By Mihail Vladimirov.
This clash, the first big game of the New Year, is of huge importance to both teams.
Liverpool are yet to show a level of consistency that a team of their stature and resources should have almost by default. Both their results and performances have fluctuated too much, meaning the Reds are in a constant vicious cycle of making one step forward and one step back. Of course, the constant injuries Klopp has had to deal with since he took over is one of the big stumbling blocks, as is the fact his team have had to play every few days in the past three months (something that isn’t going to change at least for the next month and a half).
Sooner rather than later Klopp and his players will need to break the perpetual inconsistency and find their rhythm for a run of games if they are to take advantage of the fact that a Top 4 place still seems a reasonable possibility. The fixture list in the second part of the season – with all big teams all to come to Anfield – means it’s all in Liverpool’s hands.
Meanwhile, for Arsenal this game represents an opportunity to show everybody – and mainly themselves – that they are genuine title contenders. Wenger’s team has already showed everything to warrant such a label – ability to stay defensively solid, capacity to open up and score goals against various types of oppositions, tactical flexibility and a level of pragmatism to suit the different occasions that was previously unseen.
Previously, Arsenal were said to always succumb under pressure and be too mentally weak to win against the big boys. In the past couple of seasons, and especially this one, they have showed they are well on the way to overcoming this hurdle with several convincing wins against their rival teams at the Emirates. What’s still left for them to improve on is how they perform away from home against the likes of the two Manchester teams (although they won impressively at City last season), Chelsea, Tottenham, Liverpool and a couple of their ‘bogey’ teams like Stoke and Everton.
As such this game, and the next one (away at Stoke), represents a big chance for the Gunners to show this season is different. A win in both games would obviously be the best outcome for them, but avoiding soft defeats or signs that they are still unable to properly compete away from home feels really important for Wenger’s team.
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