The Premier League’s top two coming into the weekend face off on Saturday (20:30 UAE) in a high-voltage fixture, from which both will be aiming to extend perfect records this season.
Liverpool host Arsenal following a 2-1 win at Southampton in which they had to work hard for all three points. The Gunners overcame Burnley at home with the same scoreline after Dani Ceballos inspired them with a remarkable show in midfield.
Which team will prevail in the top-of-the-table clash? We take a look at the talking points:
Liverpool look to maintain unblemished record
The Reds have dominated the north London club in recent times.
Their current unbeaten run stretches over eight games, across all competitions.
When the two teams met at Anfield last season, Roberto Firmino ripped through the Arsenal defence to walk away with the match-ball. Liverpool were 5-1 victors in what was one-way traffic, with Arsenal failing to react to first-half carnage.
The hosts had earlier registered 4-0 and 3-1 victories in the two meetings before the onslaught. This means that the Reds enjoy an aggregate of 12-2 over the last three games played between the two sides at Anfield.
This, aided by the fact that Liverpool are on an 11-game winning streak in the Premier League – their best in the competition – means that the hosts are overwhelming favourites and will look to keep up the excellent record.
Aubameyang to back his words with performance?
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang claimed that Arsenal’s front-line is comparable to that of Liverpool – one of the deadliest in Europe.
“Pepe and me, we are quick players like Mane and Salah, while Laca is a player who can keep the ball and is really good with his feet like Firmino. So yes, we can say we are close enough,” he told Sky Sports.
Arsenal’s attack is certainly at its peak, with Ligue 1 sensation Nicolas Pepe and Real Madrid loanee Ceballos adding more firepower to the blitzing duo of Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette.
Aubameyang, a Gabon international, scored in each of Arsenal two games this season and could cause Liverpool a lot of trouble, especially on the counter.
Unai Emery has sparingly used Pepe, but the manager indicated that he could start the former Lille star on Saturday. From what the winger showed during his time in France, Pepe could wear out Andrew Robertson and prevent him from adding much to the attack.
With Arsenal’s attack brimming with quality and Liverpool’s defence displaying unusual cracks, amplified by the injury to goalkeeper Alisson, this could be the Gunners’ best shot at breaking the curse.
A tactical surprise from Emery?
Unai Emery has invariably preferred building from the back at Arsenal, entertaining long strings of possession and striking when most opportune.
This system is most vulnerable to Liverpool’s gegenpressing, as evidenced by their big-margin wins over Barcelona, Manchester City and Arsenal in the last couple of seasons.
It will be interesting to see if Emery sticks to his ideals and risks another poor result or opts for a more direct approach. Ceballos showed against Burnley that there is certain directness associated with his game and he could be Emery’s go-to man, should he go ahead with the tactical shuffle.
However, the former Real Betis starlet will be pitted against Fabinho on Saturday and not Burnley’s Ashley Westwood or Jack Cork. The 25-year-old endured a sorry start to his Liverpool career, but turned it around to grow into a crucial element of their Champions League-winning midfield.
The two players can forge an exciting battle at the centre of the pitch.
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Here, PA news agency takes a look at all the key talking points.
All eyes on Anfield
The Premier League table may not mean much after just two games each but a fixture between Liverpool and Arsenal usually does, whether they are first and second or not. Liverpool looked superb for the first 45 minutes of the season against Norwich but since then Jurgen Klopp’s side have been more questionable, certainly in defence, and almost threw away a 2-0 lead at Southampton a week ago.
Arsenal have issues of their own but they offer plenty of threats going forward – so can they punish Liverpool at the back? They will need to do much better than they did on their last visit to Anfield, when Roberto Firmino’s hat-trick helped Liverpool to a 5-1 win.
Will VAR steal the spotlight once more?
VAR was the centre of attention yet again last weekend and the next controversy is surely not far away. Manchester City have been involved in two of the biggest debates yet with incidents in both of their games so far, most obviously the disallowing of Gabriel Jesus’ late strike in their 2-2 draw with Tottenham last weekend. League officials will surely be hoping that wherever the next incident is, it is not at Bournemouth’s Vitality Stadium when they visit on Sunday.
Can Lampard poop the Pukki party?
Whether they have got the rub of the green or not, Chelsea remain winless three matches into the Frank Lampard era. On paper, a trip to newly-promoted Norwich might be just what they are looking for and the Blues will be strong favourites at Carrow Road. But Norwich have looked strong on their return to the Premier League, and Teemu Pukki’s hat-trick in last weekend’s 3-1 win over Newcastle makes the Finnish frontman joint topscorer so far in the early going.
After avoiding relegation by the skin of their teeth at the back end of last season, Brighton have started well under new boss Graham Potter. They demolished Watford on the opening day before taking a point off West Ham last weekend – a game they may well have won but for the intervention of VAR. With a pointless Southampton due at the AMEX Stadium on Saturday, there must be every chance they will get even more points on the board early in the campaign.
Worries for Watford and West Ham
Watford and West Ham have both suffered poor starts to the season, each on the receiving end of an opening day hammering at home as Watford lost 3-0 to Brighton and West Ham went down 5-0 to champions Manchester City. They will meet at Vicarage Road with just one point between them, and 10 goals conceded between them. It is too early in the season to panic, but both teams need a win and soon.
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Unai Emery says Arsenal must improve their record against the Premier League’s best sides if they are to force their way back into the top four.
The Gunners finished fifth last season, just a point behind neighbours Tottenham, as Emery came close to securing a return to Champions League football in his first season at the helm.
Arsenal face Liverpool on Saturday evening, visiting Anfield for the first time since they suffered a 5-1 defeat there last term.
Emery’s side also lost at Chelsea and Manchester City during the 2018-19 campaign, with draws at Manchester United and Spurs meaning they were unable to beat any of their fellow top-six sides away from the Emirates Stadium.
Struggling on the road against their closest rivals is not a new phenomenon for Arsenal, whose away form in general has been poor for the past three years.
Emery takes his team back to Liverpool with both sides looking to continue their winning starts to the season, and he knows improvements are required to overturn recent history.
Asked if Arsenal’s record against the top six needs to pick up, the former Paris St Germain boss replied: “We need to (improve) because, when we are playing against them, it’s three points that you can take and they cannot take.
“But after that you need also to achieve the three points in other matches against other teams.
“In 38 matches you are going to play at home and away 19 matches – against the top four and every team.”
Despite recent woes, Emery insists those results do not impact on his approach as he seeks a victory that would see Arsenal end the weekend at the top of the table.
“Really, really it’s not relevant for me,” said Emery, whose side conceded two penalties at Anfield last season.
“Now relevant for me is each match is different. Each match can be similar to last year, (but) we are different players, a different team.
“Other teams are also different and some different circumstances can come in each match. I hope on Saturday not to receive two penalties against us, for example.
“I am preparing for the match with our best circumstances possible to achieve the victory.”
Mesut Ozil could make his first appearance of the campaign, while Granit Xhaka is also in contention after missing the win over Burnley with back bruising.
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