Trading places: Arteta's Arsenal primed to usurp Liverpool as Man City's main title rivals

Arsenal Liverpool 2022-23 GFXGetty/GOAL

It’s incredible just how quickly things can change in football.

Arsenal ended last season 23 points adrift of Liverpool in the Premier League and looked a million miles away from being able to compete with Jurgen Klopp’s side on a consistent basis.

But now, just five months later, they go into Sunday’s game between the two sides sitting top of the table and with the opportunity to move a staggering 14 points clear of Liverpool after just nine games of the new campaign.

The turnaround has been dramatic and there will be plenty involved at Arsenal still pinching themselves at the position they currently find themselves in.

But there are others – Mikel Arteta included – who are now hell bent on kicking on and taking advantage of the sensational start to the season they have enjoyed.

This is a squad of players that now believes it can do something special. Talk of the title may well be off the agenda in North London right now, but the determination to keep on improving is growing stronger by the week.

“We all have this fire burning inside,” goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale said after last weekend’s victory against Tottenham.

“We’re a young team and we are going into every game trying to enjoy ourselves.  We’ll see where that takes us.”

Arsenal 2022-23

So far that has taken Arsenal to the top of English football.

Last Saturday’s 3-1 success against Tottenham was seen by many as Arteta’s side laying down an early marker about what they could achieve this season.

But beating Spurs at the Emirates Stadium is nothing new for Arsenal. In fact, they have done it five times in the last six seasons.

Coming out on top against Liverpool, however, is a completely different story.

Klopp’s side have had a hoodoo over Arsenal for some time now, winning six of the last seven Premier League meetings.

Last season, the sides met four times in all competitions. Liverpool won three and drew the other, scoring nine goals in the process without conceding.

The gap between the teams looked vast. But there is no doubt that the gap has now been bridged significantly.

Manchester City may well be England’s best team, but Arsenal are now mounting a strong case to potentially move ahead of Liverpool and be considered City’s closest rivals.

Victory on Sunday would only strengthen that argument.

Indeed, while beating Spurs was big, getting the better of Liverpool would be a statement that would be impossible to ignore.

Arteta quote Arsenal

“We have to show now that we have raised the level and are ready to compete against them,” Arteta said.

“The moment you get momentum and you can leave an opponent as far [behind] as possible, psychologically it is really important.”

Arteta added: “To win these matches you really need to believe that you can compete against these teams. 

“If you don’t have that component, then you have fear, and fear is the worst enemy, especially against the top teams because this is what they use a lot of the time just to win football matches. 

“We cannot go with any of that into Sunday’s game, the same as we didn’t when we played Spurs.”

Liverpool head into this mouthwatering encounter with questions hanging over their squad for the first time in years.

An inconsistent start to the season has seen them fall well below the heights they have hit in recent times.

Just two wins from their first seven league matches sees them sitting ninth in the Premier League, eight places and 11 points behind Arteta’s early pace setters, although they have played one game fewer.

The team who have gone toe to toe with Manchester City over the past five seasons suddenly look vulnerable. 

Arsenal, meanwhile, are hungry and vibrant.

Klopp quote Arteta

“All my respect,” Klopp said when asked about Arteta's work at the Emirates. “Wow, really really good job. 

“When you need some time, nobody wants to give you time and maybe not all of us deserve time, because you still have to be good to use it – but that’s what Mikel did. I have to say, really lots of respect.”

There are a lot of similarities between the changes we are seeing at Arsenal now and what took place at Liverpool when Klopp first arrived at the club in 2015.

The Anfield rebuild wasn’t instant. In fact, the first trophy took three years to arrive.

But during that time the progress was clear. Everyone could see Liverpool were on the path back to success and it feels that way at Arsenal now.

Arteta has built a young squad which is brimming with talent and potential.

The fanbase has been revitalised, with the atmosphere at the Emirates now incomparable to what it was just a couple of years ago.

It’s been nearly 18 months since Arteta predicted that the project at Arsenal was ready "to go bang".

Last weekend’s success against Spurs may have been the win that finally lit the blue touch paper. Victory against Liverpool on Sunday could be the moment the whole thing explodes.

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