With nine matches left in the Premier League season for Arsenal, each match will feel like the “most important” one the Gunners will have to play. But on Sunday morning, when Arsenal travel to Anfield to take on Liverpool, the Gunners face history as they look to notch their first win at Liverpool’s historic grounds in an over a decade.
Statisticians will tell you that past results typically have no bearing on future ones, especially in something as ever-changing as sports. But statistics also don’t account for the emotional weight of matches or the rising and falling momentum of sides. A match this late in the season carries with it more than a chance at three points - it has the potential to be season-defining. Arsenal lead the league and are in the home stretch of the title hunt, while Liverpool are hoping to regain momentum and fight for a top four spot following two winless matches. Both have everything to play for, even if their end goals are not the same.
Home field advantage is the strange amalgam of both statistics and emotions, sometimes possessing the audacity to occasionally defy statistics and logic. It is enmeshed with the history of the game, as this tie has shown in the past. Wins at Anfield are hard to come by, but they have also brought with them tremendous results for the Gunners, like the incredible 1989 title-deciding showdown.
Unfortunately for the Gunners, recent history has skewed heavily in Liverpool’s favor. Arsenal lost 4-0 last season at Anfield last year during a season where Liverpool nearly completed the elusive quadruple. It was par for the course in these matches ever since Jürgen Klopp took over 8 seasons ago, as Arsenal were dragged around the pitch for 90 minutes by the home side, who were a step faster at every level. But this season’s Liverpool are a far cry from the team that brushed elbows with history last season and have been a shell of themselves, sitting 8th on the table and looking uncharacteristically inconsistent.
The two sides meeting on Sunday are on seemingly disparate trajectories. Liverpool is in need of serious retooling in their midfield and defense, with age and mileage catching up with them. Arsenal, on the other hand, are on song, young, and nearing a sustainable level of depth that could keep them competitive across four fronts going forward. A result at Anfield will not alter that reality for either club, but for one, it is the chance to make a statement and cement their footing atop the league - Arsenal.
The Gunners enter the match largely healthy in the starting XI, save for one major absence in William Saliba. With no definitive status update given by Arteta this week, the chances of him making an appearance at Anfield seem slim. There has been much hand-wringing on the internet about Rob Holding facing Liverpool’s attack, but most of those conversations tend to gloss over the fact that the Gunners’ attack has been on an absolute tear. Between Gabriel Martinelli, Gabriel Jesus, Bukayo Saka, and Leandro Trossard, Arsenal have more quality than they have available positions. Their collective form is a nightmare for any defense to deal with.
The rise of Leandro Trossard has been a revelation - so much so, that some have wondered whether or not he should start over Jesus in this tie. With Brighton, he bagged a hat trick at Anfield earlier this season, but that brings me back to my original point - past results don’t guarantee future performance. The return of Jesus means that Arsenal have their talisman back, and he does the dirty work that Trossard doesn’t. His ability to carry the ball and drags defenders out of position is inimitable, and he will give Liverpool’s midfield and defense a headache if he plays the game we know he can. Trossard is quality, but this match is crying out for Jesus.
For more about possible lineups and predictions, please check out Nathan’s post.
Form and history will be put to the test on Easter Sunday. Arsenal face yet another cup final, and three points will keep the gas pedal pushed firmly into the floorboards.
9 cup finals to go. 8 wins get the job done. A win on Sunday, and that number shrinks to 7.
Get after it.
WHAT: Arsenal at Liverpool
WHEN: Sunday, April 9th, 11:30am EST/7:30am PST/4:30pm BST
WHERE: Anfield, Liverpool
HOW TO WATCH: Streaming on Peacock.
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