Arsenal have played two of the top teams in the Premier League this season. They lost to both. The Gunners have since gone unbeaten in 12 matches and sit fourth in the table, but not everyone is convinced they are “for real.”
A popular narrative heading into Saturday’s match at the Emirates against Liverpool is that this game is a measuring stick, a chance to see how far Arsenal have come under Unai Emery, and the first true test for the Gunners since the Manchester City and Chelsea matches.
But is it really all those things?
Liverpool are a great team (they’re currently tied for first in the table) and will give Arsenal all (or maybe more) than they can handle. Given the Gunners’ current injury woes, I see this match almost as a throwaway. A draw would be a perfectly good result, and a loss, even a lopsided one, won’t trouble me all that much.
In the injury update on Arsenal.com, Nacho Monreal, Sead Kolasinac, Hector Bellerin, and Sokratis were all listed as being “assessed ahead of the match.” That’s three of Arsenal’s starting four defenders. Even if they can play, I doubt they will be at full speed. Against Liverpool’s pacey, relentless attack, that is not a recipe for success. The Gunners will also be without Matteo Guendouzi, who is serving a suspension for picking up two yellows in the Carabao Cup tie with Blackpool.
Liverpool will be without Naby Keita and Jordan Henderson for Saturday’s match. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is out long-term with a knee injury.
While I’m not approaching Saturday’s match as a referendum on Arsenal thus far, I am going to be watching a few things closely. I’m interested to see what, if any, adjustments Unai Emery makes. Emery is known as a tactician who specifically tailors formations and strategy for each opponent. What aspects of Liverpool’s attack will he try to take away? How will he set up Arsenal to break down the Liverpool defense? Whose role in the side will shift?
I will also be watching Lucas Torreira closely - if Arsenal are going to get a result, it will likely depend on his play. The Uruguayan will have his hands full shielding a somewhat cobbled together Arsenal back line from Liverpool’s attacking threat. Torreira has been impressive so far this season - how will he fare against, arguably, the best offense in the Premier League?
Finally, a key matchup to keep an eye on is Alex Iwobi against Liverpool left back Andrew Robertson. The 24-year old Scot has blossomed into an important part of the Liverpool attack but is not necessarily known for his defensive prowess. With how well Iwobi has been playing lately, the Nutmeg Prince might be able to find some joy running at him.
WHAT: Arsenal vs. Liverpool
WHERE: The Emirates
WHEN: Saturday, November 3rd, 10:30 AM PT | 1:30 PM ET | 5:30 PM BT
US TV: NBC. Stream here.
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