There’s a real feel-good factor around Arsenal at the moment – more so than there has been for a long time – but it’s important that doesn’t stray over into complacency.
Wins over Aston Villa, Leicester, and Watford are one thing but Liverpool are a different and altogether more difficult prospect. Realism will be required.
While this team has come a long way even from the start of this season, it still has a way to go before it can go before it can go toe-to-toe against this current Liverpool side.
That’s not to say it’s impossible, rather that we need to modify our expectations. For all it’s vigour and willingness to work, this is still a fledgling side. It’s also still a side that has played less than half a season together and it’s still the youngest side by average age in the league.
We shouldn’t go to Anfield expecting to be rolled, of course, but an adverse result is not the end of existence as we know it. There will be more bumps in the road for this team, and days where they don’t get as fortunate as perhaps they have been of late.
If this all sounds like I’m trying to reassure myself more than anyone else,it’s because I am. It’s always been difficult not to get carried away after a decent run of results. Bitter experience has taught me, though, that you’re only ever one game away from meltdown so anything that can temper that inevitability is welcome!
But look, there are also reasons to look forward to today’s game: Emile Smith Rowe is in the form of his young career, Bukayo Saka is recapturing his form, Thomas Partey is back in contention, and we have a front two who are working hard and scoring goals.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that Liverpool are a little patchy right now. This is hardly a team going through a crisis but defeat to West Ham and a draw against Brighton in their last two means we’re not entirely without hope.
Keeping Jurgen Klopp’s side from scoring will be the real test and, frankly, it will be exceptionally difficult. Even the best sides struggle to stop this team from registering and, for all our defensive solidity of late, we’re still far from perfect. If we can find a way to restrict the hosts, however, that will go a long way to securing a positive result.
Important above all else, though, is that we see some consistency in the performance, some semblence of a plan carried over from our recent run. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United side are the epitome of how not to do it. While capable of winning matches, they are also uniquely capable of getting thrashed from one week to the next.
When United hosted Liverpool they were utterly and thoroughly dismantled, that sort of performance is the last thing we need. Just as much as the result, the performance in this game will be important.
Quite how Mikel Arteta will go about this one will be interesting. He has found some success of late playing a sort of 4-4-2/4-2-2-2 hybrid and he has shown himself reluctant at times to stray away from winning formulas. Whether that approach will be secure enough against a side as aggressive as Liverpool is another matter, however. Given how many hard yards will be required, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that we might see something a little more conservative, or perhaps Martin Odegaard will find himself brought back into the fold to help bolster the midfield.
Whatever the manager opts for, his charges are going to have to be busy. Brighton and West Ham were both relentless in their efforts and we must be ready to do the same. Half-arse just won’t cut it.