Arsenal are heading for a massive Premier League clash against Liverpool at the Emirates on Wednesday evening.
Ordinarily this fixture only ends one way, with Liverpool winning eight of the last 11 Premier League meetings between the sides and Arsenal’s only victory coming in 2019/20 when the Reds were already confirmed as Premier League champions.
However, this time things feel different. The potential of Arsenal getting a result from this game doesn’t seem so ridiculous, and that’s a huge compliment for the Gunners’ development this season under Mikel Arteta because they lost 4-0 at Anfield in late November.
With no European football to clog up his midweeks, Arteta has been afforded time on the training pitch every week and you can see that the Arsenal players have a clearer understanding of their roles and the side has so much more cohesion.
Both sides come into the game with similar form across their last 10 Premier League games: they’ve each got eight wins, one loss and one draw and even the finer stats don’t separate them that much.
But of course, Liverpool are on a different level to Arsenal. Jurgen Klopp’s Reds have been juggling the Champions League as well as the Premier League this season, they’re 15 points ahead of the Gunners and what’s more they’ve already won a trophy with the EFL Cup. Hell, since Arsenal last won the title, Liverpool have won it themselves and even claimed two Champions Leagues.
This is a massive test for Arteta’s Arsenal, and given the disparity between the two sides and the Gunners’ previous poor record in the fixture, expecting an Arsenal win seems like waiting for a miracle.
We’ve had a look, however, and come up with three ways that Arsenal could go about pulling off an incredible upset while making a massive statement by beating Liverpool. What would they need to win? Let’s see.
1. Follow the Blue(and Black)print
Ten days before the Arsenal clash, Liverpool lost a match. In fact they lost at home in the Champions League as Inter Milan beat them 1-0. Now, it turned out not to matter as Liverpool went through after winning the first leg 2-0, but it was impressive all the same.
And Inter’s blue(and black)print was clear: hit Liverpool in the mouth. Not literally, of course, but Inter were intensely physical at Anfield. They flew at the Reds with no quarter given and as a result, they matched or even superseded Liverpool’s own intensity.
Inter are the first team to beat Liverpool at Anfield in any competition this season AND the first team to beat them in the #UCL
But it wasn't quite enough. 😩 pic.twitter.com/a84uZuuLl4
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 8, 2022
That is what Arsenal need to try and replicate, because Inter’s intense approach really threw Liverpool off their game because, of course, they aren’t used to being out-fought and out-worked. So even though Liverpool were the better side, and Inter’s centre-backs had to be miraculous to keep them out, a fully dominant Liverpool would have found ways to score.
If Arsenal can match Liverpool’s intensity, then they too could throw the Reds off their game enough that they could squeeze a result when no one expects them to. They have to tackle hard, they need to not be intimidated and run and run and run until their legs give out.
Arsenal v Liverpool: Premier League odds from William Hill
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2. Trip the offside trap
Inter married their intense approach with a workmanlike counter-attacking set-up. They didn’t push up to try and trade blows with the Reds but sat deep and broke on them. It didn’t work too much, but thanks to a Lautaro Martinez wonder-strike, they picked up a victory.
One cannot bank on scoring a worldie, so Arsenal need another way to handle Liverpool’s fearsome offside trap. Only one centre-back has caught opponents offside more times this season than Premier League Player of the Month for February Joel Matip, and that’s his defensive partner Virgil van Dijk. The Dutchman has caught opponents offside almost twice as much as Ruben Dias (who is no. 3 in this list).
A 'successful offside trap' is awarded to the last defender when an offside decision is given against an opponent.
Most in the Premier League this season:
35 – Virgil van Dijk
29 – Joël Matip
19 – Rúben Dias
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) February 18, 2022
So how do Arsenal cope with that? Simple: cheese it. Trip the trap by sending two men running behind the defence, one after the other. Only one of these men is ever intended to receive the pass with the other looking to simply distract the Liverpool defenders.
Imagine if Martin Odegaard is on the ball and Bukayo Saka streams in behind the Reds defence
3. Don’t score too early!
Back in 1989, Arsenal beat Liverpool to win the First Division title. And we mean that literally, because the last game of the season saw the Gunners triumph 2-0 at Anfield, which was exactly the scoreline they needed to win the title on goals scored as an Arsenal win meant both sides would finish level on 76 points with a +37 goal difference.
On that fateful day, Arsenal’s plan for victory involved triggering complacency in Liverpool. Their aim was to keep it 0-0 for the first-half and then hammer them in the second period when manager Kenny Dalglish wouldn’t have a team-talk to refocus his side.
Sure enough, that’s what happened. Alan Smith scored after 53 minutes then, with Liverpool’s players completely thrown by the first-half gameplan, they couldn’t rouse themselves and Michael Thomas sunk the Reds in stoppage time.
“The onus was on them to attack – they needed to win by two goals – but they just sat back. That put us off our stride,” said Liverpool midfielder Ray Houghton. The gameplan was risky, but it worked, and that’s what Mikel Arteta needs to do on Wednesday.
If Arsenal score early, then the full force of Jurgen Klopp’s dragon will be unleashed on them. The last thing they need to do is provoke the Reds into revealing their final form; they’re not like Man City where stealing a goal then holding like the grim spectre of death is a viable strategy because City’s poise and perfectionism means they don’t really feel compelled to panic and up their tempo.
Liverpool are a more furious beast, when they’re attacked they rise up to their full height and then fly at their foe. If you leave them too much time then, like Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United sides of old; they will find a way. The best trick for Arsenal is to lull them into a false sense of security like George Graham’s boys did back in 1989, and then strike like vipers in the second-half.