10 matches unbeaten and three Arsenal players starting for England in a World Cup Qualification match. It’s hard to recall another time in recent years that saw the feeling around Arsenal switch so dramatically from the opening three losses to today. This weekend will serve as a reality check for all that positivity as the Gunners travel to Liverpool. Arsenal are just two points behind them in the table, but all of Arsenal’s matches during this run have been against teams 9th and lower.
Arsenal are coming into the match on good form, but sit mid-table in away form with seven points from five matches. Perhaps more worrying is the fact that Arsenal have only managed three goals on the road. Liverpool are undefeated at home so far this season (2W-3D-0L), but have scored for more on the road (21) than at Anfield (10).
This week we are talking with Zachary Marx from The Liverpool Offside to discuss the weekend’s big clash as Arsenal head to Anfield.
TSF: Heading into the summer, knowing that Virgil van Dijk would be returning, but that key players would be missing for the African Cup of Nations, what were the priorities for the transfer window, and do you feel that Liverpool accomplished those?
TLO: I don’t tend to get too worked up about transfers, especially in the Klopp era. The recruitment team and Klopp have proven, over and over, that they know more about footy than you or me. Sure, they spent big when they had to on Van Dijk and Alisson Becker, but they have an insanely high hit rate on finding talent at every position, often for a snip. Andy Robertson being a prime example.
Van Dijk was obviously a huge loss for us last year, but there were question marks surrounding all of our first/second/third choice center backs since we didn’t know how Van Dijk, Joe Gomez, or Joel Matip would come back from their lengthy injury spells. So, bringing in another defender was key, and while it’s early doors, we’ve seen a ton of promise from Ibrahima Konaté. So, I guess mission accomplished? And I guess Divock Origi will just have to bag 5 goals over the AFCON, which honestly won’t surprise me. You have to expect the unexpected with big Div.
TSF: This will be Jurgen Klopp’s sixth full season in charge, with everyone one of those ending with the club in the top four. It’s an impressive accomplishment, but can you speak to what his presence has brought to the image of the club overall and the feelings towards Liverpool from rival or neutral fans?
TLO: There aren’t enough words to describe my love for Kloppo. What a man. His intelligence, humility, wit, passion, humor, and politics all suit Liverpool down to the ground. The fact that he’s all of those things AND the best manager in the world, makes him a truly special, generational manager. We’re lucky to have him, and most rival fans I’ve spoken to are more than a bit jealous. I understand why!
TSF: Liverpool sit 4th in the table, four points off the top, as we approach a third of the way through the season. How has their performance to date compared to preseason expectations?
TLO: It’s still too early to say, if I can be honest. We’ve had some very good weeks, such as getting a dirty 2-3 win against Atletico Madrid and then tonking Man United 0-5 at their gaff. And yet we’ve dropped some really costly points, almost always from a winning position. So it’s been up and down.
We’re all happy about walking the Champions League “Group of Death” with 2 games to spare, and there are enough positives in the league to expect us to be in the hunt with 10 matches to go. Compared to some dour times at the club in recent memory, this is all pretty great, and it’s good not to forget that.
TSF: Salah leads the league in goals (10) and is tied for first in assists (7), yet again another remarkable start to a season for him. With 31 goals for Liverpool thus far (compared to 13 for Arsenal) and playing at home, how confident are you that despite the loss to West Ham, the Reds can simply outscore and overcome any off-days for the defense?
TLO: Scoring goals has not been a problem for this squad! And Salah, wow. He’s really stepped it up this year! If he continues at this rate, he’ll be right in the conversation for the Ballon d’Or at the end of the year.
However, we’ve been quite suspect at the back, especially when leading. We seem to either get a clean sheet or concede at least 2, with no in-between! Regardless, this Liverpool team expects to win at home against any opponent, including Arsenal on Saturday.
TSF: Four years ago Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain left Arsenal for Liverpool. While his goals and contributions to Liverpool may not have reached the peak some may have expected when he moved, it’s worked out for the player himself winning both the Premier Leauge and Champions League. Can you describe the current feeling towards Ox and if you believe he will remain at Liverpool after this season?
TLO: I think most Liverpool fans really adore Ox, and root for him harder than most. He had a brilliant first season for Liverpool, only to be cut down with a terrible ACL injury in the Champions League semifinal against Roma. He’s not hit those heights again for us, but we know there’s still a very talented player in there. I have no idea if he’ll move on. I’d understand if he wanted more playing time, but I’d be sad to see him go.
TSF: Liverpool have a fairly established and well know squad by this point. Give us a player that we haven’t seen as much of yet, or that people who don’t regularly watch Liverpool matches can be unfamiliar with, that you believe could eventually be a consistent starter in the future?
TLO: Surprisingly Kostas Tsimikas is pushing Andy Robertson for a starting role at left back. Robbo has had a slight dip in form and Tsimikas has proven himself to be an able deputy. There’s also the possibility that Robbo picked up a hamstring injury on international duty, so Kostas could be getting quite a few starts from now until Christmas.
TSF: Looking ahead to the winter window, do you expect Liverpool to make any moves considering both the African Cup of Nations and injuries, or is there enough depth to see out this season?
TLO: I do not.
TSF: What formation should Arsenal expect Liverpool to use this weekend and who is in your predicted starting XI?
TLO: Liverpool will almost certainly run out in a 4-3-3, which Klopp has gone with almost exclusively since becoming Liverpool’s manager. It’s worked out pretty well, to be fair. It’ll be Alisson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joel Matip, Virgil Van Dijk, Robertson (Tsimikas, if Robbo is injured), Henderson, Fabinho, and Thiago, Mané, Salah, Jota (Firmino is out injured).
TSF: And finally, give us your prediction for how the match will go.
TLO: I’ve been impressed with Arsenal so far this season, but I think Liverpool—at Anfield—will just be too much, especially at night following an international break. I’m going to go for a hard-fought 2-0 win for the Reds.
Thanks to Zach and The Liverpool Offside.