Anfield has hardly been a happy hunting ground for Arsenal in recent years but is there anything they can do to turn the tables on Saturday? Unai Emery joked earlier in the week that his side “prefer not to play” the Reds but added separately that an “individual and collective performance” could see them cause what would be an upset.
The Gunners, like Liverpool, have won their opening two Premier League games, winning 1-0 at Newcastle before scraping past Burnley 2-1. It is the first time since the 2009-10 season that they have achieved that feat and they are hoping to make it three in a row for the first time since 2004-05.
However, they have not won any of their last 22 away league games against their fellow big six teams and their record at Anfield is shocking, failing to succeed on their last six visits.
During that time they have conceded 22 goals and been on the end of two 5-1 defeats and a 4-0 loss.
Emery was only in charge for one of those games, seeing his side crushed 5-1 on December 29 last year. On that occasion, they opened the scoring through Ainsley Maitland-Niles but were then blown away by Liverpool’s fluidity.
Matteo Guendouzi says Liverpool should expect a “very different” side to that occasion.
The Frenchman has highlighted new boy David Luiz’s ability to lead the back four due to being a “comprehensive defender”, while also praising the impact of Dani Ceballos.
After impressing against Burnley, Ceballos may again feature as a number 10 and could be flanked by record signing Nicolas Pepe. However, picking Pepe may not be the best way to go and instead Emery could look to continue with Reiss Nelson who would offer a more conscientious presence in front of his full-back.
Lucas Torreira could also be brought in to provide further steel in midfield and if fit, Granit Xhaka should also feature. While not exactly attacking, dropping Ceballos and fielding a midfield trio of Xhaka, Torreira and Guendouzi would provide protection between the lines in front of the back four.
Fielding Nelson on one flank would give further protection and that may allow Emery to get away with fielding Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on the other side, with Alexandre Lacazette up front.
Both scored in last week’s win over Burnley and the boss may look to field both to ensure his team have a threat going forward.
With the experienced duo of Luiz and Sokratis Papastathopoulos, they should be able to hold the fort if they sit deep but discipline all over the field will be crucial.
Liverpool have still to really hit their stride, despite beating Norwich and Southampton at an aggregate score of 6-2. Their defence has looked particularly shaky with goalkeeper Alisson out until after the international break and right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold looking susceptible to diagonal balls.
Either he or Joe Gomez could start on that fringe of the defence and it will be up to Aubameyang to exploit any weakness in his team’s attacking left channel. Two goals from as many matches show he is in good form after sharing the Golden Boot last term.
Whether he gets the chance to shine will depend on those behind him sticking to their task though and the Liverpool front three of Firmino, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane will be determined to cause as much chaos as last term. The trio all scored in December and having looked a touch sluggish will fancy themselves to run riot.
History is also on Liverpool’s side. They have not lost at home in the Premier League since April 2017, a run of 41 games and have scored two or more goals in their last eight at Anfield, keeping clean sheets in five of those.
If Arsenal were to break that streak, it would send out a massive message to the rest of the Premier League as they look to reclaim their place in the top four.
Emery will have to be canny with his selection but it will be up to his players to carry out a disciplined gameplan. Arguably the last time they did this was when beating Manchester City 0-2 in 2015.
Get through the first 20 minutes on Saturday and they have a chance. If the likes of Luiz, Sokratis, Xhaka and Guendouzi can keep it together, and Aubameyang can find space from his position out wide, an upset is on the cards.
After falling short so often in the past, maybe its time this Arsenal outfit stood up as a unit.