most of those wins have been convincing too, particularly at Anfield, where Liverpool have won five on the bounce against Arsenal, scoring at least three times in all of those matches.
You have to go back to September 1981 to January 1988 for the last time Liverpool had a longer winning run at home to Arsenal in the top flight, with the styles of both teams playing into Klopp’s hands far more often than they have Arsenal’s in recent years.
That said, Arsenal have kept a clean sheet in six of their last nine top-flight away games, including three in a row, and another on Saturday would be their best run since May 2005.
Arteta’s side now look like a much more organised outfit than the one that was humiliated by Man City on matchday three, and this weekend’s trip to Anfield will give them the perfect opportunity to show just how far they have come in that time.
Liverpool Premier League form:
Liverpool form (all competitions):
Arsenal Premier League form:
Arsenal form (all competitions):
We say: Liverpool 3-1 Arsenal
Arsenal fans will not have always been confident travelling to Anfield in recent years given their poor record against the Reds, but this time around they are in fine form and may fancy their chances of picking up a result.
However, this fixture always seems to suit itself well to Klopp’s Liverpool, and the league’s leading scorers usually help themselves to a few goals against Arsenal too.
The Gunners do have the weapons to hurt a Liverpool defence which looked a little shaky before the international break, but we are backing the hosts to return to winning ways this weekend, particularly as their injury troubles do not look quite as bad as first feared.