Spirits are high for Arsenal ahead of trip to Liverpool – opposition preview

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The improvement of Arsenal in recent months has made neutral fans across the country sit up and recognise the potential that Mikel Arteta’s side has.

Starting the season with three successive defeats, concerns were desperately growing as many feared a season of sheer mediocrity was on the cards again.

Since a humbling 5-0 defeat at the hands of Manchester City, though, things have got drastically better as the Gunners have won 6 and drawn 2 of their last 8 League games.

Although many say that they have yet to be properly tested, Arteta has established a very clear pattern of play, whilst achieving something that his side haven’t been able to say for a long time, and that is finding a steady back 5.

The centre-half pairing of Ben White and Gabriel ahead of Aaron Ramsdale has been just what they needed, and spirits have been raised as a result of such defensive solidity. 

Question marks were raised when a combined £75 million was splashed out on White and Ramsdale, but both have really stamped down an authority in the side and look to be excellent pieces of business. Whether they’ll be able to keep out the likes of Jota, Mane and Salah come Saturday evening is yet to be seen, but playing with confidence and real quality has served them well thus far.

The excellent defensive structure Arsenal now have has massively benefitted them going forwards too, as their youthful talents Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith-Rowe have flourished. Often finding themselves having to do an awful lot of defensive work, the pair struggled for consistency in terms of goal output but in recent weeks, they look to be amongst the league’s most exciting front-lines.

Smith-Rowe is a genuinely exceptional talent  and rightfully earned an England call up, in which he scored his first international goal too. Liverpool’s fixtures against Brighton and West Ham showed that they can be hurt in the pockets between midfield and attack and this is exactly where Smith-Rowe can mean business. It is imperative that Fabinho is on his game to make sure Arsenal’s creators have limited time and space.

Despite being in such good form, Arteta will be completely aware that Anfield and Liverpool are a different kettle of fish, and striking the balance between keeping a compact shape and being expressive is vital. After playing so well, temptations to get at Liverpool’s defence may be there, but we know exactly what Klopp’s men can do on the counter attack. A fascinating battle is ahead of us, and after yet another international break that has seemed to take an eternity, excitement to watch a game between two great teams is building.

Predicted XI: Ramsdale, Tomiyasu, White, Gabriel, Tierney, Lokonga, Maitland-Niles, Saka, Smith-Rowe, Odegaard, Aubameyang

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